The Power Miler Track Club boasts some of the finest long-distance runners in the area.
The group’s motto: “Work hard. Race hard. Improve. Repeat.” Members take those words seriously.
But their workout Tuesday had a dose of levity in the mix as runners stopped for an adult beverage during their run in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
When the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic 10K is held Saturday, though, there will be no such behavior during the run. For just about every serious local runner, the Classic is the penultimate race locally.
There is prize money to be earned for the top local finishers but, more importantly, there are bragging rights at stake — and the area’s best runners take that quite seriously.
Although more than 25,000 are expected to enter the race, only a handful of the world’s elite runners have a chance to win. But not far behind the usual front-running Kenyans and Ethiopians come the fastest locals, and that creates a race within a race.
“This is a race where everyone comes out of the woodwork,” said 30-year-old Metairie resident Drew Haro, who finished 13th overall (and second among locals) last year in 32 minutes, 39 seconds. “You want to be the top guy. … Not every city has a race to hang its hat on. … We have the Classic. This is our ‘hurrah.’ You can be proud of it. And if you’re competitive, you’re not going to miss it.”
In the CCC’s terms, “local” means someone living in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Washington, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Charles or Plaquemines parish. The top man and woman in four divisions (open, masters 40-49, grandmasters 50-59 and seniors 60 and older) each will win $300, free entry to next year’s race and a commemorative T-shirt.
Richard Bouckaert of New Orleans is another runner who figures to be in the mix for top local. He finished 17th in 33:03 last year after “falling apart” on the final mile in City Park, he said.
“Being top local is definitely a goal of mine again, even more so because of how my last mile went,” said Bouckaert, 31. “Doing well will take some of that sting off.”
Andrew Shapero, 22, earned top local honors in 2015. The New Orleans resident finished 12th overall in 32:33. He is entered in this year’s race, as are Max Miller (16th, 32:50) and Sean Fitzwilliam (21st, 34:33). Other top locals in last year’s race were Christian Britto (20th, 34:28), Jonathan Thomas (22nd, 34:49), Beau Robinson (23rd, 34:53), Ian Carr (24th, 35:05) and Will Kirkikis (25th, 35:05). Sean Allerton won the St. Patrick’s Day Classic on March 13 with a 2-mile time of 10:14 and automatically qualified for the CCC.
Brandon Wingate was the top local masters runner last year in 35:44. Byron Adams II was top grandmaster in 37:03, and Kenny Mire was the top senior in 42:21.
“This has been a really strong year for me,” said Wingate, 41. “I’m running some of the best times of my life. There’s been some really good competition lately. That’s helped me.”
On the women’s side, New Orleans’ Michelle Hymel Parks was the CCC’s top local last year in 38:24 (ninth overall). She agreed that local competition has made her stronger.
“The race is great for all of us in all age groups,” the 31-year old said. “Your family is there. You know people around the course. It’s fun and it’s exciting that way. And even for average runners, it’s a manageable distance. You can set goals. And because it’s flat and fast, you have a chance to set a (personal record).”
Other top females in 2015 were Megan Gohres (10th, 38:43), Kate Impastato (13th, 40:03), and Connie Lizotte (15th, 40:19). Gohres finished second in the Guinness Challenge portion of the Shamrockin’ Run 8K on March 13 in 30:50.
If they register, racers who should be in the hunt for top local woman this year include Laura Carleton, Malia Cali, Katherine Telfeyan and Sarah Skotty Powell. Carleton was first in the Shamrockin’ Run 8K open division (29:49), and Cali (30:02) was second. Telfeyan led the Guinness division with an 8K time of 30:06.
In the 2015 CCC, Maria Ducote led the masters women in 42:38. Word Backstrom was top grandmaster in 44:10, and Kiedra Brooks was top senior in 56:27.