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  • Writer's pictureJames Diamond

Clubs Pick Their Place to Make a Stand as The Gauntlet Starts

Updated: Jun 28

The Gauntlet is a 3 week stretch consisting of Run for the Roses, Bank of America Chicago 13.1, and Race Against Hate. The distances for these races are 5k, half marathon, and 5k. This is a challenging part of the season for every team on the Circuit as they make the choice of whether they should divide and conquer the weekends or try to push straight through. 


After the first race, it seems that the divide and conquer strategy has taken hold. This is evident in the spread of the 1st place teams, as victories in the 9 categories were uncharacteristically spread between 5 teams. This suggests that many clubs split their forces, with the goal of focusing on races with the best scoring potential. 


Photo Provide by @FlyingPigRunningCo


All Around Standings: 

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

Run For The Roses Results

Season Standings

Evanston Running Club- 872

Evanston Running Club- 70

DWRunning- 851.9

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 61

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 846.6

CARA Racing Team- 61

For the 3rd race in a row, Evanston was able to secure a team victory. Not only did they secure the victory, but they also ran their best race of the season, as their 872 score surpassed their previous season best of 844 from Shamrock Shuffle. They were led by Nancy Rollins’ 931, which was a season’s best score compared to her 909 at Shamrock. The team’s depth has also improved with Lennington being a regular presence, running parity with Aaron Barnhart at 872 & 871 respectively. The team has also benefited from solid improvements from Chris Wolf moving from 828 at Shamrock to 845 at Run for the Roses. Keith Holtzmueller’s 839 was good enough to be Evanston’s number 3 at Shamrock, however, 839 is now the 5-man position. Through a mix of roster management and season improvements this team has now opened a 9 point lead on Fast Track and the CARA Racing Team.


DW and Fast Track took separate approaches to the race. Roselle served as a pseudo home meet for Fast Track, with it being in their backyard and supported by their sponsor Xtra Mile Running. Appropriately, Fast Track committed to defending the castle, bringing 54 athletes to the 450 person race. DW on the other hand brought an elite strike squad of 10 runners. 


No single runner was able to create the break away. DW’s Kristin Daily was able to beat Fast Track’s Grace Wasielewski 891 to 886, but Fast Track had the stronger 5th runner with Matthew Jeromin’s 822 to Julie Ordzowialy’s 811. Ultimately the strike squad strategy paid off, as DW’s mid pack was enough to squeak out the win over Fast Track, thanks to Trent Fifield’s 865, Rick Summer’s 856, and Brittany Matteson’s 834.


Open Men Standings: 

(Top 5 Men Score Per Team)

Run For The Roses Results

Season Standings

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 16:45

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 66

Evanston Running Club- 17:59

CARA Racing Team- 65

Oak Park Runners Club- 19:46

Evanston Running Club- 62

The Fast Track men successfully made a statement at the Run for the Roses, securing the victory and moving them into 1st place in the season standings ahead of CARA Racing Team. Fast Track brought more than enough firepower to secure the win as their 1-6 runners were able to slot ahead of Evanston’s number two. The win is made even more impressive by the tight spread between their top-5 being less than 30 seconds. 


In an interesting twist, their 1-5 split would have only been 8 seconds if not for their new roster addition displacing their usual 5th man to 6th. 2023 Masters Runner of the Year Jeremy Ruston ended his free agency to add much welcome firepower to Fast Track’s already impressive depth. Ruston’s 16:24 secured him 3rd place overall. While his performance was unnecessary to secure the win, his presence elevates the team competition and will make it challenging for the CARA Racing Team to climb back up the standings.


The men’s race was won by 2022 Runner of the Year Brandon Theilsen of Fleet Feet in 16:06, followed closely by Evanston’s Daniel Lennington in 16:14.


Open Women Standings: 

(Top 5 Women Score Per Team)

Run For The Roses Results

Season Standings

DWRunning- 18:39

CARA Racing Team- 68

CARA Racing Team- 21:14

DWRunning- 64

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing- 22:39

Oak Park Runners Club- 61

CARA came into this race after collecting wins at Good Life and Spring Trail Chase, however, DW showed up to break up a possible winning streak before it could start. DW’s performance was dominating, with Kristin Daily, Brittney Matteson, and Julia Ordzowialy finishing 1-2-3 in the women’s race. Katherine Ander and Kelly Theilbar kept their times sub-20 and secured the pair 5th and 7th place finishes respectively. In total, DW’s women held 6 of the top 10 positions with Jessica Sokolowski finishing 9th place. Although DW remains in 2nd place in the standings to CARA, DW is likely not too worried at this point in this season. Their team typically has an incredibly strong back half of the season. At this point in the season last year they were not even in the top-3 teams, but were still able to secure the team title by the end.


CARA Racing Team was the only other team to secure runners in the top-10, once again led by Brittney Burmester’s 19:08 for 4th, newcomer Kim Bishop in 6th, and Evance Stalley in 10th. CARA’s top end was good enough to provide a comfortable buffer against Fast Track’s tight pack.


