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Freedom’s Run enjoys another successful year

By Staff | Oct 3, 2010

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Inaugural Freedom’s Run marathon winners cut their workloads in half for Saturday’s second edition of the event.

Both David Hryvniak and Mandana Mortazavi enjoyed their first experience so much in 2009 that each returned to compete again, though both ran in the half marathon.

It had nothing to do with the finding the 26 miles-plus too long.

Not at all.

Instead, Mortazavi is recovering from a hip injury, and Hryvniak used Saturday’s race as a training run as he prepares for the Marine Corps Marathon scheduled for Halloween near the nation’s capital.

They still came away as winners.

Hryvniak, a fourth-year medical student from Chesapeake, Va., won the half marathon, beating Mark Ramsey of Reston, Va., by a fraction under a minute.

Mortazavi of Leesburg, Va., didn’t win the overall half marathon title, but she passed the tape first in the 40-49 women’s age group.

“It’s still fun,” said Mortazavi, milling about as her two teenage daughters teased their mom about the pizza they were eating. “The hills are tough.”

Dropping down in distance seemed to be something of a theme for some of the notables competing in Freedom’s Run, a collection of races from the marathon on down to a 5 kilometer, not to mention a one-mile fun run for youngsters.

Men’s marathon champion David James of Somers, N.Y., dropped down from his favored distances of 100 miles to go 26.

James, a first-year doctoral student who is among the nation’s top 100-milers, used the marathon as a training run as well. He’s preparing for the JFK 50-mile run set for Nov. 20, which uses part of the same trails as Freedom’s Run in Maryland.

His victory, coming in 2 hours, 44 minutes, 43 seconds, came on the 10th anniversary of his first marathon.

Dropping down is really a theme for James, who began running a decade ago as a way to lose weight and get healthier.

He weighed a stout 270 pounds back then; he’s between 170 and 180 these days.

“It was totally for health issues,” James said. “My dad had some heart attacks, and then they told him he had diabetes.”

A former girlfriend helped encourage him to get lean, and, as it goes, turn mean on the distance courses.

It took James about six months to transform his body built by weight lifting and baseball playing into the more svelte look the 32-year-old carries today.

“I did a lot of short races, then started doing marathons,” James said.

In memory of his fiancee who died from breast cancer in 2004, James began to tour the world and run ultra marathons.

Dennis Malecki of Saline, Mich., finished second in 2:46:35 and Robert Hellis of Wexford, Pa., was third in 2:49:03.

“I took it easy,” James said. “I felt like I could come across in 2:50. I didn’t wear a watch, so I didn’t know what my split times were.

“I was happy with the way I ran.”

So was Hryvniak, who wore the team jersey of Two Rivers Threads, a running store operated by Freedom’s Run founder and organizer Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

“I hoped I could win, but you never know who’s going to show up,” Hryvniak said. “I wanted a good effort as far as a workout, and then I’d see how the race went.”

Beyond the appreciation he has for Cucuzzella professionally and athletically, Hryvniak’s so taken with the race environment that “I hope I can come back every year.”

Next year, he might wind up in the 10K.

“After running that marathon course, I don’t know if you want to do it again,” Hryvniak said. “That’s definitely the toughest marathon course I ever ran.

“The Marine Corps is on flat mostly. I want to run 2:27, want to P.R. (get a personal record).”

Mark Ramsey of Reston, Va., came in second in 1:14.16 and third was David Doherty of Towson, Md. (1:18.13).

Brenda Schrank of Winchester, who ran third in the women’s half marathon, also used the race to prepare herself for a Halloween marathon.

She’ll be representing the United States in the Armed Forces World Championship in Athens, Greece. Schrank runs for the Air Force.

“I ran the Air Force Half Marathon two weeks ago, so I figured this would be a slower day,” Schrank said. “I kind of treated it as a training day.

“So the eye’s on the bigger thing.”

Schrank participated in Freedom’s Run for the first time.

“I decided to do this because Athens is supposed to be really hilly and because I’m not much of a hill runner.”

Schrank crested the hill pretty well, though.

She finished the course in 1:27:13. Kristin Elby of Shepherdstown won the race in 1:15:36 and Rachel Blazucki of Rockville, Md., was second in 1:18.23. Mortazavi’s time was 1:37:29.

“I did better than expected,” Schrank said. “To go better than 1:30, I was happy with that.”

Men’s 10K winner Philip Diven of Mount Airy, Md., won in the closest race finish.

He ran the 6.2 miles in 35:56 and runner-up Antonio Eppolito of Alexandria, Va., came in at 35:58.

Beyond his prizes, Diven took home a cut on his shin as a result of a collision with a bicyclist out on the course.

“I stopped for a second,” Diven said. “Antonio said, ‘He’s fine, let’s go.'”

Away they went, staying side by side as they had for the whole race until Diven took advantage of the skinny and twisting downhill path behind Shepherd University’s Ram Stadium and on to the field.

A first-time competitor in Freedom’s Run, Diven thought the mingling of finishers from all four races at the same place might’ve prevented a photo finish between the two runners.

“He might’ve gotten held up by some of the 5K runners,” Diven said.

Diven, who ran collegiately at Shippensburg and Howard Community College, entered the race thinking of a top-three finish.

“Once I started, the first mile was so easy” he took charge and accepted the challenge from Eppolito.

Fay Slattery of Alexandria, Va., won the women’s 10K in 44:26, with Heidi Marks of Zullinger, Pa., second in 46:13 and Katherine Sartelle of Front Royal, Va., third in 47:58.

In the men’s 5K, 31-year-old Matthew Lefton of Winchester held off a pair of 13-year-olds to win the title. Lefton ran the 3.1-mile race in 18:05, while Zachary Wiberg of Harpers Ferry came in at 20:19 and Joe McCormick of Charles Town ran 20:22.

The women’s 5K proved that age has no boundaries as 59-year-old Robert Chromey of Charles Town crossed the tape first in 22:26. She beat 24-year-old runner-up Alicia Korol of Arlington, Va. (23:28) and 11-year-old third-place finisher Callista Clairmont of Harpers Ferry (24:54).

Women’s marathon winner Alison Jethwa of Baltimore had the most-substantial race win, covering the course in 2:55:19, compared with a time of 3:22.32 for runner-up Lauren Bullis of Arlington, Va. Third was Lynn St. Clair of Chambersburg, Pa., in 3:28.16.

Jethwa did not attend the awards celebration.

Evidently after running 26 miles, she had to run off to somewhere else.

— Rick Kozlowski can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 116 or rkozlowski@journal-news.net