Keeping Score: Bottom’s up
The long slog up Crittenden Hill is the closest that today’s Bridge of Flowers runners will come to what a local quartet accomplished on June 21 when they completed the 54th annual Mt. Washington Road Race.
Leverett’s Ethan Nedeau, 41, was the fastest to the top of the highest peak in the Northeast, covering the 7.6-mile climb in one hour, 19 minutes and 49 seconds, good for 55th place in a field of 1,060 finishers.
Not far behind was Amy Rusiecki, 34, of South Deerfield. She was 105th overall and 14th in the women’s division. Rusiecki is an accomplished ultra runner who finished third in the Vermont 100-mile Endurance Race on July 19. Her husband Brian Rusiecki won that race and broke the course record that had been held by former Conway resident Leigh Schmitt.
Bernardston’s Mike Townsley, 45, finished 138th in 1:31:13, and Sunderland’s John Carey, 43, who was 531st in 1:55:23.
The respective men’s and women’s winners, Coloradans Joseph Gray and Shannon Payne, both won $1,000. Gray got an extra $500 for finishing in under an hour; his 59:09 was two-and-a-half minutes off the course record that was set 10 years ago by New Zealander John Wyatt.
Race rules required entrants to finish in at least three hours and two minutes, but officials kept the clock running for an extra eight minutes for the last half dozen to claim they conquered Mt. Washington.
Trivia: What person you all know recently said: “I’m like a cockroach. You can step on me. You’re going to hear the crunch. But you’re going to lift your foot up, and I’m going to go for the daylight.”
Was it: Bobby Valentine; Marshawn Lynch; or Marty Tirrell?
Tom Fleming was inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica on July 12. For almost a decade the fleet-footed Jersey Boy was a ubiquitous presence on the top 10 lists of American marathon racing. He won the Toronto, Cleveland, L.A. and D.C. marathons, twice won in New York City and was a two-time runner-up at the Boston Marathon.
Joe Martino remembers the year he helped Franklin County runners stay in shape. “I was the Y’s fitness director in the early 1980s and we called our winter workout regimen the ‘Tom Fleming 200-mile Challenge’,” said Martino, who is the executive director of two YMCAs in southeastern New England. “Members would run and log their miles on a wall chart. The day after the Boston Marathon, Tom came to Greenfield and gave a T-shirt to everybody who met the challenge.”
Afterward Fleming stayed at the Hojo’s Motor Lodge that was owned by Milt Borofsky, who was sort of the Mark Donoghue of his day. “Milt put him up and they became friends. They’d go to Celtics games and one night Bill Rodgers joined them. Milt asked Bill if he’d been to the Garden before and he said, ‘Yeah, for a Stones concert.’”
Martino, Rodgers and Fleming trained together when they lived in Boston, and seeing his friend inducted brought back the memories. “He’s only their 36th runner. I guess I was in pretty good company training with those two. We were the three amigos.”
The UMass football team will be on the sunny side of the field when they play Bowling Green at McGuirk Stadium on Sept. 27. The team’s bench will be facing the press box for the 3 p.m. kickoff, the side that had heretofore been used by visiting teams. Tickets are reasonably priced at $20, and the stadium will likely be sold out for the Minutemen’s first home game in almost three years.
Let’s hope signs saying “Welcome Back, Minutemen” will be hanging from the overpasses of all roads leading to Amherst.
When Pete Weiss read in last week’s column that the late Bob Merriam attended Dartmouth, it harkened memories of growing up in Hanover, N.H. “In those days it was a tradition of sorts to grab the caps off the incoming freshmen. The rule was you had to steal the cap on foot — no bikes allowed. Great fun and I usually got away, but one time the guy caught up to me. I thought he’d kill me but instead he said I was a good runner and he let me go. It turned out he was on the Dartmouth track team.”
Weiss went on to do pretty well himself in the sport, setting records in both the high and low hurdles at the University of Vermont.
Trivia Answer: It was Franklin County’s own Marty Tirrell, who bugged out to a reporter. Tirrell is now “The Mouth of the Midwest” and does a sports show on an FM station in Cedar Rapids. He was quoted by the Des Moines Register, which did a feature story on him last month.
Seats that cost $100 at the box office are selling for upwards of $700 on StubHub for Derek Jeter Day at the Stadium on Sept. 7. The Yankees’ last regular season game is at Fenway Park on Sept. 28 meaning Jeter will likely end his career on enemy soil. Some think he might call it quits after the last home game versus the Birds on Sept. 25, but Ace Ticket is banking it’ll be in Boston. Seats for the season finale range from between $240 for bleachers to $1,000 and up for field boxes.
Ace has four seats two rows behind the New York on-deck circle for $2,396.80 each, including the $156.80 service charge.
UMass coach Mark Whipple tells SI.com there’s no place like Amherst. Whipple has coached on college campuses in Canton, N.Y., Schenectady, Durham, Providence (Brown), New Haven (the University of) and Miami (Hurricanes), and for pro teams in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Tempe (with the Arizona Wranglers).
But it’s Amherst, he says, “(That) is really the place for me to affect more people, the community, the area.”
During the interview Whipple mentioned receivers Tajae Sharp (61 catches in 2013) and Penn State transfer Alex Kenney as possible game breakers. “Kenney certainly brings the speed element and our two corners (Trey Dudley-Giles and Randall Jette) are playmakers in the back end.”
Squibbers: Memo to Gordie Woodward: That horse you gave me in the 10th at Saratoga finished so far back he won the next race. ... According to buzzfeed.com, 52 NBA players make more money than every player in the WNBA combined, and blackenterprise.com reports that WNBA bonuses include $15,000 for being named MVP, $5,000 for Rookie of the Year and $2,500 for making the All-Star team. ... Tampa Bay Rays TV cameraman Skip Smith writes, “I’m proudly sporting a new baseball hat with ‘Shelburne Falls’ embroidered across the front. It should make air on NESN a time or two.” ... Twins broadcaster Dan Gladden said he was at an autograph show with Joe Girardi over the winter. “The majority of fans wanted him to sign photos of him getting thrown out of the game.” Actually, Girardi got tossed from his first game ever managing, a spring training game with the Marlins in Jupiter. ... The story goes that after Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat won the 1,500-meters at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, somebody asked what made his countrymen such good runners. “It’s the road signs,” he said. “Beware of Lions.”
Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.