Some of the fastest road-racing athletes on the planet will converge on New Orleans on April 4 to compete in the 37th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic.
But the truth is, some of the quickest times on Saturday will be posted by residents of the New Orleans area.
The main reason elites from around the world come to south Louisiana to run is the same reason why there are so many quality home-grown runners here – this is a flat, and fast, course. But while the topography is a draw, there are other reasons why New Orleans’ best runners turn out for the annual 10-kilometer race.
For instance, there is prize money ($300 per person) going to fastest local man and woman in four different groups (open, masters, grandmasters, and seniors.)
But more than that, there are bragging rights up for grabs. To earn “top local” honors at the CCC, competitors must hail from a nine-parish area (Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. James, St. Bernard, St. Tammany or Washington parishes.)
Lakeview resident Richard Bouckaert is one of the best local long-distance runners in recent memory. He has made no secret of the fact he’d like to be top local in 2015 (he finished second in the locals’ category last year, and 16th overall with a time of 32 minutes, 55 seconds.) He said while bragging rights would be nice, he’s more interested to see how he fares against the best -- not only in the metro area, but from around the world.
“You have the Jackson Day and Turkey Day races, and those are great,” Bouckaert said. “But the Crescent City Classic carries so much prestige. There are 25,000 people in it and the course is a place where people have set world records. You want that as a runner. You want the chance to go out and try to run with the best of them.”
Bouckaert, 31, is part of a talented local field expected to enter the Classic. His chief competition figures to be Patrick Gavin, who ran last year’s 10K in 31:56 (12th overall.) It’s not known, however, if Gavin plans to actually “compete” this year, as he before has costumed for the CCC and not aimed for his best time. If he does “run,” however, he’s as good as there is in south Louisiana.
Other top local competitors, if entered, figure to be Drew Haro, Ian Carr, Max Miller, Sean Fitzwilliam, and Brandon Wingate, to name only a few. Many runners wait until the CCC Health & Fitness Expo on Thursday and Friday prior to the race to register.
On the women’s side, Megan Gohres is entered and as one of the metro-area’s best runners. She figures to be in the discussion of top locals. Celia Zaeringer (first in the 15-19 year old division last year) also is entered, as is Michele Bravo (second place in the 40-44 division in 2014.)
Other top locals, if they enter, could be Laura Carleton, Celeste Dolan, Haley Moody, and Michelle Hymel Park.
Whoever does register, CCC Race Committee member Chuck George said they’re in for a great experience.
“The Classic is by far the biggest deal for local road racers every year,” he said. “There are some other great races around, but none are as long-standing as this one and have the respect that this one does. It means something to these runners to be able to follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s best. And when you get to the post-race festival, it’s like Jazz Fest. It’s a great party and a great event, all in one.”