Sambolec, Berry Make Good First Impressions
Eric Sambolec and Emily Berry made quite the first impressions at the XTERRA Earth Conservancy Trail Run last weekend.
Sambolec was the first overall finisher, and Berry was the first female. It was the first XTERRA Trail Run for both runners.
The Earth Conservancy Trail Run drew runners from seven different states, and it was completed on Saturday, June 16, at Mocanaqua, Pennsylvania. It was the fourth race of the season for the 2012 XTERRA Pocono Trail Run Series.
Sambolec, who is from Ithaca, New York, completed the 21-kilometer course in 1 hour, 29 minutes, 36 seconds. He took the lead midway through the course and stayed in front the rest of the way. He finished more than five minutes ahead of the rest of the field.
"The course was one of the toughest courses I've ever run," said Sambolec, 34. "Even the leaders had to walk the climbs in the first two to three miles. It was very rocky, and even the downhills were hard to run. It really beats you up."
Sambolec said he started to get tired in the final two miles, but kept pushing because he did not realize how far in front he was at the time. "Died some in the last few miles, but had enough to hang on for the win," he said. "I never knew how big the gap was because the course winds around so much, so I just kept working the whole way."
Sambolec said he found the XTERRA Earth Conservancy Trail Run online while searching for "a new and challenging race" for himself. He said the lure of the first place prize was an added bonus.
The male and female winners from the race received round-trip airfare to Utah to compete at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in September. Sambolec said he will make use of his prize and plans to race in Utah in September.
Tony Korch, who is 52, had an impressive second-place showing. He finished the course in 1:34:45. Grant Farrell was third in 1:35:57.
In the women's field, Berry also made a good first impression, and not just for her running. She placed seventh overall with a time of 1:47:19.
Berry and her father, Mike, made a four-hour drive across the state from their hometown of Seneca, Pennsylvania, just to run in the race. It was not only her first XTERRA race, but her first trail race, and just her second race at a half-marathon distance.
"I had no idea what I was getting myself into," said Berry, 24. "I've done some cross country running, but that was nothing compared to this. I've never even walked on trails like that, with so many hills and rocks … it was quite the experience."
Berry's victory was not the end of the story. At the awards ceremony, she graciously declined the first-place prize and asked that it be given to the runner-up, Jaclyn Shokey.
"I just started a new job a few months ago, and I wasn't prepared to win the prize," Berry said. "I knew the other girl (Shokey) was trying to get to Utah for that race, so I figured she could use it more than I could."
Shokey, who is 34 and from Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, finished second with a time of 1:48:03. Shokey said Berry "came out of nowhere" and took the lead with about two miles remaining in the course. "There's a section of the course with a huge downhill that if you make one wrong move, you're tumbling down that thing," Shokey said. "As I was on that stretch, Emily had already made it down the hill and I'm assuming pulled away at that point."
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Shokey said she was "extremely thrilled" at the awards ceremony when Berry offered the airfare to Utah. "I was shocked when she made the announcement at the race that she couldn't attend, but wanted me to have the trip," she said. "That was so awesome of her and such great sportsmanship on her part. I thanked her up and down and even hugged her."
Shokey, who is the top-ranked female runner in the 2012 XTERRA Pocono Series, said she will enter the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in September.
The Earth Conservancy Trail Run was the fourth of five races in the 2012 XTERRA Pocono Trail Run Series. The final race in the series will be the XTERRA Gouldsboro Trail Run, which is scheduled for June 30 at Gouldsboro, Pennsylvania.
The race is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. To register for the race or learn more about the Pocono Series, please visit www.wilkesbarreracing.com.
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