USATF-NE Grand Prix Ends on a Controversial Note
The frigid, windy conditions alone made for a crazy day in Manchester, NH this past Sunday. But who would’ve expected the three way tie for a New England Road Racing title to be decided by a missed turnaround? The Manchester City Marathon unfolded with WMDP stud Jason Ayr and Team RUN’s Peter Omae leading the tour around Manchester with another unknown African runner.
By mile 14, it was down to Ayr and the unknown runner trading spots and at mile 20, Ayr broke away from the unknown runner and was on his way to his first ever USATF-NE Marathon title. But things went haywire at mile 24, when the course diverts from the road and runs onto a pedestrian footbridge behind Northeast Delta Dental Stadium and the semi-brief absence of a police lead vehicle. The lack of a course monitor or signs at a critical hairpin turn caused Ayr and the runner a minute or two behind him to continue onto the west side of Manchester with no knowledge of whether they were on course or not. Dan Vassallo (CMS) was eventually the first runner to be nonchalantly steered in the right direction by a course monitor around the 180 degree turn and eventually behind the police escort after getting off the bridge, causing an awkward confusion.
Vassallo would eventually break the tape in 2:31:08 and accept the USATF-NE Marathon title. Though Western Mass would cover the 2nd and 3rd spots as former Westfield State runner Jon Joyce debuted 26.2 miles in 2:35:19 and Jesse “Regnier the Closer” cruised in at 2:36:46. Jim Johnson (2:36:51) and Scott Leslie would round out the CMS team that would take the title by the results on paper and possibly the USATF-NE Men’s Team Title as they would break the leaderboard logjam going in. Behind first place Whirlaway, there were four other teams within two points including CMS and WMDP (who were tied for second and just a scant point off the lead) coming in. In other words, the ripple effect of this was felt by all the top teams.
Master’s top honors would go to Alan Bernier, also of CMS as he finished in 2:47:50. The official layout of the USATF-NE Grand Prix points will be posted later on this week as the LDR committee will review the situation and the Manchester Marathon Board of Directors will meet on potentially altering the prize money pool because of the mishap.
Despite the unnecessarily hectic end to the men’s race, the women’s side saw some history. Millennium Running’s Denise Sandahl battled on and off with last year’s winner Tezata Dengersa of Washington DC and eventually pulled off the victory on home grounds with a fabulous time of 2:51:04. Dengersa, running unattached, would be the eventual 2nd place finisher in 2:54:19. The overall 3rd and 4th and USATF-NE silver and bronze medalists for the women on the day were SISU Project’s Amanda Wright (3:02:19) and WMDP’s Kelsey Allen (3:11:08). The top master’s (and senior’s) female on the day was 50 year-young Mary Currier, crossing the line in 3:12:36. The women’s Millennium Running team would make USATF-NE history as they not only had a lead big enough to win the series without fielding a full team (just race MVP Denise Sandahl), but also became the first club from New Hampshire to hoist a New England Road Racing Championship trophy.
Here’s footage courtesy of legion member Mike Giberti, see the race for yourself!
Coverage from mile 8 and with 10 miles to go in the race:
And the finish footage: