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  • Writer's pictureJames Diamond

Circuit Update: Dust Settled and Victors Crowned

Our last circuit update highlighted the aftermath of the Lawndale 5k. Since then the Lake Bluff Pumpkin Chase 5k, Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and Fast Track Cross Country 5k have been scored.

Between the three races, the Chicago Marathon and Fast Track ended up offering the most drama. The Chicago Marathon served as the truest head-to-head contest of the season, with all 12 circuit teams sending representation. Results from the Chicago Marathon solidified positioning for many teams on the Circuit, with Fast Track XC serving as a last chance meet for teams chasing a podium finish. The top 7 teams sent representatives to an elite field of less than 200 runners, primarily made up of circuit competitors.

Combined Division

(Combined Gender, Age Graded Scoring, Top 5 Score Per Team)

The story so far in this division has been in the unstoppable rises of DW and Fast Track, with DW conquering the city and Fast Track owning the suburbs. The Chicago Marathon went according to script for DW. DW won the Chicago Marathon, bringing 48 athletes, of whom 26 successfully ran under the 3-hour mark and was led by 68- year- old David Walter’s 2:59:42.This victory gave them a massive 3-point bump, moving them into first place. Fast Track was unable to keep the wind at their back at Chicago, as they finished a difficult 3rd place, behind Evanston. This was Evanston’s first triumph over Fast Track since July’s Chi-Town Miles.

Fast Track was able to regain its footing at the end of October, winning the Lake Bluff Pumpkin Chase 5k. DW, still recovering from the Chicago Marathon, was not able to bring its full strength to bear.

The final race of the year was needed to settle the Division. DW brought a lean squad of 9 runners, led by some of their top masters. Fast Track, leaving nothing to chance, brought 30 athletes to their home meet. For Fast Track to win the division they needed a victory and DW to finish 5th or lower. With the top 7 circuit teams in attendance, Fast Track’s path to victory seemed possible.

Fast Track fulfilled the first requirement, winning their home meet in impressive fashion. An all-masters squad of Volker Rose, Matthew Jeromin, Brian Sweney, Josh Ruston, and Randall Kester were able to defend the house against their suburban rival Evanston.

Unfortunately for Fast Track, DW’s lean roster was enough to hold onto 3rd place. That dropped DW’s 6th place finish at Spring Trail Chase, boosting their score by 3 points and solidifying their spot as the Circuit’s Overall Division’s team champions.

This was a division with shake ups all season, as different strategies showed their strengths and weaknesses throughout the year. Evanston took an early season lead and spent the year fighting off DW and Fast Track. DW and Fast Track on the other hand knew they could score big points throughout the season and took big swings to close those early season gaps. Evanston, the consistent well rounded competitors; Fast Track the suburban kings of the middle distances; and DW, the powerhouse that shows itself on the biggest stages.

Open Men

(Top 5 Men Score Per Team)

1st-Fast Track 119, 2nd-DW 116, 3rd-Evanston 111

It really is hard to put on a more dominant show than Fast Track’s Open Men’s team did this year. Although they fell one point short of the coveted 120 perfect score, they ended the season with the second highest point total across EVERY DIVISION. Only Oak Park’s Veteran Women were able to reach the 120 mark this year.

Fast Track accomplished this feat by leveraging their depth of roster. 17 different runners contributed to their 8 scored races: Matthew Jeromin, Sebastian Ramirez Wiener, Frank Cira, Ken Love, Jonathan Cain, Leo Jimenez, Volker Rose, Josh Ruston, Patrick Devitt, Brian Sweney, Michael J., Smith, Yoon Oh, Steve Breese, Andrew Guibord, Shane Petrelli, Al Baumgartner, Ivan Yank.

This depth of roster allowed Fast Track to have balanced performances all season, never finishing lower than 4th place in any given race. Some runners, like Matthew Jeromin, were mainstays on days where Fast Track captured victories across a wide variety of distances, meanwhile others proved to be specialists that were able to provide crucial advantages over specific distances and race conditions.

Open Women

(Top 5 Women Score Per Team)

When we last checked in with this division, DW and Fleet Feet were tied for 1st with 112 points each, with Oak Park hot on their heels at 110. Each of these teams had collected their share of wins this season, but DW had the chance to close out the division by winning the Chicago Marathon. DW would face stiff competition, as Fleet Feet brought 54 women to compete.

However, DW was able to overcome Fleet Feet, led by Kristin Dailey’s 2:40:50 and supported by Sarah David, Adrienne Eynon, Samantha Greenwood, and Jeannie Sullivan who were all sub-3 hours!

Fleet Feet finished a respectable 2nd place at Chicago, led by Valerie Richter’s 2:53:56. Their top 5 women were able to average 3:01:55, 30 minutes faster than the next fastest team average! By last count, their top 5 were also backed up by at least 14 additional women who hit Boston Qualifying marks.

