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The hills were alive

Athletes take on Highlands Pentathlon

  • Recorder/David Rainville<br/>Indra Rapinchuk-Souccar, 14, of Cummington finishes the 10K trail run, the first leg of the pentathlon. Teammate Finn McMillan, 16, of Plainfield took the next leg, a 23-mile bike ride through the hills of west county. Their team, Legend of the Golden Hammer, took second in the under-19 two-person team class.

    Recorder/David Rainville
    Indra Rapinchuk-Souccar, 14, of Cummington finishes the 10K trail run, the first leg of the pentathlon. Teammate Finn McMillan, 16, of Plainfield took the next leg, a 23-mile bike ride through the hills of west county. Their team, Legend of the Golden Hammer, took second in the under-19 two-person team class.

  • Cheered on by onlookers, [members of team #86] swap from running to cycling, beginning the second lap of Saturday's Berkshire Highland Pentathlon. Recorder/Trish Crapo.

    Cheered on by onlookers, [members of team #86] swap from running to cycling, beginning the second lap of Saturday's Berkshire Highland Pentathlon. Recorder/Trish Crapo.

  • At the start of Saturday's 2nd Annual Berkshire Highland Pentathlon, fans cheer as runners leave the slopes at Berkshire East. Recorder/Trish Crapo

    At the start of Saturday's 2nd Annual Berkshire Highland Pentathlon, fans cheer as runners leave the slopes at Berkshire East. Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Al Ross of Montague Center sets off in the only canoe to take part in Saturday's Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon in Charlemont. Recorder/Trish Crapo.

    Al Ross of Montague Center sets off in the only canoe to take part in Saturday's Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon in Charlemont. Recorder/Trish Crapo.

  • Recorder/David Rainville<br/>Indra Rapinchuk-Souccar, 14, of Cummington finishes the 10K trail run, the first leg of the pentathlon. Teammate Finn McMillan, 16, of Plainfield took the next leg, a 23-mile bike ride through the hills of west county. Their team, Legend of the Golden Hammer, took second in the under-19 two-person team class.
  • Cheered on by onlookers, [members of team #86] swap from running to cycling, beginning the second lap of Saturday's Berkshire Highland Pentathlon. Recorder/Trish Crapo.
  • At the start of Saturday's 2nd Annual Berkshire Highland Pentathlon, fans cheer as runners leave the slopes at Berkshire East. Recorder/Trish Crapo
  • Al Ross of Montague Center sets off in the only canoe to take part in Saturday's Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon in Charlemont. Recorder/Trish Crapo.

CHARLEMONT — It’s nothing out of the ordinary to see people racing down a ski slope, but racing up?

Well, that’s normal, too, as long as you’re at the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon. The five-leg race was back for its second year on Saturday, with 31 teams and solo runners.

Tom Gorman of Hadley made up for Team Thunder’s lost time as he rushed from the Deerfield River, over to Berkshire East Ski Area, and up to the top of the mountain to tag his team’s slalom skier, Buckland’s John Ferris, who locked in the win in the last leg of the race. Last year, the team came in second.

Team Thunder ran the entire race in 3 hours, 1 minute, and 9 seconds, finishing 43 seconds ahead of team Ageless.

“Tom did a heroic run; we weren’t a clear winner out of the kayak leg,” said Team Thunder’s Mattea Kramer of Amherst, who did the first leg, running 4.5 miles through the hills and woods of Charlemont.

She handed off to Andrew Bowersox of Whately, who biked a gruelling 23 miles through the hills of west county, and tagged off to Scott Johnson at the Zoar picnic area.

“We were third when we launched the kayak,” said Johnson of Ashfield. “It was hard paddling; we were all duking it out.”

A five-way paddling race emerged toward the end of the river run, with 70-year-old Al Ross at the back of the pack, in the only canoe in the race.

“I was bouncing all over the place with the wind,” said Ross, of five-person team Ageless, which took home second place. He’s been a canoe racer for the past 30 years, ever since some friends introduced him to the Millers and Deerfield rivers.

Though he made a good run in his open boat, Ross wasn’t taking credit.

“All these other people made it look like I knew what I was doing,” he said, as he stood with his team.

They were trail runner Larissa Miner, 25, biker Patrick Sullivan, 35, hill runner Josh Lipinski, 29, and skier Noah Harrison, 24.

In third place was team Last Minute, made up of Adam Williams, Michael Burnham, Samantha Lydiard, Jeff Belanger and John Dwelley-Bowers.

Racing alongside the “tartan teams of five” and “tam-o-shanter teams of two,” there were the “Bravehearts,” who didn’t rest until they’d completed all five legs of the race on their own.

Kristian Whitsett of Shelburne Falls was the first of them to cross the finish line at 3:13:42, followed by Ludlow’s John McCarthy, just four and a half seconds behind. Chris Peabody of North Reading, was third, with a time of 3:22:40.

Some ran for first place, others for the rush, and some for bragging rights.

A friendly competition developed between a pair of two-teen teams — Legend of the Golden Hammer and Sibling Rivalry.

“It was the hardest run I’ve ever done,” said Indra Rapinchuk-Souccar, 14, of Cummington. She teamed up with Finn McMillan, 16, of Plainfield.

They were running to beat friends Erin and Jason Wooldridge, 16 and 13. However, the brother-sister team bested their buddies, and became the first under-19 two-person team, at 4:14:30, 7 minutes ahead of their friends.

Rappinchuk-Souccar’s mother and McMillan’s father got in on the fun, too. Tanya Rappinchuk and Kevin McMillan formed team No Train, Some Pain, and took second in their division, with 3:35:36.

Rappinchuk, a marathon runner, agreed with her daughter that the 4.5-mile run was brutal, and they weren’t the only ones who thought so.

“It was like running up a stream of Silly Putty,” said Shawn Billings of Shelburne Falls, part of a two-man team with Greenfield’s Mark Waller.

When the going got tough, said Billings, the crowd drove him on.

“It’s one of the most fun events I’ve done, the spectators are so excited,” he said. “When I got to the pinnacle of the first hill, I felt dead, but they’re there, cheering us on and keeping us going.”

Billings was doing some cheering of his own, too. A coach at Mohawk Trail Regional School, he trained members of Team Mohawk; Daniel Burke of Rowe, Camron and Natasha Olanyk of Ashfield, Jake Orzechowski of Hawley and Jonathan White of Charlemont.

Billings not-so-secretly hoped that his students would surpass him. He got his wish; the kids came in at 3:30:00, while his team, Techtrotters, finished in 4:12:54.

Billings wasn’t the only person pleased with the results.

“I’m very happy with this year’s race,” said organizer Michael McCusker. “People are really juiced to race and to watch.”

He credited that to the area’s enthusiasm for outdoor recreation and extreme sports. People packed the base of Berkshire East, and every transition spot along the race to watch.

Next year, said McCusker, there will also be a triathlon, involving a shorter bike route, and a gentler hill climb before a ski slalom. He’s also adding “Team” to the pentathlon’s name; he said he heard from several people who thought the race was only open to solo runners.

For full race results, go to highlandevents.zoaroutdoor.com/news-reader/items/2013_Results.html. A full list of participants can be found at www.bikereg.com/net/confirmed/17785.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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