KINGSTON TWP. — Tony Korch and Amy Rome scored victories, finishing 1-2 in the Wyoming Valley Striders 26th annual Fall Trail Run on Sunday at Frances Slocum State Park.
Korch — who ran inspired, like a man possessed, after losing his training partner, Jen Stec, who died a week ago at age 38 — finished the 5.5 mile age group handicap race with tears in his eyes in 52 minutes, 8 seconds. His actual winning time, minus the handicap, was 36:11.
“I never ran like I did here today,” Korch said. “I did this for my best friend and the most beautiful person I’ve ever known — Jen. She made me the runner I am. And she gave me the strength to finish today.”
Rome finished second in 54:05. Her actual time was 40:06.
“I came today to honor Jen,” Rome said. “Otherwise, I would have not run today. (Jen) will absolutely be missed. She was nice to everybody. I showed my daughters a picture of Jen. And they said, ‘We know her. She was so nice. She would always ask us how well we did.’ She always asked other runners how they did. I noticed, at her wake, all the pictures of her. She was always smiling — that was Jen.”
“As far as the race went, Tony passed me … I couldn’t catch him on the downhills,” Rome said. “I can’t run downhills the way men can — especially on wet leaves. I’m not that brave any more.”
Korch’s win was his fourth in the fall version of the trail run (twice in the age group handicap format and twice in the straight race format). He has also won the spring version of the race three times — two times in the handicap format and once in a straight race.
Rome’s win was her fourth in the fall race (she won the straight race three times). Rome won the handicap race this spring. She had also won the spring version in the straight format three times.
Stec was known for her love of trail runs. She won the spring version of the race six times (all straight races). And she won last year’s fall handicap race (her only win in the fall race).
Before the start of the race, Vince Wojnar, one of the race directors and the secretary/treasurer of the Striders running club, asked the field of runners to participate in a moment of silence in memory of Stec. He also told the runners that the Striders plan on memorializing Stec in some way. But just how, will be discussed at the next board meeting in November.
It’s anticipated that the spring version of the race will have “Jen Stec Memorial” attached to its name.
The handicaps were determined by the World Masters Association, an organization that collects statistics on how runners slow down with age. The format gives older runners a chance to pull off big victories. The handicaps are determined mathematically. Theoretically, all runners should finish around the same time.
Runners — depending on their ages and gender — were given head starts. Some runners, mainly older females, were given as much as an 11-minute head start, while other runners (males ages 35-39) were given just a 56 second head start. Male runners ages 34 and under were classified as open division competitors and didn’t receive a handicap.
Wyoming Valley Striders 26th annual 5.5 mile Fall Trail Run
The race is an age group bracket handicap event.
Top 15 medal winners
1. Tony Korch, 53, Nanticoke, 52:08
2. Amy Rome, 46, Dallas, 54:05
3. Tony Pszeniczny, 52, Mountain Top, 54:31
4. John Sobocinski, 45, Dallas, 55:37
5. Len Sowinski, 69, Scott Twp., 57:23
6. Bob Warnagiris, 54, Hunlock Creek, 58:09
7. Dan Rosa, 43, Hughestown, 59:11
8. Randy Lyback, 44, Dupont, 59:36
9. Mike Rawls, 55, Mountain Top, 60:23
10. Jeff Baran, 53, Bear Creek Twp., 61:37
11. Brian Thomas, 43, Tunkhannock, 62:07
12. Classy Rupert, 17, Shickshinny, 62:12
13. Tom Walski, 62, Nanticoke, 62:29
14. David Houssock, 27, Plymouth Twp., 62:52
15. Stu Klaas, 26, Wilkes-Barre Twp., 62:54
Note: All runners’ times include the handicaps under which they ran.
Field: 65 (42 males, 21 females and two female no-shows). Official starter: Vince A. Wojnar. Timing: Vince P. Wojnar. Registration: Linda Wojnar and John Martino. Race directors: Vince A. Wojnar and Don Grose.
Thursday, Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving): Berwick Marathon Association’s (9 mile) Run for the Diamonds at 10:30 a.m. At Market and Second streets, Berwick. Info: Margaret Livsey, 570-759-1300.