It was a slippery inline raceJustin Stelly didn’t fall Saturday morning. Neither did Briana Kramer. That made a world of difference as they claimed elite titles in the 15th NorthShore Inline Marathon, conducted in intermittent rain from Two Harbors to Harbor Drive in Duluth.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
Justin Stelly didn’t fall Saturday morning. Neither did Briana Kramer.
That made a world of difference as they claimed elite titles in the 15th NorthShore Inline Marathon, conducted in intermittent rain from Two Harbors to Harbor Drive in Duluth.
Stelly, 23, from Kaplan, La., saw Bont (an inline skate manufacturer) teammate and leader Juan Tobon of Colombia fall 100 meters from the finish after slipping on a painted white stripe on the watery roadway. A stretched left skate in a Hawk-style move gave Stelly a victory in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 1.6 seconds in a photo finish after 26.2 miles. Defending champion Julian Rivera, 24, of Colombia was just behind in 1:10:01.7 and Hank Galbraith, 19, of West Jordan, Utah, was third in 1:10.02.2.
Kramer, 19, from Orlando, Fla., saw her Bont teammate and leader Sophie Webb fall turning left off an Interstate 35 ramp onto Fifth Avenue West, also on a painted line. Zephaneah Akana of Couderay, Wis., then took the lead going behind the DECC, but moved wide to avoid a large puddle. Kramer went to the inside and sped down the final straightaway to a victory in 1:27:32.5. Chelsea Creveling of Kintersville, Pa., was second in 1:27:32.9 and Morgane Echardour of Mississauga, Ontario, was third in 1:27:35.6.
“It was so disappointing to see Juan fall, a teammate who is such a good sprinter, and I knew I had to step it up and make a run for it,” said Stelly, fifth in the 2009 NorthShore race and fourth heading into the final stretch Saturday. “I wanted to win this pretty badly for the team and get us on the podium.”
There were approximately 3,000 entrants combined in the marathon (2,640) and accompanying half-marathon (360), in its seventh year. It was 55 degrees, overcast and calm for the 7:30 a.m. marathon start, yet overnight rain meant wet pavement. Rain reappeared in the final 15 minutes before the elite men finished along the William A. Irvin ore boat.
Not so groovy
In addition to a wet morning, skaters had to deal with a one-mile stretch of Interstate 35 from 26th Avenue East to Leif Erikson Park which featured a new diamond-ground concrete surface. The grooved pavement, less than a month old, presented a challenge.
“Because of the grooves, it felt like your skates were getting stuck and it was hard to push off. It was like you couldn’t go side-to-side, but only straight ahead. I almost went down a few times,” said Stelly, who was more than 10 minutes off Rivera’s 2009 winning time of 59:35.3.
Marathon executive director Rick Abrahamson and Minnesota Department of Transportation project manager Todd Campbell of Superior skated in Saturday’s marathon and experienced the new roadways on various parts of the course, including the grooved stretch of I-35. The grooves are to improve driving traction, reduce traffic noise and provide better water dispersal.
“The road was safe, but it was strange and slow today. Over time the surface will smooth out,” said Campbell, who finished in 1:27:03.
Abrahamson, 47, in his first year as executive director, was busy on race day, waking up at 2:15 a.m. and helping to set up the staging areas for the two races. He also had to deal with a pre-race crash of a Canadian National train and an abandoned vehicle near the start in Two Harbors.
A guy in baggy racing shorts sped past an amazed lead pack with less than a mile to go Saturday morning and held on for an upset victory in the seventh NorthShore Inline Half-Marathon.
Former Minnesota Duluth pole vaulter Tim Johnson, 23, of Bloomington, edged Philip Luckai, 16, of Thunder Bay, Ontario, at the finish alongside the William A. Irvin ore boat. Both were timed in 43 minutes, 52 seconds. Three others were a second behind.
“I wanted to be competitive and get in the top 10,” said Johnson, a 2009 UMD graduate now working as a chemist for International Chemtex in Lakeville. “I started back in the pack and worked my way up, and after going downhill at the Fifth Avenue West exit ramp, that gave me enough glide to take the lead.”
The 6-foot-4 Johnson, who had a pole vault best of 14 feet, 2¼ inches, was wearing no technical clothing — just a long sleeve shirt and long gym shorts. It was his second inline race of 2010 and first career victory. He was in the NorthShore Inline Marathon in 2009.
“This is such a wonderful race; it’s sad it goes so quickly,” Johnson said.
Tammy Colbeth, 28, of Chanhassen, led the women’s field in 52:59. Hans Anderson, 56, of Proctor was the top finisher from the area, ninth in 46:56.
There were 271 half-marathon finishers.
Tops in area
Abrahamson was the second-fastest marathoner from the area, finishing in 1:25:17, behind Geoff Ash, 17, of Duluth in 1:19:49.6. Kirk Vesterstein, 49, of Duluth finished in 1:25:22.3.
Despite a rainy morning, the finish line medical tent had a typical number of patients, according to race medical director Wade Lillegard, a sports medicine physician with St. Mary’s Duluth Clinic.
“When there’s rain, people tend to slow down and take it easy,” Lillegard said. “Our numbers are almost as expected.”
Seventy skaters were treated through 10:30 a.m., primarily for abrasions, while two were transported to hospitals in the area because of a concussion and a thumb injury.