49 Years Old, but faster than ever

by Randy Accetta, Race Director

Thanks to the hundreds of Tucson-area runners who came out to our gorgeous Saguaro National Park to celebrate this great sport of running!

We are fortunate to have such a vibrant community of fitness friends — indeed, we are also fortunate to have good friends who take their personal time to catalogue the events – we are grateful for their volunteer hours in service of creating memories for our runners. Please thank our friends Kerry Whelan (aka The Goatographer) and Damion Alexander.

See the photos from Goatographer here.

See Damion Alexander’s photos here.

NOW, the Saguaro Labor Day Run turned 49 yesterday — but the true number of the day was 41:33. Nicholas Hilton completed the filly 8-mile circuit through the cactus forest of Saguaro National Park at a clip of 5:12 per mile to set a course record at Arizona’s oldest race.

Chased by Harry Mulenga, whose runner-up time of 43:27 was one of the top 15 times in the history of the course, Hilton took the lead from the get-go and never looked back. Now living in Flagstaff, Hilton spent a few years living in Oro Valley but had never raced Saguaro before. In post-race conversation, he remarked how this race will set him up for his upcoming New York Marathon. To paraphrase, the 59th Street Bridge and the Central Park hills got nothin’ on Saguaro!

For his efforts, Hilton was rewarded with a gift certificate from The Running Shop, a Running Shop-inspired saguaro key chain momento, and a check of $424.80 for crushing the race director’s time 25 years ago.

The top five in the men’s race included HIlton’s 41:33, Mulenga’s 43:27, and Japhet Kipkoech in 43:55. Fourth place went to the Running Shop’s Randy Arriola in 44:45, while fifth place was former course record holder Craig Curley in 45:36. Curley has been taking a break from training and looks to round into shape throughout the fall season.

The women’s race had its own drama, as Heather Jackson and Aleta Jokish waged a back-and-forth duel. Jokish, a cross country coach at SalPointe High School and UofA graduate student, took the early lead. Jackson, a triathlete who dabbles in running, caught her on the big hill, only to have Jokish respond. However, it was Jackson who prevailed over the final rolling hills to take home the women’s crown for the second year in a row. Jackson’s 51:26 was 13 seconds better than Jokisch’s 51:39, while TRP’s Lauren Reasoner rounded out the top three in 53:35.

The 5k saw some serious speed, too, as the women’s 8-mile course record holder, Katie James, dashed the hilly 3.1 mile course in 17:36 to win the race outright. Katie is tuning up for a half-marathon later this month, as she prepares for a go at a fast marathon in Sacramento in December.

Age-Group and Awards

Thanks to Sharon Bart and The Running Shop for providing the gift cards and commemorative key chains. As you check the results page, please be sure to visit the Running Shop before the end of September to get your awards. If you have any questions about your overall time or place, please contact the race timer (himself a 10-time champion of Saguaro) Greg Wenneborg at greg@roadrunnerracetiming.com or contact the race director here.

The 8-Miler served as the Road Runners Club of America Arizona State 8-Mile Championship race. RRCA State Champions include:

Men’s Open: Nicholas Hilton

Women’s Open: Heather Jackson

Men’s Masters: Ken Tuck (the Master’s State Champ is awarded to the first 40+ finisher — Kevin Tuck is 62!)

Women’s Masters: Janet Holland

Men’s Grand Masters: Joel Stamp

Women’s Grand Masters: Merry Dearmon

Men’s Super-Grand Masters: John Mclean

Women’s Super-Grand Masters: Sue Ahrens

Staging and Volunteers
Overall it was a beautiful day at Saguaro National Park, with an overcast and humid dawn turning hot by mid-morning. Ranger Steve Bolyard, Chief Ranger Ray O’Neil, and the rest of the Park Service employees and volunteers deserve our special thanks for ensuring a safe and happy day at the Park. AMR was on hand for any medical emergencies, but, fortunately, were not called into action.

The volunteer crew from the Southern Arizona Roadrunners deserves special mention for creating a gracious and welcoming race experience. The four Water Stations were handled by, respectively, the high school cross country team and coach Pam North from Sahuaro High School at Mile 2 and Mile 4; the youth soccer team led by Caryn Fraser at Mile 6; and the Tucson Tri-Girls at Mile 7 and the 5k Water Stops. The finish line water station and food stations were handled by the gang from Southwest Endurance, one of Tucson’s happiest beginning running groups.

Special thanks to the crew from The Workout Group for all the set-up, breakdown, and course management. I am sure I will miss some folks, but here is the list compiled by SAR Volunteer Coordinator Sheryl Felde:

Steve and Sheryl Felde
Marti Ackermann
Cindy Schnell
Bob Howard
Catherine Langham and family
Craig and Noemi Mills
Denise Gizinski
Joe Faulk
Connie Lopez
Austin Grover
Dave Dixon
Steve Sheldon
Linda and Kerry Whelan
Amye Chaparro
Michelle Hawk
Jeff Fulks
Abby Nastase
Janet Holland
Don Branaman
Steve Outridge
Merry Dearmon and Steve Moore
Tucson Tri Girls
Saguaro High School
Soccer team
David, didn’t get a last name

Lucas Tyler and Diane Manzini

Jennifer Garcia

These are all from Southwest Endurance:
Autumn Ball

Soo Chia
Eddie Gloyne
Sean Smith
Brandon Ball
Lyn Green
Luis Rivera

Concluding Appreciation

This race could not be produced without the help of Linda Whelan, who has spent countless hours helping ensure that our details are detailed! And it almost goes without saying that the family of Tia Accetta and children Aric and Anabelle are crucial parts of this. I get to write the race report, but Tia does way more than anybody realizes in support of this and other races.