SHEFFIELD — Two-time defending champ John Kruszka of Avon sized up the competition quickly before toeing the starting line at Sunday’s ninth annual Park 2 Park Half Marathon. Kruszka recognized Lorain masters runner Frank Guadalupe and knew he might be running for second.
Guadalupe, 48, set the tone from the start, leading nearly wire-to-wire to chalk up a winning time of 1 hour, 23 minutes and 54 seconds. Just under a minute behind, Kruszka, 32, ran 1:24:50.
“My legs felt good. I’m happy,” said Guadalupe, who moved to Lorain from Puerto Rico six years ago.
It was Guadalupe’s second win in the annual North Coast Nautilus racing series. He won the Wellington Tree Totter Half Marathon on April 29 in 1:24:06.
And it was a special day in more ways than one. Guadalupe took home the top prize in front of his daughter and fiancee.
For his season debut, Kruszka’s goal was to average a 6:30-per-mile pace. Last year, he averaged 6:26.5 per mile when he won the Park 2 Park in 1:24:23.8.
“I wanted to go out in 6:30 pace then pick it up towards the end,” said Kruszka. “Mile mark No. 9 or 10 is when I wanted to pick it up, but didn’t have it because of the heat. I just didn’t have it.
“(Guadalupe) ran strong from the get-go. Through mile No. 5 he was 50 to 100 yards in front of me. By the time we got to the turnaround (at Bur Oak Park), he was two minutes in front.”
Last year, Kruszka ran the Boston, Cleveland (2:44) and Chicago (2:46) marathons. He raced Boston and Cleveland before Park 2 Park last year. This year the Sheffield race was Kruszka’s season debut.
“I’ve got the New York Marathon coming up in November, so I’ll start training heavy for that,” said Kruszka. “I actually took the winter and most of the spring off and just started putting in the miles recently. I didn’t have a lot of high expectations for this race. Since I won it the last two years, I figured I’d come out and give it a shot again. I was looking at all my splits and my heart rate and figured I was in OK shape. Not putting in the miles hurt me towards the end.”
Elyria’s James Hawks, 15, was third in his half marathon debut (1:30:22). He was third in the Park 2 Park 5K last year.
“I actually led (Kruszka) for the first 3 to 4 miles, but that didn’t turn out well,” said Hawks, an Elyria High sophomore this fall. “I never raced longer than 5 miles before today. My longest training run was 11 miles. I struggled a bit in the middle but the last few miles went very well. I’m pretty happy.”
Rawson’s Jennifer Boehm, 26, was the class of the women’s field. The Northwest Ohio resident clocked 1:41:34 as she defeated 1992 Firelands graduate Emy Barkhimer, 38 (1:45:27), of Sullivan Township. Medina’s Maggie Christopher, 16 was third (1:53:07).
“Today was my fourth half marathon, but my first in two years,” said Boehm, a Wisconsin native and former Division III soccer and tennis player for Martin Luther Christian University in Minnesota. “There weren’t many races in our area of the state and I wanted to race a half. The rain that came down late in the race definitely helped us out.”
Barkhimer was pleased with her effort.
“I wanted to do something special for Father’s Day in memory of my dad, John Hettel,” said Barkhimer. “He died eight years ago. I’ve focused on half marathons the last couple years, but did five marathons the five years before that. I’m contemplating doing another full. It might be this year or next year.”
Otterbein recruit Connor Musial, 18, of Avon Lake, was the class of the 5K field as he won in a time of 18:22. Cleveland’s James Meholic, 21, was second (19:05) for the second year in a row.
The half marathon race started and finished at the French Creek Reservation in the Lorain County Metroparks. The race turnaround was at Bur Oak Park. Sunday’s race was third in the nine-art North Coast Nautilus Race series. Approximately 80-100 runners participated in the half marathon and 5K events.
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Frank Guadalupe, 48 (Lorain), 1:23:54; 2. John Kruszka, 32 (Avon), 1:24:50; 3. James Hawks, 15 (Elyria), 1:30:22
1. Jennifer Boehm, 26 (Rawson), 1:41:34; 2. Emy Barkhimer, 38 (Sullivan Twp.), 1:45:27; 3. Maggie Christopher, 16 (Medina), 1:53:07
1. Connor Musial, 18 (Avon Lake), 18:22; 2. James Meholic, 21 (Cleveland), 19:05; 3. Steve Terschak, 52 (Cleveland), 26:04
1. Melissa Isaly-Johns, 52 (Avon Lake), 29:59; 2. Christine Rohn-Tielke, 61 (Avon), 30:06; 3. Emily Mayock, 27 (Lakewood), 30:22