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June 28. 2014 9:57PM

Andy Schachat's Andy on the Run: A 2014 New Hampshire race review at the halfway point


 

THE 2014 New Hampshire road race/triathlon schedule has reached the halfway point and that means it is time for a mid-season recap. Here is a review of some of the best runners, triathletes and performances, and some of the biggest stories of the past six months.

First, the top performers.

Top runners: On the men's side, two names stick out, Concord's Nacho Hernando and Northwood's Derek Hamel. Hernando was my pick for 2013 New Hampshire runner of the year and in 2014 he picked up where he left off.

During the winter, Nacho was a top competitor on the state's snowshoe circuit, then totaled a number of wins when the weather warmed up and he took to the roads. Between snowshoe and road races, Hernando totaled six wins, including three wins in the Capital Area Race Series.

Closer to the Seacoast, Hamel started 2014 with a win at the Holy Grail 5K in Epping. He followed that up with first-place finishes at the Great Bay Half Marathon, Runner's Alley/Redhook 5K, the Smuttynose Will Run For Beer 5K, and a number of other smaller events.

On the women's side, a group of women have stood out - the Millennium Running women's team. The team has been loaded with strong runners who have put the team in first place in its division in the New England Grand Prix series.

Outside the series, they have dominated New Hampshire races. Among the team members who have won races in the Granite State are Bow's Denise Sandahl, New London's Jen Mortimer, and Manchester's Mary Klene and Lebanon's Laura Hagley.

Highlights among this group: Sandahl was first at the Ribfest Five Miler, the New England Five Mile Championship, Mortimer was the first overall finisher at the Mother's Day 3K, and Klene and Hagley won races outside the state, Klene at the Maine Coast Marathon and Hagley at the Buffalo Half Marathon.

Top triathletes: Because of the weather, the local triathlon scene barely got under way during the first half of the year, but that didn't stop a couple of women, Amherst's Karin Biskovich and Intervale's Megan Skidmore. Biskovich won the Rye-By-The Sea Duathlon and Eastman Splash, Mash, and Dash sprint triathlon. Skidmore won the Camp Huckins Tri-at-Loon and had many top-three finishes at races in and out of New Hampshire.

Best performance: It happened only last week and it was big. Portsmouth's Andrew Huebner traveled to Duluth, Minn., and finished 15th at the Grandma's Marathon. Huebner's time was two hours, 17 minutes, five seconds, one of the fastest marathons ever turned in by a New Hampshire runner. Huebner's performance qualifies him for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials.

Now, some of the big stories.

Great day at the Boston Marathon: It comes as no surprise that this year's Boston Marathon drew a lot of attention. Following the 2013 bombings, the eyes of the world were on this year's Boston.

With an expanded field, the New Hampshire contingent was one of the largest ever for this state. Beautiful weather brought out big crowds and created an emotional day for locals who either ran, volunteered or spectated.

The top New Hampshire runners were two folks from Lebanon, Kevin Johnson and Andrea Walkonen. It marked the first time the top male and female at a particular Boston Marathon were from the same community.

Former UNH runners dominate: For years, former UNH runners have been among the best on the New Hampshire road race scene but this year they are having their best year ever, especially the women. Almost every week for the past couple of months, former UNH runners have posted wins at races in New Hampshire and beyond. Sandahl and Klene are former Wildcats and, as already stated, have scored big wins.

Other accomplishments from UNH grads: Newmarket's Keely Maguire was the first overall finisher at the Chief Mahoney Unity Run 10K, beating 946 runners, the largest New Hampshire race ever with a female as first overall finisher; Goffstown's Stephanie Burnham won the Shamrock Shuffle, and Erica Jesseman, now living in Scarborough, Maine, won the state's largest 10K, the Market Square Day 10K. Jesseman has also won many races in Maine.

On the men's side, recent grad Louis Saviano has also posted some wins at races this year.

Dover Series excels: Nobody saw this coming. When a bunch of racers in Dover decided to form the Dover Race Series, there was no way to know how big it would be.

Races in the series have seen a growth by the hundreds, going from either small races to big races or big races to really big races.

The numbers turned out by the races in the series greatly exceeded everyone's expectations. On the other hand, as was chronicled a few weeks ago, races in surrounding communities have seen a drop in numbers and the drop is contributed to the series.

Party races expand: A growing trend in this state, and in the country, is to build a party around a race and the formula has worked in the first half of 2014. Races that serve beer, some with live music, are turning out big numbers and resulting in more party-themed events to appear.

How else to explain more than 600 runners and walkers showing up on a cold Tuesday night in early March in Manchester for the Fat Tuesday 5K?

Running shorts: The father/daughter team of Mark and Casey Hecox of Manchester continues to shine. On June 22, they both won the King Pine Sprint triathlon in Madison. ... It was a cold day on June 21 at the summit of Mount Washington for the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race. How cold? Wind chill in the 20s, making the first day of summer feel like winter. The winners were both from Colorado Springs, Colo., Joe Gray and Shannon Payne. ...

Gotta give a shout out to Ted Mitchell of Hampton Falls. He traveled to East Freetown, Mass., on June 14 and won the aquabike division at one of New England's biggest half iron triathlons, the Patriot Half. The aquabike division is a race with swimming and biking but no running.

Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at schachat44@gmail.com.


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