While Fast Track remains outside of the top-3 in the season standings, they have now closed the gap on Oak Park two weeks in a row, only trailing by 3 points. Interestingly, the make-up of this team is almost completely different from the team that finished 2nd place at Spring Trail Chase, with Erica Alansari being the only common thread. At Spring Trail Chase Erica was supported by Barb Mcgovern, Pamela Kowalczyk, Heather Hayes, and Amanda Hamilton. At Run for the Roses, her support came from Lily Jeromin, Jacqueline Colon, Liz Koltz, and Grace Wasielewski. This suggests that Fast Track not only has the talent to be a top-3 team in this division, but the roster depth to hold off challenges over a variety of distances. If Fast Track is able to leverage this depth to secure a race victory, that may be enough to cement their spot in the top-3 as neither they nor Oak Park have secured a race victory yet. 


Masters Men Standings: 

(Top 3 Men Ages 40+ Score Per Team)

Run For The Roses Results

Season Standings

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 16:40

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing- 70

Evanston Running Club- 17:11

Evanston Running Club- 70

DWRunning- 17:31

DWRunning- 61

The battle for the master’s men’s category is heating up as Evanston and Fast Track continue to widen the gap on 3rd place DW. Fast Track has been trading blows with Evanston all season, and at this 5th race, were able to secure their first win and move into a tie for 1st place in the standings. Fast Track’s addition of Jeremy Ruston has caused a serious momentum shift. Ruston’s 16:24 made a significant dent in Fast Track’s team average. Without him, they would have an average 17:01, still enough to beat Evanston, but not a comfortable amount of breathing room. 


Fast Track’s advantage remains its depth and tight spread with Ruston, Ivan Yank, and Matthew Jeromin all finishing between 16:24 and 16:50.


Evanston remained dependent on their low-stick strategy, with Dan Lennington leading the way in 16:14, followed by Chris Wolf at 17:17, and Aaron Barnhart’s 18:03.


DW brought a small but mighty squad with only 3 masters men. Tent Fifield, Rick Summer, and Dan Kittivanichkulkrai all finished within a minute of each other between 17:01 and 17:56. While the gap between DW and the leaders has widened, they aren’t out of the conversation yet. DW tied Fast Track’s season score last year, only losing on a tiebreaker. They still have 2 wins on their score card from earlier in the season, more than Fast Track has yet been able to collect.



Masters Women Standings: 

(Top 3 Women Ages 40+ Score Per Team)

Run For The Roses Results

Season Standings

DWRunning- 18:39

CARA Racing Team- 70

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 22:21

DWRunning- 63

CARA Racing Team- 22:26

Oak Park Runners Club- 62

DW’s strike squad strategy paid off yet again. They only brought 5 masters women, all of which finished ahead of Fast Track’s number one. Kristen Dailey’s ability to run low 17:00’s for 5k will always keep her team competitive. Unlike other DW team’s, this squad is not waiting for a late season push to carry them to victory. They currently have three race victories under their belt against CARA’s two.


Fast Track and CARA battled fiercely for second place. CARA’s small squad of 3 women were led by Evance Stalley’s 20:25, putting a sizable one minute gap on Fast Track’s Erica Alansari. However, the home field advantage was too much for CARA to overcome. Lily Jeromin finished closely behind Alansari, gapping CARA’s number 2 Libby Harvey-Hill by about a minute. The race was settled in a close battle between each team’s number three runner when Fast Track’s Grace Wasielewski was able to establish a 14 second gap on CARA’s Erica Agran. 


This was Fast Track’s best performance of the season, moving them into 4th place in the standings, only 1 point behind Oak Park.


Despite the 3rd place finish CARA maintains a 7 point lead in the category thanks to holding on to a top-3 finish for every race of the season so far.


Veteran Men Standings: 

(Top 3 Men Ages 50+ Score Per Team)

Run For The Roses Results

Season Standings

Evanston Running Club- 18:33

Evanston Running Club- 70

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 19:47

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 65

Oak Park Runners Club- 20:08

Oak Park Runners Club- 62

Evanston was successfully able to overcome Fast Track at their home course, which is impressive in relation to their narrow defeat to Fast Track back at Good Life. Evanston’s roster was anchored by regulars Chris Wolf and Kieth Holzmueller, but Aaron Barnhart’s presence as their number 2 runner lowered their team average from 20:06 at Good Life down to 18:33 at Run for the Roses! Evanston will now be a difficult team to dethrone, as they are the most consistent performers in this category, finishing 4th place or higher at every race so far this season.


Fast Track was a distant second, but the 2023 category champions were able to hold Oak Park off for the 3rd race in a row. They were led by 2023 Veteran Runner of the Year Volker Rose’s 18:03, followed by Frank Cira at 18:43, and Jason Moderi at 20:47. 


Oak Park’s men finished 3rd place for the third race in a row. While they are some of the most consistent performers in the category, 4th place’s DW has two victories under their belt and sit only 2 points behind. In order to hold onto their podium position, Oak Park will need to continue its top 3 consistency.


