For my final column of 2013, I give out my "Best Of," honoring the best and brightest on the 2013 New Hampshire road race/triathlon scene. Before the results are disclosed, a few explanations are needed.
When it comes to the best runners and triathletes, the awards don't necessarily go to the fastest. The winners must have also shown consistency. Think of it like NASCAR as though runners were earning points for their performances. Strong performances plus consistency earn runners top honors.
The rules are also bent a little for triathletes. The top runners are based on New Hampshire races but there there are far fewer triathlons than road races in the Granite State. In order to determine top triathletes results from border states, such as Maine and Massachusetts are also used. Now, the envelopes please.
MALE RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Nacho Hernando, Concord. It has been years since one runner has been this dominant in New Hampshire. His total number of wins was well into double digits despite taking time off in the summer to return to his home country of Spain. Amongst the highlights: two wins in one day (the Frozen 5K in Laconia and Santa Claus Shuffle in Manchester) and the Cinco De Miles 5K in Manchester. Hernando was also the male champion of the Capital Area Race Series.
FEMALE RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Abbey Wood, Laconia. This is where consistency paid off. There were a few women who were faster but none who had as many wins or top 10 finishes. A sign of Wood's consistency: women's champion of the Capital Area Race Series.
MALE MASTER'S RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Scott Clark, Gilmanton. In all the years I have given out awards, this was the most difficult decision. Clark and three others: Patrick Connelly of Derry, Eric Williams of Concord and Casey Carroll of Dover were all deserving. The deciding factor was Clark finishing second in the Capital Area Race Series while finishing first in the age-graded category of that series.
FEMALE MASTER'S RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Christin Doneski, Hopkinton. Another runner who had a strong Capital Area Race Series, finishing second but Doneski's year included something more impressive. She was the champion in her age group in the New England Grand Prix Series, bringing pride and honor back to the Granite State.
MALE TRIATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Connor Jennings, Concord. I used some poetic license for this one. Not only did Jennings put in strong performances at local triathlons but ran well at a couple of New Hampshire half-marathons, winning the Applefest and White Mountain Milers halfs.
FEMALE TRIATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Karin Biskovich, Amherst. Biskovich was first at a race in Vermont while finishing amongst top amateurs in other New England races, as well as racing well at the USA National and World Championships.
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR: Three-way tie - Tim Ritchie of Brighton, Mass., Erica Jesseman of Scarborough, Maine, and Brian Gagnon of Lowell, Mass. The Hollis Fast 5K is too fast for USA Track and Field records but that didn't stop the winners from doing something special. When Ritchie finished in 13 minutes, 47 seconds and Jesseman, a former UNH runner, crossed the line in 15:31, they turned in the second fastest men's and women's 5K's in New Hampshire history. As for Gagnon? His 3:43 at the Hinckley/Allen Manchester Mile was only one of the fastest miles ever run in America.
BEST RACE: Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon/Half-Marathon. The event broke New Hampshire records for the longest marathon and half-marathon in New Hampshire history. A great post-race party followed for those who stuck around while rain, wind and cold sent most people home right after they finished.
BEST NEW RACE: Cinco De Miles, Manchester. Well over 1,000 runners and walkers celebrated the Mexican Holiday with a 5K run and lots of fun, Mexican style, at Shorty's restaurant. The race also added a fun little touch by having someone start the race in Spanish.
BEST POST-RACE PARTY: Ribfest, Merrimack. Put it this way: After participants stuffed their faces with all the pizza and yogurt they could ea,t they got to go to the Anheuser-Busch Rib Festival. Yes, ribs were an additional cost but admission to the festival, a couple of beers, music, and an amazing air show were included in the race entry fee.
RACE DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR: Tie - John Mortimer of New London and Mike St. Laurent of Newmarket. Moritmer's company, Millennium Running, and St. Laurent's company, LOCO Sports, turned out big event after big event throughout the year. The two companies combined for 14 races with more than 1,000 finishers and included Smuttynose Rockfest.
T-SHIRT OF THE YEAR: Cinco De Miles. I am going to make a claim that I fully intend to support.
This shirt is the greatest ever handed out at a New Hampshire race. Why? It is black with white trim, which is extremely tasteful, as is the small logo, but what puts this shirt over the top is the design.
Instead of the traditional crew design, it has a collar that can be zipped out, making it more appealing for older runners. It is a shirt that can easily be worn at any casual gathering and I have never before stated that about any road race T-shirt.
PERSON OF THE YEAR: Paul Kirsch of East Madison. Kirsch has served countless hours promoting mountain running in New Hampshire and beyond. he was the race director of the Cranmore Hill Climb, the USATF National Mountain Running Championship. He also helped with the organization of the USATF-New England Mountain Running Series and the USATF National Mountain Running teams.
In addition, Kirsch has put in countless hours in helping in the search for Abigail Hernandez, the Conway teenager who has been missing since October.
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RUNNING SHORTS: Two 2014 series have named their schedules.
The NH Grand Prix Series will include the Soup Kitchen 5K in Nashua, Pack Monadnock Ten Miler in Wilton, Shaker Seven Miler in Enfield, Bill Luti Five Miler in Concord, Epsom Old Home Days Four Miler in Epsom, and the ChAD Half-Marathon in Hanover.
The New England Grand Prix Series will include two New Hampshire races: Ribfest and the Anthem Manchester City Marathon. The other races in the series will be in Massachusetts and Vermont.
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A great honor for the Runner's Alley stores of Portsmouth, Manchester and Nashua: They were named by Competitor Magazine as among the top 50 running stores in the country.
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The 2014 New Hampshire schedule will start on New Year's Day with the Resolution 5K in Portsmouth and Millennium Mile in Londonderry.
Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News/ Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.