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Saturday, May 5, 2001 -- Winchester, VA
Apple Blossom SunCom 10K (iPO Event Id#: 3160)
Story by Neal Riemenschneider with photos by Shea Riemenschneider

[Details] [Coverage]
Results: [Overall 1-250] [251-500] [501-720] [By Class 00-24] [25-39] [40-99]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5]
[Set 6] [Set 7] [Set 8] [Set 9] [Set 10] [Set 11] [Set 12]

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Ready, set .....
Its nickname is simply "The Bloom." Its full name is the Apple Blossom Festival and it has been held for over 70 years during the first weekend in May. The Festival is filled with numerous activities including: the Grand Feature Parade, the fireman's muster, the world's largest Fireman's Parade, the biggest circus under the big top, the Queen's Coronation, the Queen's Ball, the Midway, the carnival, the Stag Luncheon, the Bloomer's Luncheon, the Sports Breakfast, numerous band competitions and Sunday in The Park along with numerous other activities. Furthermore, the festival brings in some top-notch celebrities and this year was no exception as Brenda Lee, Dick Vitale, Moses Malone, and Jim Palmer all attended and made themselves available for pictures and autographs. Additionally, this year's Queen Shenandoah was Tyne Mary Vance, who is the granddaughter of former President Gerald Ford. Ironically, Vance's mother, Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Ford, was queen during the 1975 festival.

But for runners, this festival is all about the Apple Blossom SunCom 10K held on Saturday morning. The certified 10K course is run on the closed streets of Winchester and receives extensive coverage from the local paper The Winchester Star. All pre-registered runners and all finishers are listed in the paper before and after the rave along with numerous race articles and photos. The race draws over 600 finishers per year and this year's event saw 720 runners finish the race.

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Don't get in these girls way!
While 95% of the entrants out there were just running for the sheer fun of it, the other 5% were competing for prize money. There has not been a repeat winner for over 5 years now and this year's race continued that pattern.

Michael Cox, a 25 year-old graduate of VA Tech and resident of Princeton, WV, heard about the race from a friend and came to run in it for the first. "A friend of mine said the race was giving away some pretty good first place money ($500) so I thought I'd give it a shot. I took the lead early and was surprised when I was all alone after the first mile," voiced the Health professor at Concord College. "It was pretty warm and humid out there so I took as much water as I could. I cramped up a bit towards the end but I was still able to run under 5 minutes per mile." Finishing in 30:26, the cross-country coach and Adidas runner and Hadenfield Running Company Club member finished nearly a minute ahead of his closest competitor.

Philippe Rolly of Arlington, VA was also a first time finisher and took second in 31:20 while defending champion Joe Gibson took third in 31:38. Former winner and local runner Mark Stickley (32:16) was fourth while former world class runner Chris Fox (32:17) took fifth and the first place master's check.

The women's race for first had all the drama as 4 time winner and defending champion Maria Spinnler was easily the pre-race favorite and figured to have little or no competition. But Kristy Johnson, spouse of the aforementioned Fox, made a last minute decision to enter the race. "I woke up early this morning, decided to race and dragged Chris here to run also," explained Johnson who was the #1 ranked American marathoner in 2000 and was second in the 2000 Olympic Trials marathon.

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Running the streets of Winchester
Spinnler took it out hard and had a 10 second lead at the halfway point. "I was just trying to go hard as long as I could. I haven't been able to train more than 25-30 miles a week so I knew I needed to hold off Kristy for as long as I could," stated Spinnler. Johnson reeled in Spinnler just past 4.5 miles and proceeded to increase her lead to the finish.

Said Johnson, "It was hot and I really didn't think I'd get Maria. She's tough and fast and always runs well. Once I caught her I just tried to put as much space as I could between myself and her." When asked what she and Chris would use their well-earned prize money for she replied, "Well, we're building a house and Chris wants a satellite dish but he can forget that as we need a washer/ dryer." The Adidas runner and middle school teacher (now there's a stressful job for you) took the win in 37:13 with Spinnler taking second in 37:40. Finishing 3rd was Amy Debor in 37:58, while Carolina Coastal University runner Robyn Ritter (38:23) was fourth and former champion and new mom Jen Sterns (39:29) was fifth. Top master was Winchester obstetrician Carolyn Wilson who ran 42 flat.

New this year was Champion Chip Timing. S. Mark Courtney of Runner's High, who has been timing the race for many years, provided the chip service at no charge. Everything went smoothly with the timing (as it always does when Mark is in charge) and results were printed, posted promptly and the awards ceremony was held very quickly. Runners feasted on plenty of bottled water, PowerAde, bagels, bananas and muffins while mulling around the finish area telling lies.

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Reason to celebrate
Kudos to race director Rosie Schiavone was does an outstanding job pulling the whole thing off without a hitch. With the able assistance of the Shenandoah Valley Runners, race organization is always first rate. Special thanks to the Winchester Police Department for their hard efforts along with all the numerous volunteers at water stops and at all turns. Additionally, thanks must go to title sponsor SunCom AT&T, and other sponsors, Winchester Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Inc., Poly One Engineered Film Group, Marathon Bank, WV Spring Water, Schenck Foods and Coca Cola. And special thanks to the previously mentioned S. Mark Courtney of Runners High for providing prompt results. Finally, on a personal note, this was my 700th race. Race Timer Courtney issued me race number 700 and unbeknownst to me, my wife, who could not run due to a painful hamstring injury, had a little celebration for me at the finish. Imagine my surprise as 30 yards before the finish line was a huge banner with 700 RACES on it for me to break, balloons to carry to the finish and Ruth pouring champagne over my head. It was a memorable finish.