LAUREL RUN — Mike Harnish and Marina Orrson successfully defended their Valley’s Fastest Man/Woman series championships as they ran to wins in the Giants Despair Challenge on Thursday night. It was the second straight series win for Harnish. It was the fifth straight series win for Orrson.
The Giants Despair race is the third and final one-mile race in the series. The first one miler was on the track at Misericordia University. The second was on the paved loop on Church Street in Kingston. Runners must run in all three races to be eligible to win the series.
Harnish, 24, of Annville, finished the grueling uphill trek in 7 minutes, 19.43 seconds. That’s about 18 seconds slower than his winning time from last year. He outran second-place finisher, Stephen Chappell, 23, also from Annville, by over 24 seconds.
“It was tougher this year because I didn’t have Jeff Skwierz (Forty Fort runner who didn’t compete in this year’s series due to an injury) pushing me,” said Harnish, who won All-America honors twice at Lebanon Valley College in the 800-meter run on the indoor track. “But it feels good to win again. I’m hoping to run the series again next year, and this hill in particular. However, I might regret it about half way up the hill.”
Orrson won top female honors with a fifth-place overall finish in 8:10.59. She has now won 15 straight one-milers in the series in wire-to-wire fashion.
“I was very consistent over the first two legs of this series (5:08.19, 5:08.20),” said Orrson, who was a standout runner from Lake-Lehman High School and Misericordia University. “But then, for some reason, I slowed down at this race. I don’t know what happened. I think they stuck a hill in the middle of this course.”
Not in the middle — as Orrson joked — but over the entire course.
Giants Despair hill has a 22 percent upgrade over at least one-third of the course. The infamous Alpse d’ Heuz — the mountain pasture in the central Alps which is part of the world famous Tour de France bike race — features somewhere in the neighborhood of a 13-15 percent upgrade. However, experts, including the area’s best triathlete Sean Robbins, claim that biking up these tough hills is tougher than running.
And speaking of biking — Kerry Potter turned in an impressive performance over the series winning top female masters (40 & over) honors. Potter, 44, of Kingston, who is an avid biker, was away from the running scene for a year-and-a-half following hip surgery. In just her second race after the long layoff, she ran and biked to a second-place finish in the Wilkes-Barre Duathlon in June. And now she has heralded her comeback with her female masters Valley’s Fastest title.
John Jeddis, 47, of Hanover Township, won top male masters honors.
Susquehanna River Runners Club’s Breaker Brewing Company Giants Despair Challenge (the final 1 mile run of three 1 milers that make up the Valley’s Fastest Man/Woman series) results.
Mike Harnish, 24, Annville, 7:19.43
Stephen Chappell, 23, Annville, 7:45.72
Eliot Bonds, 25, Annville, 8:03.68
Ken Quigley, 46, Dunmore, 8:07 flat
Marina Orrson, 26, Shavertown, 8:10.59
John Martino, 33, Dallas, 8:11.82
Sean Robbins, 47, Dallas, 8:32.55
Bob Urban, 44, Wyoming, 8:47.58
Nick Sommons, 25, Kingston, 8:55.42
Bryan Fauver, 31, Moosic, 9:09.61
First male masters finisher: Ken Quigley
First female masters finisher: Kerry Potter, 44, Kingston, 11:36.35
Note: Giants Despair hill has a 22 percent upgrade over at least one third of the course. The infamous Alpe d’ Huez — the mountain pasture in the central Alps which is part of the world famous Tour de France bike race — features somewhere in the neighborhood of about 13-15 percent upgrade. But experts say biking up these tough hills is harder than running.
Field: 75. Starter: Jill Matthews. Timing and results: Susquehanna River Runners Club. Race director: Chris Wadas.
Top 3 Valley’s Fastest Man series winners
Race No. 1. 1 Mile Run on the Track at Misericordia University; Race No. 2. 1 Mile Run on paved loop, Kingston; Race No. 3. Giants Despair Challenge.
Mike Harnish, 24, Annville, 4:27.78, 4:57.92, 7:19.43.
John Martino, 32, Dallas, 5:12.44, 5:13.38, 8:11.82.
Nick Sommons, 25, Kingston, 5:12.44, 5:08.95, 8:55.42
Masters (40 & over) winner
John Jeddic, 47, Hanover Twp., 6:05.10, 5:56.31, 9:37.72
Top 3 Valley’s Fastest Woman series winners
Marina Orrson, 26, Shavertown, 5:08.19, 5:08.20, 8:10.59
Shelby Foster, 23, Dallas, 5:39.11, 5:52.46, 10:13.01
Jaclyn Shokey, 39, Jim Thorpe, 5:55.25, 6:07.31, 10:37.72
Kerry Potter, 44, Kingston, 6:47.87, 6:37.11, 11:36.35
Saturday, Sept. 2: Wyoming Valley Striders 43rd annual Cliff Robbins Sr. Memorial High School Invitational Cross Country Races at Letterkenny Fields, just off 42nd St., Dallas Twp. at 9:30 a.m. Info: Don Grose, 570-239-5792.
Saturday, Sept. 16: Scranton Race for the Cure, 5K run and 1 mile fun walk at Courthouse Square, Scranton at 8:30 a.m. Info: 570-969-6072.