Costescu wins 5K (Y2K?) race again

Computer snafu delays final results, but Race still Good For Life

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By PAUL OPPENHEIM, Running columnist

A computer glitch marred an otherwise fine running of The Race That's Good for Life, delaying final results and causing a number of runners to head home without their age group awards. But with Sunday's sunshine, warm temperatures and a good turnout, other elements of the event went well.

The women's 5K was won for the second consecutive year by Romania's Denisa Costescu, currently living in Michigan, in 17:21, while the men's 5K was won by River Forest's Jacek Kafel in a very fast 14:45.

Costescu apologized for her winning time, a half minute slower than 2004, by explaining that she had run a 10K the previous day in Indianapolis (which she also won). She has been burning up the American roads over the past year, competing in 36 races throughout the country, while winning 28 of them. She and her husband, Ovidiu Olteanu left Romania and its restrictive sports federation, to seek more freedom to compete where and when they chose.

Costescu and Olteanu have been living in Michigan for the past two years and are seeking permanent resident status in the U.S., with the goal of eventual citizenship. Meanwhile Olteanu, 34, a member of Romania's 1996 Olympic team, is now an employee of the New Balance shoe company, which allows them the flexibility to train and compete. He's a former Romanian national champion at 3000 and 5000 meters, and a sub-4 minute miler. He says he's "getting old," but he still ran a 4:04 mile last year, and finished seventh in Sunday's 5K.

Costescu, 29, was European Junior 3000 meter champion, and finished 10th in the 1992 World Cross Country Championships when she was only 16. Now they're enthusiastic competitors on the American race scene.

Kafel, 29, the men's 5K winner, competed in track and cross country at North Central College in Naperville, but his road race success since college has placed him among the top runners in the Chicago area, where he runs for the Universal Sole team. His winning time was closest to the race record between the two overall winners, earning him a $100 bonus in addition to the $200 prize for first place. He was followed by Elmhurst's Charlie Kern in 14:53 and Christian Goy, from Normal in 15 minutes flat. The top seven men all finished under 15:30, highlighting the good running conditions and talented field of runners.

This year the Oak Park Runners Club tried to utilize Oak Park and River Forest High School's computer network to provide faster, more accurate race results. Race scoring computers are set up in the school's auto shop close to the race finish line, while pre-race collection of Clydesdale Division weigh-in data and other last minute correction is done in the school's main hallway, nearly a block away. In prior years this meant that data had to be hand carried to the auto shop and back to the field house for the posting of final results.

This year, the club planned to use the school's computer network to streamline the process. All worked flawlessly before the race, and data entry was better than ever. But when race finish times were processed on race day, something went wrong. There were lengthy delays in re-processing all of the race results, and the awards ceremony dragged on past its scheduled time.

A frazzled Steve Bogolub, the club's primary race results coordinator, had run back and forth between auto shop and field house again and again with updated results. By 11:30 a.m., most people had gone home, with perhaps 40 left in the field house, many of them race volunteers picking up supplies and equipment. A young boy, not much taller than his dad's waist, was quietly standing with his parents waiting for the results. One parent asked if the Youth Mile results were done yet. Bogolub said yes, and asked the boy's name.

"Conor Sullivan," was the answer.

"How old are you, Conor?" asked Bogolub.

"Seven," said the boy.

With a quick scan, Bogolub announced, "You won the eight and under division!"

With that, the boy's face lit up in a big smile while everyone in the gym cheered. He was then handed his first place medal and Competitive Foot gift certificate by Race Director Geri Bensen. Bogolub says he thanked Conor and his folks for their patience, and then returned to work thinking that maybe it wasn't such a bad day for results after all.

Race awards will be available at The Competitive Foot store in a few days, and will be mailed to those who are unable to pick them up.

Wednesday Journal is a sponsor of The Race That's Good for Life.

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