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Many running highlights for 2012

The future looks even better for 2013

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 7:04 am

Looking back at 2012 from a distance runner's viewpoint, I can say it was truly a great year. But 2013 could be even better. We should see the continued rise of top athletes, teams, programs and races.

Without further ado, here are last year's distance running highlights along with a few from a personal point of view:

The year began with Concordia Lutheran and Indiana Tech graduate Alissa McKaig running in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston. She came in with the 39th best time and placed eighth with a time of 2 hours, 31 minutes and 56 seconds. It was a 5-minute personal best for McKaig, who went on to compete in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Oregon in July. There would be no 2012 U.S. Olympic team, but the dream is alive for 2016.

Also in January the Fort Wayne Track Club hosted Olympic medalist Shalane Flanagan at its annual awards banquet. Flanagan followed visits by Bill Rodgers (2010) and Frank Shorter (2011). Later this month, the FWTC is hosting another 1972 Olympic gold medalist in Dave Wottle.

Later in the winter IPFW hosted the Summit League Indoor Track and Field Championships at its new facility on campus.

In March, Leo product Andy Bayer scored 26 points at the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships, leading Indiana University to the team title. Bayer won the 3,000 and the mile and placed third in the 5,000.

In May, it was announced that Chain O'Lakes State Park would be the host site for the 2013 Indiana Trail 100, our state's only 100-mile trail race. The event is scheduled for April 20-21.

Later in May the Indiana Tech track and field programs continued their rapid growth on the national stage with both the men's and women's teams placing 10th at the NAIA National Championships in Marion at Indiana Wesleyan University.

In June, the Carroll boys 3,200-meter relay team won the IHSAA state championship with the second-fastest time in state meet history and then went to North Carolina where they place fourth nationally at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor with a time of 7 minutes, 38 seconds, the second-fastest time ever by an Indiana high school. The team included Jon Harper, Eric Claxton, John Hester and our son Alex.

Also in June, Bayer won the NCAA Championships in the 1,500-meter run in a dramatic finishing sprint, tumbling over the finish line. Later in the summer, Bayer placed fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trials, narrowly missing out on a spot on the U.S. team.

In July, the area running community lost one of its gems, Don Anderson, who passed away at age 85. Anderson moved to Fort Wayne in the 80s and in his 70s became one of the nation's fastest age group runners. His energy and enthusiasm were well-known at area road races.

In October, Concordia's Zach Panning placed second at the IHSAA state cross-country championships in Terre Haute. Also placing second was the Carroll boys team, which included Harper, Claxton and Alex, making it quite a year for those Chargers. (Of course, they have one final state meet in which to cement their legacy.)

Also during the championship cross-country season, Concordia graduate Hannah Osborn earned NCAA Division II All-American honors by placing 26th in the national meet and helped her Grand Valley State University team win the national title.

In November there was another successful running of the Veterans Marathon in Columbia City. A couple of weeks later, it was announced that the race's founder, Gary Bird, was turning over operations of the race to the Three Rivers Running Company. This ensures one of the area's top races will live on and in fine hands as well.

In December, The HUFF 50K saw a field of nearly 1,000 runners among three events (50K, three-person relay and 10-mile fun run) at Chain O'Lakes State Park. It was the second year at The HUFF's new location, and with better trails along with improved parking, facilities and infrastructure, the event is primed for continued growth.

One of the 342 finishers in the 50K was me, running my first-ever ultra. After nearly five years of very little running, I started on the comeback “trails” literally in late September. Running is fun again, exclusively on the trails and away from racing for time.

I learned one thing in 2012: to be thankful for simply being able to run. Not run fast. Not to run for wins. Just ... to run. Period. After our oldest son, Brad, saw his competitive career end late in 2011 and endured two major hip operations in 2012, and after Alex was diagnosed in the spring with the same hip condition (dysplasia), it's less about our finishing time and more about our running time.

I wish you a happy and healthy 2013.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Brett Hess at nssports@news-sentinel.com.