After the Chicago Marathon, Oak Park was able to return to what they do best. Dominating the suburban 5k’s. Their win at the Lake Bluff Pumpkin Chase dropped their 4th place finish at Hidden Gem, and their second place finish at Fast Track’s Cross Country race dropped their 4th place finish at Lakefront 10k. Their second place finish at Fast Track’s XC meet was exactly what they needed to secure their second place finish in the division’s standings.

Masters Men

(Top 3 Men Ages 40+ Score Per Team)

1st-Fast Track 117, 2nd- DW 117, 3rd-Evanston 115

This division came down to the wire. Heading into the Chicago Marathon, Fast Track likely knew it was going to take some lumps from DW, who have proved themselves the masters of long distance running again and again. DW did not disappoint, with their top 3 men averaging 2:33:50 (5:50/mile).

While this dominant victory was able to give DW a 1-point lead over Fast Track, it wouldn’t last long. In order to win the division, Fast Track needed the bare minimum of one win and for DW to stay out of the top 2 for the last two races of the season. Fast Track easily took the win at the Lake Bluff Pumpkin Chase, tying them with DW at 117.

In order to reach 118 DW needed to finish second at Fast Track’s home invite. Fast Track had the advantage of tie breakers heading into this race, but would need to finish first place to improve their score to 118. If DW would win this race, they would win the division outright.

DW took the early advantage, with Ben Bocher winning in a definitive time of 16:14. However, a resurgent Evanston played spoiler to DW and Fast Track’s duel. Evanston’s trio of Daniel Lennington, Chris Wolf, and Scott Magnum stole the victory, averaging 17:30 on the grass, and securing Evanston’s first victory since mid-June!

However, even with the chaos up front, Fast Track’s depth was enough to hold off DW. Fast Track was handed the division title on tie breakers: Fast Track’s 2nd place finish at the Alpine 10 miler against DW’s 3rd place finish at Fast Track’s own home meet.

Masters Women

(Top 3 Women Ages 40+ Score Per Team)

1st-Oak Park 114, 2nd-Fleet Feet 114, 3rd-Fast Track 110

When we last checked on this division the score cap for these teams were 118 for Fleet Feet, 117 for Oak Park, and 116 for Fast Track. The fact that none of these teams reached even the 116 mark is a testament to how truly deep this division is. Of the 10 teams in this division, 6 were able to collect at least one victory.

The final weeks were filled with upsets. 4th ranked DW won the Chicago Marathon, only allowing Fleet Feet to add two to their point total. However, two was enough to expand Fleet Feet’s lead on the field from one point to three.

However, only a few weeks later Oak Park would shrink that margin again, by winning the Pumpkin Chase, reducing Fleet Feet’s lead to one point. Oak Park also received help as #5 ranked Evanston had a phenomenal race, finishing second place, their highest finish since their victory at Race Against Hate back in June. This locked Fleet Feet out of scoring for one more week.

A win at Fast Track’s Cross Country race would mean an outright victory for either Oak Park or Fleet Feet. However, if there's one narrative that is consistent in this division, it’s the narrative of upsets.

It was #7 ranked CARA Racing Crew that was able to secure their first victory of the year, as they barely squeaked out a victory over Oak Park.

Oak Park’s second place finish was enough to give them the extra one point needed to win the division on tie breakers. Oak Park’s 3rd place finish at Lakefront 10 back in April gave them the edge over Fleet Feet’s 4th place finish at Spring Trail Chase in May.

Veteran Men

(Top 3 Men Ages 50+ Score Per Team)

1st-Fast Track 118, 2nd-Evanston 112, 3rd-Oak Park 109

Heading into the final 3 races of the season Fast Track had solidified its position as the top team in this division. Fast Track’s dominance of this field was anchored by a trio we’ve mentioned previously, Volker Rose, Frank Cira, and Brian Sweney; this exact trio was responsible for 4 of the team’s victories. In situations where only 2 of this trio were able to race, Fast Track showed what it takes to go from a strong team to a juggernaut. Scott Baltes, George Pacholok, Al Baumgartner, and Antonio Gonzalez played the crucial supporting roles to ensure that Fast Track finished in the top 2 in 13 of their 15 competitions!

In the final three races, Evanston was able to overcome Oak Park, after a 3rd place finish at the Chicago Marathon. Their second place standing was solidified after winning the Pumpkin Chase at the end of October.

Oak Park was able to secure a third place finish by a tight margin as they faced heavy pressure from #4 ranked Elmhurst Running Club and #5 ranked DW. Both of these teams finished the season with scores of 109 and 108 respectively.

Heading into the Chicago Marathon, Elmhurst was only 1 point behind Oak Park and DW had a path to 118 points and the division victory if it could win the remaining 3 races. Both Oak Park and Elmhurst were locked out of scoring at the Chicago Marathon, as DW took home the victory, tying them with Elmhurst at 108.

