By Jim Dandeneau
History does repeat itself. 2011 New Bedford Half Marathon champions, Ruben Sança, Lowell, and Kim Smith, a New Zealand native and long time Providence, RI resident, dominated the 37th running of the New Bedford Half Marathon on a cold and breezy morning. Sança, who is returning to his 2011 form, pulled away from Whirlaway teammate and occasional training partner Nick Karwoski after 8.5 miles, cruising to victory in 1:05:50, just 24 seconds off his time from 3 years ago. Smith, a 3-time Olympian and New Zealand national record holder in the 3K, 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon and marathon, utilized the race as a tempo effort, comfortably winning in 1:11:08.
Sança, 27, a 2012 Cape Verde Olympian in the 5000 meters, stated he felt “undertrained” leading into his prior race, the DH Jones 10 mile race in Amherst, MA and with the additional 3 weeks of preparation felt he made tremendous improvement. “I really like racing in New Bedford. While it’s only my second race here, I feel it is like running in Cape Verde with the large community there,” noted the University of Massachusetts-Lowell graduate who works full time at his alma mater as a business manager at Student Affairs who fits in workouts before and after work, usually totaling over 100 miles a week. “I’ve done some longer runs and longer tempo runs and been consistent…I’m only about 6 weeks into good solid training as opposed to 3 years ago where I had about 13 solid weeks. I really studied the course…I knew the first couple of miles and last few miles were going to be very windy” explained Sança who ran 30:08 (4:51/mile) in the 10K between 3.1 and 9.3 miles. “I’m going to speak with my coach” (UMass Lowell’s Gary Gardner) and decide upcoming training and perhaps an attack on the Olympic Marathon “B” standard of 2:18 as early as next month. “I’m really not sure, I have to do my homework,” cited the meticulous Sança.
Smith, 32 a professional runner sponsored by New Balance, married 2009 New Bedford champion Pat Tarpy following the London Olympics, where she finished 15th in the marathon. A 4-time NCAA Division I NCAA champion while at Providence College, who is coached by legendary Friar guru Ray Treacy, is gearing up for next month’s London Marathon. In 2010, her initial 26.2 voyage in London, she ran 2:25:21. “I felt ok out there today, it was a bit breezier than when I ran here a few years ago. I had to do a tempo run and it’s easier to do with people, thus the reason for running….my coach wanted me to run between 1:11-1:12…” informed Smith who often meets up with professional runners Molly Huddle (who had a successful 1/2 marathon debut in New York City earlier the same day) and Amy Hastings.
Karwoski, who recently moved to Brookline, was making his initial 13.1 jaunt, appeared satisfied with his performance. “I raced quite a bit indoors (4-3Ks and 2-5Ks) …I’ve worked out with Ruben enough where I know what kind of athlete he is,” noted the Dickinson College graduate. “The last 3 miles were pretty tough in the wind and up that hill. I’m going to Utah to do some skiing and then get ready for outdoors. I’ll do a few steeplechase races…hopefully Mt. Sac and perhaps Payton Jordan and see if I can qualify for USATF nationals in either the steeple and/or 5K.”
Dan Vassallo, 28, who has shown tremendous consistency in New Bedford, finished 3rd in 1:07:08 while Robert Gibson, 24, was 4th and pre-race favorite Eric Ashe, in the midst of a very heavy training block as he gears up for his Boston Marathon debut, finished 5th.
Andrea Walkonen, 27, a former Boston University All-American ran a solid 1:13:12 (5:36 pace) to finish second while Hilary Dionne, 28, Cambridge, Ma, also gearing up for next month’s Boston Marathon, demolished her previous best in finishing in 1:14:52, was third. Erica Jesseman, 25, last year’s runner up and coming back from injury, was 4th while Katie Edwards, 31, was fifth.
In the men’s master’s division, Mike Galoob, 40, who appears to be everywhere, ran 1:10:44 to beat out last year’s runner up and fellow Rhode Islander Chris Magill, (who had raced the USA Masters Indoor national championship 2 days prior) by 31 seconds while in the women’s master’s division, new master runner Caroline Bjune of the BAA dominated the division running 1:25:10 over Whirlaway’s Christin Doneski.
The men’s team competition was won again by Western Mass Distance Project despite the absence of last year’s overall winner Kevin Johnson. Nicolai Naranjo, 25, ran a credible 1:07:59 for 6th overall while there was only a 23 second gap between their 2nd and 5th runners. On the women’s side, Dionne led the BAA women’s team to victory.
Also of note was Sarah Prescott finishing her 100th consecutive grand prix race, quite an accomplishment. All seemed to go smoothly with tighter security in the Southeastern seaport. In total, there were 2,846 finishers.