15th best…in the world!

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CRR Sam Parsons, the Newark native who ran for The Tatnall School and North Carolina State, recently competed for Germany (his mother’s home country) in the final of the 5000m at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon. He is the son of CRR George Parsons and CRR Christina Parsons.

Leading up to the Worlds, Parsons’s training had been good. While in California in May, he had run a 5K personal best of 13:21.17. And just two weeks prior to his trip to Eugene, he had broken his own mile best by running a 3:55.81. Back in April, Parsons thrilled hundreds of local track enthusiasts at The Tatnall School track by becoming the first ever to run a sub-4 mile on Delaware soil (see Parsons conquers Mile Challenge).

photo of Sam Parsons on his way to the track
Parsons before the race

So, it seemed Parsons was ready. In past Olympic trials and at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, he had come close to being in a final, but this was a special opportunity for him.

Fast forward to the 5000m semifinal #2. Parsons was competing for a spot in the final with the likes of the always-prominent Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Ugandan runners, as well as Norway phenom Jabob Ingebrigsten, who had just placed second in the 1,500m final. Another local runner in that same race was Charter School of Wilmington and Harvard standout Kieran Tuntivate.

Parsons ran a smart race, staying with the lead pack through most of the race. Though he lost a bit of ground in the final laps, he placed 9th in the semi with a finishing time of 13:24.5, which was good enough to qualify for the final. As he crossed the finish line, a big smile appeared on his face, as he knew instantly that he had made it.

photo of Sam Parsons's finish in the semi
Parsons finishing strong in the semifinal to qualify for the final

“I’m the happiest guy in Hayward right now,” Parsons said. “Not too happy I won’t be able to go to the Wild Duck the next two nights after that; I certainly was banking on that. But final on Sunday, I think that’s a little bit better.”

Besides his parents, at least one other Creek Road Runner, CRR Dave Schultz, and his son Ben were at Hayward Field to cheer for Parsons in person.

That was Thursday night, July 2nd. Just three days to rest and prepare for Sunday night’s final.

photo of Sam Parsons before the 5000m final
Parsons on the starting line at Hayward Field

Unfortunately, the final did not go according to plan for Parsons. He and British runner Marc Scott stayed in contact with the lead pack, but, as the race sped up in the final couple laps, both runners were seriously gapped. Parsons ended up finishing last in the final in, what was for him a disappointing, 13:45.9. Last in the final in this case, though, represents 15th best in the world!

CRR Mark Deshon recently had the opportunity to interview Parsons about his experience, and here’s what he had to say.

How would you assess your effort in the final? You looked in good shape until late in the race, when the pack pulled away from you and the Brit.

“[It was] definitely one of the hardest races I’ve ever run. Basically, with 800m to go, I just bottomed out, completely just wiped. Definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”

How difficult was it to gear up for a bigger race just 72 hours after having run a 13:24?

“[This was my] first time ever running two 5Ks in such a short timespan under so much stress and tension…in an arena like that. There’s nothing more motivating than getting your ass kicked at a higher level to want to figure out how to run…and be successful at that level.”

Did you and Kieran Tuntivate discuss anything before your qualifying semi? It seems he wasn’t able to keep the fast pace.

“I did see Kieran. We texted back and forth a little bit before the prelim. He was still optimistic going into the prelim. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a great day…. We talked about the field, what the race was probably going to be like, and talked tactics a little bit.”

Give us your impression of having been on the world stage in Steve Prefontaine’s signature race on his hallowed ground.

“Steve Prefontaine was my hero…. He really made running cool for me. It definitely was a full-circle moment for me. To have been watching Without Limits [the classic movie about the 1970s Oregon Olympian] before essentially every big high school race to then running on Hayward Field, where half those races in the movie were, was definitely surreal for me, and I cherished every moment there, without a doubt.”

What was the atmosphere like in that stadium?

“The atmosphere was crazy. I’d never quite run in a stadium with 50,000 people like that,…sold out, just yelling and screaming…. There was so much love. I heard ‘Sam, Sam, Sam’ so many times as I was going around the track. So, that was really special to have kind of like a pseudo–home field advantage there.”

What interesting off-track stuff did you do while in Eugene?

photo of Sam Parsons in CRR sweatshirt

“I got to know [reigning Olympic 5000m champion] Joshua Cheptegei [the Ugandan who finished 9th in the final]. He lived in the same hall [as I did], and we got to drink tea together before the race…. He was very proud of me for making the 5K final…. It was really special to talk to, quite possibility, the greatest distance runner of my generation like that. That was really special, and he’s a kind, kind soul. I actually got his race bib also after the 5K final, so that will be a great memory I’ll always get to have and cherish.”

