For Rachel Ward, her second visit to the Charlottesville Women’s Four Miler winner’s circle at Foxfield on Saturday morning was even sweeter than her first blue-ribbon performance at the area’s largest footrace two years ago.
Ward, who as Rachel Rose was the most decorated runner in Albemarle history, pulled up even with early pacesetters Sallie Ford and Vickie Schandeval just past the mile mark and slowly surged away from the field over the next three miles for an impressive 22:49 clock stopper. Her time was exactly a minute faster than her debut win in 2009 and was the fastest time clocked over this famous Garth Road course since Trish Phillips’ 22:48 in 1995.
“Vickie and Sallie really helped set the tone for the day. I stayed consistent over the first section of the course and was content to be running behind them but when I ran by all of those Albemarle kids lining the course all I could think was what I’m always telling them and that’s to ‘find another gear.’ That really helped to get me going and before I knew it I was out ahead!” exclaimed the Patriots’ assistant coach.
Ford, a former William & Mary standout now training in Charlottesville with the post-collegiate racing team, finished within view of the speeding Ward with an excellent 23:02. UVa All-American Jennifer Owens, who, like Ward, competed for coach Lance Weisend back in her Albemarle days, rounded out the top three. The 33-year-old mother of two’s impressive time of 23:16 was only four seconds slower than her winning time of 23:11 back in 1999.
“I felt really good out there today. My training has finally gotten consistent again thanks to our two boys getting a bit older,” commented the former UVa All-American. “It was so inspiring having all of the women running on the other side of the road cheering for us front runners along the way! It really helped.”
A record field of over 3,500 females participated in the 29th edition of what is now widely considered to be the largest all-women’s event in Virginia. For the first time in race history, all but one of the age groups was won by a local runner. Blue Ribbon winners, included Anna Murray, Kelsey Tarleton, Molly Ritter, Jessica Spears, Meg Crook, Nicola Ratcliffe, Susan Heald, Hosni Haghighian, Peggy Mowbray, Linda Scandore, Nancy Fraser and Britta Hahn.
Fluvanna High’s Nicole Douma led her age group and over a dozen of her teammates into the chutes.
Eighty-three-year-old Fotini Menemenly was the oldest finisher in the field and she was the matriarch of three generations of her family who participated in the event. Daughter Christiana Brenin and granddaughters Alexandra and Jessica Brenin all successfully completed the race. Christiana is an oncologist at UVa’s Breast Care Center, who were once again the recipients of the race proceeds and she was delighted to share her family race experience at this popular community event, which helps to raise awareness and critical dollars for this special cause.
Over 60 teams participated in this huge event, including “Team PICU” from the UVa Hospital, which had 23 participants, including Marcia Buck, who was one of over 200 cancer survivors in the field. Many areas schools had huge contingencies, including dozens of women from Brownsville, Meriwether Lewis, Greer and The Village School. Karen and Holly Rich won the Mother/Daughter team division, out legging Jill and Emily Bascom.
Over 800 graduates of the Women’s Four Miler Summer Training Program crossed the finish line, including Michelle Stanislaus.
“I had a wonderful time out there today. The support from all of the hundreds of volunteers was amazing and thanks to the training I’m 39 pounds lighter than last year!”
The Charlottesville Track Club organizes this special event and CTC president Carol Finch was impressed with the huge turnout.
“It’s amazing how many different skill levels come together for this special community celebration,” Finch said.
But no one may have summed up the day better than veteran volunteer Race Director Cynthia Lorenzoni, who praised all of the race participants and volunteers.
“There was so much positive energy throughout the entire field. I love seeing the look of pride and joy on so many of the faces at the finish line and I’m particularly grateful for the fundraising efforts of so many of the participants, as the cause means so much to so many of us,” Lorenzoni said.
Donations are still being accepted. Go to womens4miler.com or call 434-293-3367 for more information on how you can support UVa’s Breast Care Center.