Lifestyle

Terrain Tracks

Competitive distance running never has an off-season in Central New York.

Local runners will have their pick of challenging road races and marathons in the upcoming months. But the Syracuse Track Club (STC) offers another option for adults in the fall: cross country.

The STC cross country team, comprised of males and females ranging in age from 19 to 70, train every Thursday at 6 p.m. at Green Lakes State Park, in Fayetteville. Unlike track’s flat running surfaces, cross country takes place on three-mile natural terrain courses that include hills, grass, dirt and mud.

For Anne Austin, of Syracuse, cross country running is more enjoyable than 5K road racing. “Running on the road seems endless, you get bored with it,” Austin says. “But with cross country, you’re conscious of the mud, the deer that went by, you notice the trees, and then before you know it you’ve finished the run.”

Len Barry, the STC cross country team coordinator, said cross country’s team element is the main appeal for his 70 or so members. In cross country competition, the top five finishers score team points.

“Road races are more geared toward individual performance,” Barry says. “In cross country, there’s more camaraderie, it’s more social. We’re competitive but we are a team. It’s a lot of fun.”

The STC team, which originated in the late 1980s, competes in the Pete Glavin Upstate New York Cross Country (PGUNYXC) Series. The series is named in honor of the late Pete Glavin, who founded and directed the series from 1990 to 2009. Glavin also founded the Genesee Valley Harriers Running Club.

The STC hosted the first race of the series Sept. 14 at Green Lakes. On their home course, STC Team 1 finished first in the Men’s Open. STC was led by Mike Heyman, who completed the 5K course in 16 minutes, 6.4 seconds. Heyman also finished second overall. For the women, Kaitlin O’Sullivan placed second overall in 19:58.5. For complete results, go to: results.yentiming.com/2013/xc/PGUNY/ race1/.

The series is designed for male and female runners to compete for team and individual honors in divisions and age groups. Team divisions include: Open (runners of any age), Masters (runners 40 and over), Veteran (runners 50 and over) and Super Veteran (60 and over).

Runners pay a $15 race entry fee to compete. Besides the STC, other running clubs that take part in the series are: High Noon Athletic Club, of Ithaca; Genesee Valley Harriers Running Club; and Finger Lakes Running Club, of Rochester.

“We get to know the other teams because we bring dishes to pass, we have a couple of beers and socialize for a couple of hours afterward,” Barry says.

The next meet in the PGUNYXC series is at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester on Saturday, Sept. 28.

Austin, who never played on an athletic team in high school, started running cross country with the STC five years ago. She said the benefits of competing on the STC team go beyond winning a race.

“It’s so much fun, I love it and the quality of people you meet,” Austin says. “Everybody looks forward to seeing each other. After events, everyone stays late to talk and eat or we go out to dinner together. It’s amazing. It’s the best environment.”

Austin and Barry said the STC cross country team is open to any adult out of high school. Longtime STC runner and coach Jerry Smith, who also coaches the Westhill/Bishop Ludden varsity cross country program, serves as the team’s coach.

“It’s fun to win and all, but we want people to come out and enjoy it,” Austin says.


RACE OF THE WEEK

The “They Can’t Stop Me” 5K walk/run is more than a racing event for the community: It’s a family affair. Sisters Amy, Cindy and Janice Barsha will join their mother, Marsha, in the 5K in honor of their late father, veteran newsman Jerry Barsha.

The proud father was born in Brooklyn, but graduated from Syracuse University in 1948 and went on to spend 32 years reporting in Central New York radio and television and taught for 35 years at Onondaga Community College. He was honored with the Syracuse Press Club Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 and was recognized for his years at OCC. He continued to live a full life after being diagnosed with cancer and beating it twice. He passed away at age 83 in September 2009.

Runners can bring four-legged friends to run with them. The walk/run begins in the quad at Onondaga Community College, 4585 W. Seneca Turnpike, on Saturday, Sept. 28, 9 a.m. Registration is $25 for adults, $15 for OCC students. All funds raised will benefit the Jerry Barsha Memorial Scholarship at OCC. For more information, visit theycantstopme.org.

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