U.S. runner Grant Fisher ran well in the final, placing 6th in a time of 13:11.65, less than three seconds behind Norway’s Jacob Ingebrigsten, who took the gold medal in 13:09.24.

Parsons, who typically trains in Boulder, Colo., with professional club Tinman Elite, is now in St. Moritz, Switzerland, prepping for the European finals, to be held on August 16. He admitted, “It’s not quite like the White Clay Creek trails, but this’ll do just fine for the next month.”

We wish him the all the best.

Wolfer still ticking in his 60s

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Like a fine Swiss timepiece, CRR Martin Wolfer just keeps on ticking. Living a few miles southeast of Zürich, he is ever ready for the next grueling challenge among the beauty of his beloved Swiss alps, where he and his wife, Conny, vacation annually.

photo of Martin Wolfer with Zermatt peak in the background
Wolfer in the early stage of the race, with the Zermatt peak in the background

On July 2, Wolfer completed a rather unique race over varying terrain—the “Top20 Run.” Starting near Zermatt, at an altitude of 1,609m (approx. 5,261 ft.—think Denver, Colo.), the 22.1km (13.7-mile) course rose in the first 10km to about 2,300m (7,521 ft.), then leveled off for the next 6km, before climbing steeply over the final 6km to the finish at Gornergrat—elevation 3,101m (that’s about 10,140 ft.)!

Wolfer’s finishing time was 2:52:30. The other unique feature of the Top20 was that one’s place was determined by using an age-dependent factor. So, even though Wolfer is now 65 years of age, he came in 8th overall among the 143 men who finished, with an age-accounted-for time score of 2:13:46 (a 0.7754 factor having been applied to his actual finishing time).

With regard to the course, Wolfer said, “Above 2500m the air becomes very thin.” He could run over the initial 16km but admitted that, for him, ”in the steep part only walking was possible.” Understandable might be an understatement. So is the word impressive.

photo of Martin Wolfer with other race awardees
Wolfer, second from right, posing among the other award winners

For those of you who weren’t around Creek Road in the mid- to late-1980s, while Wolfer was living in Newark, Del., he was one of the area’s preeminent racers, at one point holding both the Delaware 5K and marathon records in his age group! Back then, he could run around 15 flat in a 5K and had a marathon time of 2 hours, 28 minutes and change.

Nice to see that he is in good shape and still ticking off the miles, er, kilometers.

Completing a record-breaking trifecta

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photo of Diane Kukich outside Carpenter Sports Building
state record holder CRR Diane Kukich

It has been a profitable early season for CRR Diane Kukich, who has been targeting Delaware age-group records since she turned 70 this past February.

Having already eclipsed the 5K and 15K records in March and April, respectively, Kukich completed her trifecta within the 70-74 age group on May 14 by setting a new state record in the 10K at the St. Michael’s (Md.) Running Festival. Her time was 53:25, smashing the 2016-set mark by 55 seconds.

Kukich now holds four of the 17 state age-group records that are held by Creek Road Runners and admits that “three records in three months was intense.”

Next, she’ll be setting her sights on and training for her first marathon, which she wants to run and “just finish” on November 3.

Kauffman honored

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A genuine environmental advocate for Creek Road and its environs has received a recent public-service honor at the University of Delaware (UD).

photo of Jerry Kauffman

CRR Jerry Kauffman was one of two individuals at UD to be honored with the 2021 Ratledge Family Award for Delaware Public Service.

Kauffman is the director of the UD Water Resources Center in the Institute for Public Administration at the Biden School. He also holds secondary faculty appointments in the Biden School and in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences.

A longtime Creek Road Runner, for years Kauffman has been a champion for protection of water quality and improvement of conditions for wildlife within area watersheds, including the White Clay Creek, along which Creek Road runs north from Newark.

Established by the Ratledge family, the Ratledge Family Award for Delaware Public Service reflects the family’s long-standing commitment to both the state of Delaware and UD. The award recognizes contributions of UD faculty, staff, and students who exemplify excellence in public service to the citizens of the state of Delaware.

Congratulations, Jerry, and thank you for your work.

Barton also a horticulture champion

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photo of Susan Barton

In addition to being a pretty good all-around athlete, competitive within her age group, CRR Sue Barton recently received plaudits for her professional work as a University of Delaware horticulturist.

The full story, in a recent issue of UDaily, begins:

“Sue Barton’s role at the University of Delaware is the perfect embodiment of the University’s land-grant mission. She teaches. She conducts research. And she takes UD’s knowledge to the public.”

Of course, we also know Barton for her winning qualities as a competitive triathlete and a world age-group CrossFit champion in 2019!

Kudos to you, Sue, for making such an impact within your field.