Locals run off with top times

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Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

The Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) conducts a race circuit competition, with results from a select group of the best local races used to calculate the region's top runners by age groups. This year there were 16 races on the Runners' Choice Circuit –two of them here in Oak Park – the Race That's Good for Life in the spring, and the Frank Lloyd Wright 10K in the fall.

Men and women in 16 age groups from 0-14 and every following five-year group up to 85-plus had their best 10 race results from this list tallied to determine the top dogs for the year. This year, final results were just posted as this is written, and it looks like five members of the Oak Park Runners earned age group championships, with another Oak Parker, Meg Sullivan, winning the 30-34 age group (Meg runs for another team). She also placed third in the Overall standings, scoring the speediest women overall, regardless of age group. So here are the other local age group champs for 2011:

Holly Porter won the 35-39 age group, and was fourth in the Overall standings, just behind Sullivan. She was the subject of my Oct. 12 column, which described her track speed-training program.

Stacia Taylor repeated for the third consecutive year as women's 65-69 champ, winning her age group in every race but two (and she stormed back to easily beat her closest competitor in the last five races).

Doris Schertz has owned her age group for years, and her many 70-74 age group victories for 2011 again included the fabled Boston Marathon. Doris lives in Lombard but has been an Oak Park Runners Club member for a long time. She is one of the top 70-74 age runners in the country.

On the men's side, Jim Cassioppi won the tough 45-49 age group with a strong season finish. He's been an Oak Park club member for many years and is the former race director for The Race That's Good for Life 5K. He now lives in Willow Springs.

Bob Taylor (Stacia's husband) won the men's 85-plus division, and believe it or not, he has some running competitors at an age where most people have trouble getting off the couch. Bob is already a member of the CARA Hall of Fame, and continues to set an example for us all.

Of special note is Helen Nuttall, who was featured in my June column. Only in her first season of serious running competition, she took second in the 30-34 age group (just behind Meg Sullivan), and was 13th in the Overall standings.

Circuit competition involves some strategy, since quantity can sometimes trump quality. Faster runners are often lower in the points standings if they don't compete in enough circuit events (you've gotta show up to score). That's definitely true in my case – I finished fifth despite a significant slowdown this year with knee problems. But I ran more races than some of my faster competitors.

Congratulations to a dedicated and speedy group of age group winners.

Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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