At The Pumpkin Chase, DW did not bring a team, locking them out of a first place finish in the division. Oak Park and Elmhurst had a head-to-head face off in which Oak Park finished 3rd to Elmhurst’s 4th. Neither team improved their score or standing at this meet, but it put Elmhurst on the back foot heading into the final race of the season. For Elmhurst to secure a podium finish, they needed to win the Fast Track Cross Country Race outright.

In a showdown with Oak Park, 9 Elmhurst runners gave it everything they had to secure a dramatic second place finish with an average time of 21:06 to Oak Park’s 21:25. While this was an excellent final race of the season, Oak Park’s 3rd place finish was enough to count as Oak Park’s tiebreaking races. Oak Park’s 3rd place finish at Fast Track beat out Elmhurst's 4th place finish at 4 on the 4th.

Veteran Women

(Top 3 Women Ages 50+ Score Per Team)

1st-Oak Park 120, 2nd-Fleet Feet 113, 3rd-Evanston 112

This Oak Park team had secured victory before the Chicago Marathon. In our last edition, we already went in detail as to how dominant this Oak Park team was. Since then they secured a victory at the Lake Bluff Pumpkin Chase, which granted them the 8 victories necessary for a perfect circuit score!

The main story from this division is Fleet Feet, who were able to win the Chicago Marathon. Leslie Navarro, Ana Jaun Bustos, and Carolyn Sullivan put on a dominant performance, averaging 3:49:54 for the marathon distance. This victory came just in time to leapfrog Evanston.

Evanston was not able to catch up to Fleet Feet’s score by the end of the season, as their final head-to-head was at Pumpkin Chase. However, in their final bout, Nancy Rollins, recovered from the marathon, was able to lead her team to a second place finish over Fleet Feet.

Senior Men

(Top 3 Men Ages 60+ Score Per Team)

1st- Evanston 117, 2nd- Elmhurst 116, 3nd- Oak Park 115

If you were worried about Evanston after their 4th place finish at Lawndale, you had no reason to be. Their squad came into the Chicago Marathon well rested and ready to defend their first place position, but that would require beating Oak Park in a brutal head-to-head at the Chicago Marathon. Evanston took the win thanks to a fantastic performance from their #2 runner Kieth Holzmueller. Evanston’s team average was 3:33:54 to Oak Park’s 3:39:06

EvanstonOak ParkWilliamNimrod3:10:45MichaelBrosilow3:09:12KiethHolzmueller3:20:24RainerSchochat3:39:06RamonRojas4:10:31DavidSpencer4:09:02

While Evanston took the win at Chicago, Oak Park remained a serious threat. Oak Park was a team that excelled in the suburban 5k and already had a collected 9 top-2 finishes. Evanston would struggle to win on tie breakers if Oak Park could secure victories at Pumpkin Chase and Fast Track XC.

Luckily for Evanston, a resurgent Elmhurst came to party at the last two meets of the season. Elmhurst won the Pumpkin Chase, their first victory since July, led by Tim Conheady’s 19:57. Elmhurst’s depth showed itself again at Fast Track XC Invite as David Hensely led the team to their 4th victory of the season! Oak Park’s second place finishes were not enough for them to improve their team score, granting Elmhurst Running Club their first podium finish of 2023!

Senior Women

(Top 3 Women Ages 60+ Score Per Team)

1st- Fleet Feet 117, 2nd- Evanston 115, 3rd- Oak Park 113

Heading into the final races of the season Fleet Feet already had a dominant 6 point lead over the field. Due to tie breaker rules this meant Fleet Feet had already won their division before heading into the Chicago Marathon. Their victory was primarily anchored by Age Group 60-64 champion Angelica Guerrero, who not only won her age group, but achieved a perfect individual score of 120. Angelica also received support from Kayoko Hamamura and Carolyn Sullivan who proved to be valuable assets in the marathon and half marathon distances.

At the end of the season Evanston did not have a path to outscore Fleet Feet, but they did go out with a bang, winning the Chicago Marathon with an average time of 4:23:40…a 19 minute lead over their next closest competitors! The team decided to end its season at the Pumpkin Chase with another team victory.

Oak Park also had a solid end to their season. Heading into the final 3 races, they had a 1-point lead on Fast Track 109 to 108. They were able secure their podium spot with a second place finish at the Pumpkin Chase and ended their season on a high note by winning the Fast Track XC Invite in a head-to-head against division champions Fleet Feet.

End of Season

For those who competed on the Circuit this year we want to thank you for your participation and your enthusiasm! Thank you to all those who took the time to read our circuit recaps, we look forward to providing even better coverage next year!

The Circuit Awards Party is February 25, 2024. Whether you competed as a team or individual, we invite you to come by and celebrate another amazing season!

We will also be announcing the 2024 circuit schedule in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes open for updates!

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