New name, same dominance.
On Friday, Emily Harrison officially changed her name following her marriage earlier this summer to Ian Torrence. On Saturday morning, as Emily Torrence, she was queen of the 40th edition of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Dave McKay Memorial Half Marathon with a 1:26.51 clocking.
That time was good enough for fourth overall, but it was still exactly one minute off the women’s course record set in 2015 … by Harrison. Both times are safely ahead of the previous best, Janice Posey’s 1:29.28 set in 2004.
“I'm happy with my race today,” said Torrence, whose husband was third in the men’s master’s division. “I found myself in no-man's land early on, but there's so much course support along the way and then we started catching up to the early starters (the walkers), so there's frequent motivation to keep going.”
Anthony Masayesva continued his own dominance in the Summer Run Series with a 1:17.16, a 4 ½-minute victory in the men’s division over Chris Gomez and Nick Arciniaga, who is soon leaving Flagstaff after a memorable career in the annual series. The pair tied for second in 1:21.47. Masayesva won the Downtown Mile in July and last week he won the Machine Solutions 10K race, although results from that race will not count in the final series standings because of the course confusion that affected many finishers.
Gomez gave Masayesva a hat-tip afterward: “He ran a great race,” said Gomez, who is owner of the event’s third-fastest men’s time.
What this year’s race lacked in suspense at the top of the leaderboard, it more than made up for with celebration and nostalgia. The granddaddy of Flagstaff races is the second-oldest half marathon in the state and fourth-oldest overall. For the 40th anniversary, volunteer race director Neil Weintraub had finisher’s medals for all half marathon competitors.
Some of the 300 participants wore the throwback race shirts that were designed in honor of the occasion, but Nat White showed up with the real deal. He toed the start line with his race shirt from 1980, the third annual version of the race.
At the start line, Weintraub also recognized the late Kay McKay, who co-founded the Flagstaff nonprofit with her husband whose name graces the race. She passed away earlier this year.
Peter and Elisabeth Dorfer from Graz, Austria, and Pol Santandreu of Catalonia, Spain, gave the day an international flavor. The Dorfers ran the 5K, with Peter the 11th overall male. Santandreu placed third in the 10K men’s 40-49 category since the first-place runner in that age group, Will Drexler, got credit for being the master’s champion.
Traditionally, the BBBS Half generates strong interest from Phoenix runners. This year was no different.
Michael Tharp is a Flagstaffer whose job is primarily done in the Valley. He hosted five friends from the Phoenix running community this weekend.
“Any excuse to get up here in August,” said Laura Reyburn, the eighth-overall woman, about her motivation for entering the race each year.
Reyburn added that she enjoys the Observatory Mesa trails.
“The course is a little bit of everything: road, hills, gnarly, rocky, a little bit of muddy,” she said. “It plays to everybody’s strengths … and weaknesses.”
Fellow Phoenician Megan Galope even had a recommendation for future races.
“They should have a lowlander award,” Galope said, given to the top low-elevation finisher.
Had such an award been in place this year, Reyburn would have won the women’s category, and Kent Green of San Tan Valley would have taken the men’s honors for his seventh-place finish.
“We keep trying to grab Phoenix people and drag them up,” Reyburn said.
Tharp had a bit of intrigue when a bull strolled onto the path in front of him late in the race.
“I didn’t know if he was going to pause,” Tharp quipped. “Eventually he did. Normally I’d yield, but I had a race number.”
“He thought it was turning into a running of the bulls,” added Reyburn.
Gaspin’ in the Aspen will close out the series on Aug. 26 at the Flagstaff Nordic Center.