By Jim Dandeneau
On a spectacular November day fit for cross-country, Eric Ashe and Jillian King both won their first USATF New England Cross-Country title at historic Franklin Park in Boston. After a one year hiatus due to course renovations, with last year’s championships held at Stanley Park Westfield, MA, the racing returned in the 100th year since cross-country began in 1914 (at Franklin field).
King, 23, a 2013 Boston College graduate, dominated the USATF-NE 6K championship winning in a time of 20:48.84, leading her New Balance Boston team to victory. King, who took a lengthy break from racing following the outdoor track season, broke away from a tight pack going up famed Bear Cage Hill, prior to 1.5 miles, coasting to victory by 15 seconds over Katrina Spratford, 23, of NE Distance, with Joanna Murphy, 29, and Sydney Fitzpatrick, 24, both of New Balance Boston in 3rd and 4th respectively. “The first mile (completed in 5:24) felt like a hard tempo. I decided to make a move going up Bear Cage hill…I love hills. I do alot of hill work on Heartbreak. This is only my 2nd post-collegiate cross country race,” said the Scotia, NY native who is back to running “in the 50′s” for mileage with workouts split between her alma mater’s cross country team (where she is a volunteer coach), and her New Balance Boston team. King, who is presently applying to medical and grad schools, stated she is planning on running the the USATF National Club Country Championships at River’s Edge Golf Course in Bend, OR scheduled for December 14th prior to hitting the indoor track circuit. The New Balance Boston women’s team scored a nearly perfect 17 points with the Boston Athletic Association (62 points) finishing second and Greater Boston Track Club (70 points) finishing 3rd.
Ashe, a 2011 Boston University graduate, broke away from a pack of 8 runners just after 4 miles running to a somewhat surprising victory in 30:49.99, for the 10K distance. Ashe, a Boston Athletic Association member who is only in his 8th week of running following a serious heel injury likely caused by high arches, won by a comfortable 7 second margin over teammate Sam Alexander. In fact, the B.A.A. showed its incredible depth by also taking spots 3-4 with Dan Harper and Brian Harvey just over 1 and 4 seconds behind Alexander, 23, who was running at the front of the pack prior to Ashe making his move, with Colman Hatton rounding out the BAA scoring in 10th, leading to a dominating victory of just 18 points. New Balance Boston (with 56 points) was runner up while Western Mass Distance project, aided by the 7th place finisher Kevin Johnson, finished 3rd in the team standings with 72 points.
Ashe, 25, a Hanson, MA native, who has tremendous range (PR’s include a 4:03 mile and 2:26 marathon on the challenging Cape Cod course), decided to put the foot on the accelerator following relatively slow splits of 4:55 (mile), 10:02 (2 miles) and 15:48 (5K). When Ashe surged no one could go with him “I could sense the guys around me getting a bit tired. I pressed it a bit up Bear Cage and continued to keep a gap,” stated Ashe, the UMass Boston assistant track and field coach. “I was able to cross-train in the summer riding a bike for 1 hour a day as hard as a could and 1 hour and 30 minutes on the weekends. When I got back running I started on a treadmill however I had to place it on an incline to get a good effort in. I also did alot of workouts for my core.” Ashe also plans on competing at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships and possibly the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in January 2014.
In the men’s master’s division Sandu Rebenciuc, 44, of the Greater Springfield Harriers cruised to victory in 26:44 for the 8K distance. In 2000, he had also won the New England Open men’s title, becoming just the second male athlete to win the USATF NE Open and Master’s division (Mark Coogan 1991 and 1997). Rebenciuc, a Romania native, and Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) graduate where he was the 1991 National Division III cross-country champion, made a break in the second wilderness loop from a pack that included Amherst College men’s track and country country coach Erik Nedeau, Peter Hammer (47, of Needham, MA), Chris Magill (40, Cumberland, RI), Greg Putnam (44, Stoneham, MA), Harry Stants (40, Needham, MA), and Binney Mitchell (44 Burlington, VT).
Rebenciuc, the owner of a 23:29 8k best at Franklin Park stated, “I’m just coming back to racing again. When Erik Nedeau started to press I went with him and I pressed it a little. I’m only running about 50 miles a week…I’ve had some stomach problems lately…I might be a bit anemic…I’m not sure about club nationals yet…it depends on the team. I’d like to take a shot at the over 45 American record in the steeple (9:17) next year.” In the men’s team race, the Boston Athletic Association, with Hammer and Magill finishing 2-3, Stants 5th and O’Neil 10th, easily claimed the New England title.
In the women’s master’s race (combined with he open race) Diana Bowser, (40, Needham, MA and spouse of Peter Hammer), racing back into shape after the birth of her second child, won the New England Master’s title in 22:57 over Mimi Fallon, 48, Walpole, MA by 29 seconds.