Veteran Women Standings: 

(Top 3 Women Ages 50+ Score Per Team)

Run For The Roses Results

Season Standings

Oak Park Runners Club- 23:13

Oak Park Runners Club- 69

Evanston Running Club- 23:51

Evanston Running Club- 69

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 27:38

CARA Racing Team- 65

This is one of the most hotly contested categories on the Circuit. After Good Life, both Evanston and Oak Park were tied for first with 41 points. Evanston took the lead at Spring Trail Chase 55 to 54. Now, Oak Park has once again overcome Evanston to tie the category up again. 


Oak Park’s victory was thanks to their regular performers Kristin Otto, Geri Bensen, and Julie Blankemeier all finishing within :45 seconds of each other, an incredibly tight 1-3 spread not often seen in this category.


Evanston had a much wider spread between their 1-3 runners, which almost paid off thanks to Maria Amaro’s second in the category finish of 21:54. Amaro has now led Evanston through 4 of the team’s 5 races of the season. She’s a strong enough runner to keep Evanston in the conversation against Oak Park in every race. However, the key to Evanston’s success will be to find a consistent number 3 runner. 


While Fast Track wasn’t in contention for the victory, their home field advantage did grant them their first top-3 finish of the season as they brought a squad of 11 women lead by Grace Wasielewski, Michelle Garrett, and Donna Glade-Healy.


Senior Men Standings: 

(Top 3 Men Ages 60+ Score Per Team)

Run For The Roses Results

Season Standings

Elmhurst Running Club- 20:52

Oak Park Runners Club- 70

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 21:16

Elmhurst Running Club- 70

Oak Park Runners Club- 21:35

Evanston Running Club- 65

Elmhurst’s Senior men have only strengthened as the season has progressed, starting with 2 third place finishes, next winning Good Life, finishing a close second at Spring Trail Chase, and now winning Run for the Roses despite an injury sidelining one of their new recruits.


In the words of Elmhurst Club Captain Doug Pearson:

 “This created a rematch with Marc Woodcock, David Hensley and Carlos Viramontes again going up against Brian Sweney, Mark Przybyla and Jim Brinlee (of Fast Track).  [Elmhurst had a great 6 second spread] between first Runner Marc Woodcock and… third runner David Hensley with Carlos finishing in between.”  


If a 45 second spread is competitive in the veteran women’s division, a 6 second spread in the senior men’s division is dominant. In a clear example of strategy and teamwork, Elmhurst was able to overcome the home team favorites once again and moved themselves into 1st place in the standing for the first time this season.


Fast Track was led by Brian Sweney’s 20:11, Mark Przybyla’s 21:20, and Jim Brinlee’s 22:16. All impressive times, but a spread wide enough for Elmhurst to take advantage of. This team is currently outside of the top 3 team standings by a large points margin. However, with a victory from Spring Trail Chase and second place here, they should be considered a late season dark horse once their weaker team performances are dropped from the scoring.


This is now the third race in a row where Oak Park has been denied a victory. However, they’ve finished top-3 in every race so far this season. This consistency has kept them in contention for the championship. 


Senior Women Standings: 

(Top 3 Women Ages 60+ Score Per Team)

Run For The Roses Results

Season Standings

Oak Park Runners Club- 26:54

Oak Park Runners Club- 71

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 31:14

Xtra Mile Fast Track Racing Team- 63

Evanston Running Club- 49:41

Evanston Running Club- 63

Across all categories, the Oak Park senior women have established the largest lead on their competition. Like most Oak Park teams, consistency has been the key to their success. In no other division is this more true than the senior women’s division. Oak Park brought a team of 3 to face off against 4 Fast Track women.


It was a battle up front between Oak Park’s Julie Blankemeier and Fast Track’s Grace Wasielewski. Blankemeier ultimately secured a tight victory in 23:40 against Wasielewski’s 23:46. However, in a competition of average times, slim margins of victory rarely move the needle. It was Oak Park’s Eileen Dolan who created a massive time buffer against Fast Track’s number 2 runner, allowing Isola Metz to finish 3rd for the team in 31:13 and give the team a victory. 


Due to lower participation in this division a wide variety of teams are able to take their shots at the podium. Fast Track and Evanston are tied for 2nd with 63 points, while Lake Shore and Fleet Feet are tied for 4th at 57 points. Oak Park will remain the rock solid favorite for the rest of the year. However, as the season progresses and low scores are dropped, be prepared to see massive jostling as Fast Track, Evanston, Fleet Feet, and Lake Shore all battle for the 2nd and 3rd position.


Final Thoughts:

After 5 races, only 3 teams have emerged clear leaders for their category, with Evanston’s All Around team, CARA’s Masters Women, and Oak Park’s Senior Women. However, with such a diverse group of teams being able to secure victory at Run for the Roses anything remains possible. The possibilities widen considering The Gauntlet’s 3 weeks straight of racing. This dense schedule will give teams a chance to out maneuver each other and secure unexpected victories and much needed points. 


Important Links:


Join a team, follow the schedule, and check standings at cararuns.org/circuit


Support the Circuit, get discounts, earn individual points: become a CARA Member.


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