Spring Classic Breaks with Tradition in Post-Pandemic Return

WESTON, Mass. – The last time the Trail Animals Running Club played host to the TARC Spring Classic, runners dodged or splashed through puddles and a volunteer dumped buckets of wood chips near the timing mats to try to keep them from becoming submerged.

That was in April 2019, back when the world had no idea that the COVID-19 pandemic was coming, when trail- and ultrarunners had no idea it would wipe out hundreds of races worldwide over the course of two years, including the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Spring Classic. The deluge of rain in 2019 wasn’t an abnormality for the Spring Classic – instead, it was in keeping with tradition. Nearly every year the Spring Classic has experienced a similar weather pattern of cool but comfortable morning temperatures, rain at some point to dampen or drench the course, followed by a miserably sticky level of humidity.

Brian Burke of Medford, Mass., on his way to a second-place finish in the 50K at the 2022 TARC Spring Classic at the Jericho Woods of Weston, Mass. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

The two-year hiatus may have provided enough time for a reset of the Spring Classic’s weather-related traditions because the 10th running of the event on Saturday, April 23, offered runners perhaps the most ideal conditions in race history. From the 45-degree temperature at the start to the high in the low 60s by early afternoon, runners were treated to sunny skies, extremely low humidity, and a course that was almost completely dry for the duration of the day. It made for a perfect day for racing, and runners took full advantage. Though the field was smaller than in recent years due to capacity limits established by the Town of Weston, more than 200 runners took on 50K, marathon, half marathon or 10K distances on the rolling single- and doubletrack loop course through the Jericho Woods.

In the 50K ultramarathon, the two runners who emerged victorious – 31-year-old Mat Ridley of Quincy, Mass., and 40-year-old Jennifer Kenty of Medford, Mass. – were familiar faces atop the podium of recent TARC events, Ridley at the 2022 To Hale and Back 6-Hour and Kenty as the overall champion of the 2021 Ghost Train 100-miler, but both had to fend off tough challenges along the way.

Mat Ridley of Quincy, Mass., on his way to the overall win in the 50K at the 2022 TARC Spring Classic. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

Ridley had company for much of the race from 40-year-old Brian Burke of Medford, Mass. Burke knew the course well, having earned a hard-fought win at the soggy 2019 edition. Ridley and Burke were just seconds apart through the first two of file loops through the course, gradually gaining distance on early challengers Jake Aquino, 41, of Tewksbury, Mass., and Ben Schersten, 42, of Beverly, Mass. Ridley started to pull away from Burke during the third loop, amassing a nearly two-minute advantage, but Burke chipped away during the fourth loop and drew within 1:42 heading into the final pass through the course. A decisive push in the final loop allowed Ridley to pull away for the win in 4:04:54. Burke followed in 4:13:17, with Aquino finishing third in 4:37:30 and Schersten fourth in 4:40:44. Both Kyle Gelormini, 49, of Medfield, Mass., and Anthony Parillo, 37, of Fort Myers, Fla., also dipped under the five-hour mark, Gelormini finishing in 4:56:46 and Parillo in 4:59:05.

Jennifer Kenty of Medford, Mass., cruises through her fourth of five loops of the 50K at the 2022 TARC Spring Classic. Kenty finished seventh overall and first in the women’s field. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

Similar to Ridley, Kenty’s victory didn’t come easy as she had to overcome some strong competition from Kara Olivito, 39, of Hampton Falls, N.H., and Sarah Brennan, 31, of North Andover, Mass. The top trio raced in close contact early, with Brennan holding a 31-second lead on Kenty and a 33-second advantage on Olivito after the first loop. Kenty pushed to the front during the second loop and built a 54-second lead on Brennan with Olivito two minutes further back after 20K. Brennan battled back during her third loop through the course and ultimately moved a few steps ahead of Kenty by the 30K mark. Olivito also closed the gap a bit, and with two loops to go the top three were separated by just 1:44. After giving a spirited challenge for three loops, Brennan faded in loop four and slipped from first to third. Meanwhile, Kenty took control and gradually added to her too-close-for-comfort cushion on Olivito and secured the win in 5:02:06, followed a few minutes later by Olivito in 5:06:52. Brennan rounded out the women’s podium in 5:16:46, with Christina Danosi, 31, of Manchester Center, Vt., (5:23:03) and Maria Chevalier, 47, of Cumberland, R.I. (5:37:10) rounding out the top five.

Of the 65 runners who started the 50K, 52 finished within the 8-hour time limit.

Gilpatrick, Taradash Top Marathon Field

Melissa Roper of Natick, Mass., nears the home stretch of her marathon at the 2022 TARC Spring Classic. Roper was the women’s runner-up and eighth overall finisher. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

Twenty-three runners completed the Spring Classic marathon, and the men’s and women’s champions delivered dominant performances. Brendan Gilpatrick, 38, of Waterville, Maine, cruised to victory by nearly a half-hour in the men’s race, finishing in 3:2:20, followed by Ted Chan, 41, of Lincoln, Mass., in 3:54:29. Gwenyth Taradash, 21, of Dartmouth, Mass., was impressive in her TARC racing debut, leading the women’s field and finishing third overall in 4:16:17. Melissa Roper, 45, of Natick, Mass., was the women’s runner-up in 5:06:50.

Weber, Hagerty are Half Marathon Winners

After battling closely with David Catarious and Antoine Dubois-Rande for more than seven miles, 19-year-old Mathis Weber of Boston, Mass., opened up a gap and pulled away for the win in the Spring Classic half marathon in 1:42:11. Catarius, 53, of Shrewsbury, Mass., finished second in 1:44:25, followed by Dubois-Rande, 38, of Arlington, Mass., in 1:46:00. Daniel O’Brien, 36, of Westford, Mass., narrowly missed the men’s podium, finishing fourth in 1:46:20.

Kristen Hagerty, 48, of Concord, Mass., dominated the women’s half marathon field, winning in 2:01:12. Beata Lelacheur, 52, of Westborough, Mass., was the runner-up in 2:08:11, followed by 24-year-old Madeleine Clarke, 24, of Somerville, Mass., in 2:09:02.

Seventy-three runners finished the half marathon within four hours.

10K

Forty-three runners took on one loop of the course for the 10K race. Joseph Benoit, 56, of Worcester, Mass., built a large gap on the field and won comfortably in 48:55. Theodore Murray, 44, of Framingham, Mass., was a distant second in 54:01. The race for the women’s win was much closer, with 35-year-old Becky Loring of Malden, Mass., fending off 40-year-old Abby McCabe of Framingham, by a matter of seconds, Loring finishing in 58:36 and McCabe in 58:55.

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