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Demers, Graf among winners

By LIZA RECTO

Special to The Enterprise

For the first time since the race debuted in 2008, local runners took the top spots on the medal podium at the Lower Potomac River Ten-Mile Run.

Injuries forced defending champion Michael Wardian and silver medalist Dickson Mercer to miss the annual race Oct. 14, leaving the race for the gold to local standouts Brandon Demers and David Raley and former champion and defending bronze medalist John Piggott of Williamsburg, Va.

Demers, 23, of Leonardtown, who sprained an ankle shortly before last year’s race and finished three minutes short of his one-hour goal, returned to Piney Point on Oct. 14 primed by a ramped-up training regimen and a string of successful races.

“The conditions yesterday were absolutely gorgeous, and although windy, it was a perfect day for a race,” said Demers, referring to the cloudless sky, crisp early-autumn air and fresh breezes on St. George Island. “I really enjoyed every step, more able to take in the course, the excitement and the experience much more than my fear-filled hobble last year.”

Demers was excited about competing with his 2011 rivals.

“When I knew John Piggott and David Raley were running, I immediately knew there would be good contention for the win, as well as a good group to work together,” he said. “David got out very hard, and being a bit cautious, I keyed off John nearly the whole first mile, as he has much more experience than the both of us.”

Demers found his rhythm after the second mile and passed Raley as they crossed the three-mile mark at the Island Inn.

“I made the decision to try to run away with it as opposed to settling and leaving it for later,” Demers said.

He surged ahead, reversed course at the tip of the island and maintained his aggressive pace as he returned to the mainland and continued his charge to the end of Lighthouse Road, breaking the tape in 56 minutes 59 seconds.

Demers summed up his win: “I was pretty aggressive in the middle and it certainly hurt for the last two miles, but thanks to a lot of strength-based training and the joy that this race was 30 minutes shorter than my most recent race, (a 16.2-mile metric marathon the previous Sunday), I knew I could hang on for a tough last portion.”

Raley, 29, of Mechanicsville, crossed the finish less than a minute later in 57:57, a personal best.

“Last year I was absolutely determined to finish in under an hour, and thus my 2011 time of 59:28 felt like a major accomplishment,” Raley said in an email. “Nonetheless, I aspired to put that time to shame this year by shooting for sub-58:00. And despite running essentially alone in the latter half of the race and having to work against a ferocious headwind off the river, I kept focused on my objective and found a kick when I needed it most, allowing me to break 58:00 with only a couple seconds to spare. That came as a major relief as time really seemed to be running out on my goal toward the end of the race.”

The display clock was approaching one hour as Piggott rounded the final turn on Lighthouse Road. Sprinting powerfully, he showed no hint of his 2-hour 44-minute finish and second-place Master division (Over-40) award just 24 hours earlier at the Baltimore Marathon. The prolific racer finished in 59:44 to reclaim the bronze medal.

Next to cross the finish line was Perry Rapp, 47, of Lexington Park, taking first place in the 40-49 division with a personal best of 1 hour 2 minutes 42 seconds. Rapp also earned the title of club champion of Chesapeake Bay Running Club, producers of the race.

Tom Burke, 53, of California, followed in 1:02:52 for top 50-59 honors. Joe Dowgiallo of Lexington Park, a frequent training partner of Raley and Rapp, won the 20-29 age group in 1:06:39. George Sisson of Owings won the 60-and-Over division in 1:38:55.

Women’s race

The women’s race is always a surprise since no champion has ever returned to defend her title. Defending silver medalist Holly Graf and defending two-time bronze medalist Paula Fernandes did return.

Graf, 48, of Lusby, traded silver for gold with a 1:14:42 finish.

“I had been on a training program and running through some injuries over the past six months. I really wanted to do at least as well as I did last year,” said Graf, who finished only 11 seconds short of her 2011 time. “I concentrated on setting a good pace for myself. I kept telling myself, ‘Steady and strong,’ and whenever I felt especially good, I'd push a little harder. Whenever I felt I was lagging, I'd repeat a positive mantra, and it seemed to do the trick. I was thrilled to see I had done as well as I had.”

Fernandes, 38, of Baltimore, was doubtful of a bronze medal three-peat, but improved her 2011 time by nearly a minute, clocking 1:16:03 for the silver medal. Sarah Cotsonas, 21, of Leonardtown and a first-timer at the race, finished 36 seconds behind Fernandes to win bronze.

Running her second road race since she took up the sport last summer, Virginie Ternisien of Solomons posted 1:18:47 to win the 20-29 division and the female club champion title.

Sixteen-year-old Catherine Raley, a cross country runner at St. Mary’s Ryken High School, won the 19-Under division in 1:22:47. Amanda Merillat of St. Leonard won the 30-39 division in 1:19:48. Stephanie St. Peter was top 40-49 finisher in 1:21:59 and Susan St. George of Piney Point was first in the 50-59 age group with 1:47:02.

Tami Graf of Lusby, mother of the women’s champion and the oldest runner at age 76, won the 60-and-Over division in 1:52:13.

“The wind was a bit of a problem for me, but I was glad for the cool, dry air,” said Graf, who competes in more than 50 events a year. “Without a warmup it took a while to get going, but considering that I had not done as many miles as usual for preparation, I did all right.”

The Lower Potomac River Ten-Mile Run draws raves for its scenic course, historically perfect race day weather, and sumptuous post-race cookout hosted by the Friends of the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum.

“Great food, great opportunity for fellowship among runners,” Holly Graf said. “Thanks to Piney Point Lighthouse Museum and their volunteers for co-hosting the race and making it a wonderful event.”

The Chesapeake Bay Running Club presents the race with the support of local cycling club Pax Velo and the Second District Rescue Squad in Valley Lee. Proceeds benefit the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum and Chesapeake Bay Field Lab.

For complete results, go to www.cbrcmd.org.

This report was submitted by Liza Recto, Lower Potomac River Ten-Mile Run race director