Berra, Jasper top August pentathlon as best all-around runners

Announcer Pete Taylor is flanked by Nick Berra and Lorraine Jasper.

Announcer Pete Taylor is flanked by victors Nick Berra and Lorraine Jasper.

If you pit sprinters vs. distance runners vs. middle-distance racers, which group has the best all-around athletes? Track doesn’t have a Hot Stove League, but it does have a way of settling hypotheticals: the Greater Philadelphia Runners Pentathlon. The fourth annual event was held Aug. 18 at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. Meet director Kyle Mecklenborg says 45 took part on a cloudy Sunday with early light showers. Kyle writes: Lorraine Jasper of Athena Track Club led in the early stages of the event up until the last event. But it was a stellar 800 mark for Nick Berra of Greater Philadelphia TC which put him on top of the leader board for good. The following four places were Lorraine Jasper, Gary Patton, Birger Ohlsson and Joshua Smith.Complete results are here. Kyle continues: “Eleven teams participated in this year’s version of the Team Pentathlon, now in its second year. Athena “MCC” of Mary Swan, Cheryl Bellaire and Coreen Steinbach won the event handily dethroning 2012 champs, Greater Philadelphia TC. Team results are here. “Pete Taylor once again did the announcing duties. Volunteers were mostly from Greater Philadelphia TC. The youngest competitor was 15 while the oldest was 77 years old.”

Melanie Berra took pictures of hubby Nick finishing 1500 plus the one above.

Melanie Berra took pictures of hubby Nick finishing 1500 plus the one above.

Kyle also writes:

This year all ten-year age groups from teens to 70-79 were represented, and the meet attracted runners not only from the PA-NJ-DE area, but from New York, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, and Minnesota.

The individual pentathlon competition was a “sold out” event with 45 athletes participating (9 scratches from the 54-entry limit). The level of competition has increased each year. Despite the inherent difficulty of younger runners to place well in such an age-graded competition, this year an amazing four runners under the age of 30 finished in the top 20, and the top seven runners scored 400 or more total age-graded percentage points, 82.5% (7th Place) to 86% (First Place) average for their five events – such splendid age-graded performances with only 30 minutes recovery time between races!

So what’s a runner’s pentathlon? Here’s how the meet works:

Each runner will compete in 5 track races (3000m – 200m – 1500m – 100m – 400m/800m), with a minimum of 30 minutes recovery time in between. Athletes will choose either the 400m or the 800m for their fifth event (400m and 800m heats will alternate). With an equal mix of sprints and distance events (order as above), this challenging (but fun!) competition pits sprinter against distance runner to determine the best all-around track runner. Races will be timed using the fully automatic Finish Lynx Timing System. Runners will be seeded based on their most recent Mile and 400m times. Due to the unique format of this meet, the field is limited to 54 runners. Cash awards are 5-deep in the individual competition..

SCORING will be age-graded using the World Masters Association’s 2006 age/gender-graded tables. Points are tabulated for each race (the age/gender-graded percentage), and awards are based on the cumulative percentages for the five races. This meet presents a rare opportunity for men and women, young and old, to compete directly against each other on a level playing field.

Team Competition. Three person teams will compete in the same five events but in heats separate from the individual competitors. One team member competes in each race. Teams can be of any age (14 y/o minimum) or gender. See the entry form below for complete details. There is a cash award for the winning team and trophies for 2nd & 3rd place teams.

Cash awards for top 5 individuals for 2013 were $150 – $125 – $100 – $75 – $50
Top team gets $100.

And to answer the original question:

Lorraine is primarily a middle-distance runner, and Nick is best known for 800 and 1500. So the mixture of speed and strength appears to favor middle-distancers here. But keep in mind the half-hour recovery. It may be easier to come back from a hard 200 than a hard 3000. Thoughts?

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September 27, 2013

2 Responses

  1. Peter Taylor - September 27, 2013

    In the photo above that’s Mark Williams of New Jersey in second behind Nick. Special kudos to Gary Patton, who came all the way from the northwestern corner of Iowa (Rock Rapids) to compete. Gary was terrific.

    One thing for sure, we had a lot of good runners in the meet.

  2. Peter Taylor - September 27, 2013

    Forgot to add that Nick Berra’s 2:01.03 in the 800 was possibly the race of the day. This was Nick’s 5th race, and he is 44 years old. And let’s not forget the underrated Mark Williams, who uncorked a 2:01.91. Hope to see Mark in Boston this winter.

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