Nick Berra repeats Drake-Penn double, plans hiatus after season

Middle-distance star Nick Berra deserves a break. And he’s taking one after this season, he reports. His latest exertions include winning the 800 at Drake and running a relay at Penn the next day (Saturday). He did the masters double five years ago, you’ll recall. Videos of Penn races are online, but Flocast charges for them. In any case, the real news is contained in the second sentence of his report (that I demanded, of course). Nick writes: “I was able to make it to both meets again this past weekend. I am treating this year as sort of a ‘sunset’ tour, trying to hit a handful meets that have been special over the years and really trying to enjoy the experience instead of focusing exclusively on the race itself. The Drake Relays have always been one of my favorite events so making it this year after missing the 2014 race was important.” Here’s a masters video:

Nick continues:

What made this year even more important was having my father being able to accompany me to Des Moines. He has been one of my biggest supporters over the years, sitting through countless rainy association championships and making many long treks with me up to meets in NYC or Boston.

Drake is one meet that I’ve only ever told him about, so when he said he could make the trip with me I knew that this year’s race would be a special one (and that I better get in shape to put on a good showing).

The weather in Des Moines is traditionally “challenging,” and this year it was forecast to be more of the same (cold, rainy and windy). Despite a downpour 1 minute before the masters races started, I think we lucked out a bit — the wind was manageable and the temps weren’t too bad.

The field had a bunch of new names, and while getting marshaled it appeared as if there was a good looking crop of strong, younger runners that will hopefully push Lance Elliott for many years to come.

They split the masters field into two heats this year for the first time, with the second heat being the seeded one. Our race was very competitive, with a good lead pack going through the quarter-mile in about 60-61 seconds.

I was able to separate myself from the crowd on the backstretch, and felt good through the last 300 to win in 2:02.8 or so. There was a good battle for the remaining medals with 3 or 4 guys all coming across within a second of each other.

The staff, fans and fellow competitors at Drake are always incredibly nice and accommodating, and this year was no different. It was great to win with my dad in the crowd — while this was my fourth victory here, it was definitely the most rewarding.

We flew back that night and got home around 1 a.m. Since I wanted to make sure that I got on the track at the Penn Relays at least one more time, I had thrown my name in the hat for the Greater Philadelphia M40 4-by-400 earlier this spring and was able to secure a spot on their team.

The schedule at Penn was rearranged a bit in my favor with the masters race now at 5:20 p.m. on Saturday instead of earlier in the day. I was able to catch some of my kid’s sporting events Saturday morning before driving over to the Philly suburbs and taking the train into the city.

There wasn’t nearly the rush that there was in 2010 when I last did this “double” — plenty of time to meet up with my teammates, see some of the races, warm up, then get out on that big stage again.

The M40 4-by-400 was well run, with the Southwest Sprinters handling the field (as usual) with what appeared to be relative ease. Central Park ran a strong race as well, pulling away from us for second as we (Greater Philadelphia Track Club) came in third.

Having grown up in Pennsylvania and then run for Navy, I had been to this event many times throughout high school and college, but it never gets old. Like the Drake trip, I tried to “take it all in” more than I usually would. When the dust settled on the weekend, the experience was much more valuable than the times and medals.

It was an extremely fun couple of days, sort of the ultimate “road trip” for any track junkie. Both meets are fantastic events in their own sort of way, and to be able to participate in both back-to-back is something that I wish everyone had a chance to do at least once.

When I read about the “sunset,” I shot Nick a note.

He replied:

Does anyone ever really retire?  I am planning on taking a hiatus from track after this summer.  Whether it’s for a couple years or 40 years remains to be seen.

Have a great season, Nick, and a wonderful and rejuvenating break. See you on the other side.

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April 28, 2015

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