No Big Bear? No Problem: Venue Change Doesn’t Deter Runners at Watuppa

When construction delays at the DCR Massasoit State Park campgrounds created uncertainty about Northeast Race Management’s ability to play host to the Big Bear 50K and 30K races this year, race organizers didn’t spend much time fretting. Instead, they got to work searching for a new venue to make sure runners could still have an opportunity to race.

The solution came on the familiar trails of Watuppa Reservation in Fall River, Mass., where Northeast Race Management was already putting on trail races at shorter distances. Instead of a one-day affair, they expanded it to a two-day distance-running festival and rolled over runners’ Big Bear entries into the ultramarathon and 30K races at the Watuppa Trail Races. The end result was that runners still had an opportunity to compete, and they were treated to a warm day of racing on a five-loop course on Sunday, May 20.

Both the men’s and women’s races unfolded in similar fashion, with two runners dueling for the top spot through the first three loops before one seized control.

On the men’s side, it was 46-year-old Will Swenson of Andover, Mass., and 48-year-old Scott Deslongchamps of North Grosvenordale, Conn., who set the early pace. Deslongchamps hammered the first 10K loop in 44:12 and led Swenson by nearly a minute. During the second loop, however, Swenson closed the gap and was just a few seconds behind at the 20K mark. After an aid station pit stop, it was Swenson who took the lead in loop three, and he opened up a nearly two-minute lead by the time he reached 30K. From that point on, he was on cruise control and steadily increased his advantage. One of the Bay State’s most consistent performers at ultramarathon distances during the past few years, Swenson retained his steady form in the final loop and earned the win in his first ultramarathon of the season, finishing in 3:44:55.

After a speedy start, Deslongchamps faded during the fourth loop and slipped to third place where he ultimately finished in 4:07:09. Jason Dejoannis, 44, of Waltham, Mass., capped off a balanced race—each of his loops was completed in between 47 and 51 minutes—by climbing to second place in 4:00:20.

A trio of other men joined Swenson, Dejoannis, and Deslongchamps in finishing in less than five hours. They were 46-year-old Jon Lawson of Portsmouth, R.I. (4:11:21); 37-year-old Jonathan Perrino of Woburn, Mass. (4:47:17); and 33-year-old Matthew Crawley of Stoughton, Mass. (4:55:32).

The women’s race had a similar feel to the men’s as Shelley Cheung, 33, of Brighton, Mass., battled with Anna Kvaitchadze, 39, of Belmont, Mass., for the better part of 30K before Cheung pulled away. Kvaitchadze led the way through one loop, completing the first 10K in 57:52 while Cheung followed 23 seconds later. Loop two was similar to the first as both ran nearly identical splits and Kvaitchadze expanded her lead to a little more than a minute. Cheung inched a few seconds closer during the third loop, but Kvaitchadze maintained the lead by the time 30K had been completed. Cheung’s consistency continued in the fourth loop, and that’s when she took control. After pulling together 58-minute, 58-minute, and 60-minute loops, she delivered her fourth loop in 60 minutes again. Kvaitchadze was unable to match it this time, and Cheung entered her final trip around the course with an eight-minute advantage. She continued to pull away during her final lap and earned the victory in 4:59:51. The win was Cheung’s first of the year. She earned a first-place finish at the Grand Ridge 50K in Issaquah, Wash., last year. Up next for Cheung is the Drummer Hill 50K in June in Keene, N.H.

Kvaitchadze earned a second-place finish in 5:25:52, followed by 48-year-old Elizabeth Eaton of Fairhaven, Mass., in 5:31:56.

Twenty-six runners completed the 50K race within 8 1/2 hours.

Twenty-nine runners finished the 30K race, led by 36-year-old Aaron Meberg of Marshfield, Mass., in 2:19:35. Ticia Blanck, 43, of Henniker, N.H., was the women’s winner and fourth overall finisher in 2:35:52.

In addition to the Sunday races, 49 runners finished the 10K race on Saturday, May 19. Craig McConnochie, 27, of Woods Hole, Mass., was the men’s winner in 40:05. Hayley Walker, 23, of Somerville, Mass., was the women’s winner and seventh overall finisher in 49:47.

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