Skunk Cabbage Half Marathon Course Record Broken

What an experience! I’ve directed and timed a lot of track meets and small races before, but never anything on the scale of Skunk Cabbage. It was enjoyably challenging to design, implement, and conduct what is effectively a choreographed performance by numerous volunteers. Together, we created a memorable event and enabled significant athletic achievements for hundreds of runners. Thank you, all!

Attendance continues to recover from the pandemic, with 704 registrants and 559 finishers—329 in the 10K and 230 in the half. That’s 30% higher than last year, when we couldn’t use Barton Hall, and public gatherings were still a little shaky.

Nevertheless, Skunk was still a big success, capped off by a new course record in the half marathon, set by Joe Whelan of Webster, NY, who ran a 1:06:51 to break Christian Thompson’s 2014 record by 45 seconds. That’s a 5:07 pace! Joe was running Skunk as a tune-up race for the Boston Marathon on April 17th, and we’ll be rooting for him in two weeks. Second place went to Ithaca’s Giovanni Grano in 1:08:52, with Sam Morse of Syracuse taking third in 1:09:07. 42-year-old Chip O’Hara of Auburn was the top masters (40-49) finisher in 1:13:24, and 58-year-old Mookey Kent of Conklin Forks ran a 1:31:37 to take home the top vets (50+) place.

In the women’s half marathon, Katie Rey of Syracuse won in 1:32:15, followed by sisters Jenny VanEtten (Ithaca) in 1:35:49 and Kati VanEtten (Palmyra) in 1:36:52. Their mother Karen VanEtten also came up from Montrose, PA to run the 10K, making it even more of a family affair. The masters and vets prizes went to local runners, with 45-year-old Melissa Weiner running 1:43:12 and 57-year-old Caitlin Loehr clocking an impressive 1:40:00.

In the 10K, Ithaca’s Chris Halsey dropped 19 seconds from his second place last year to win in 35:54, besting the 36:07 laid down by 19-year-old Cornell student Hunter Frias of Brooklyn. Ryuki Yamasaki of Ithaca took third in 36:32. 44-year-old Doug Turnbull of Ithaca ran a 40:28 to take home the masters prize, and 63-year-old Keith Eggleston of Groton was close behind him in 40:42 to win the vets prize.

In an amazing show of masters running, the top three places in the women’s 10K went to runners in their 40s. No one was surprised when 40-year-old Olympic Trials marathoner Chelsea Benson of Ithaca placed first for the women—and fourth overall—in a relaxed 36:50. Ithaca’s Liz Hartman, also 40, took advantage of some pacing help from MITHACAL MILERS workout companion Mark Walth to break her PR by over a minute, placing second in 42:32. Third place went to 46-year-old Debra Vertoske of Lancaster, NY in 45:07. The masters prize was won by 45-year-old Shannon Oakes of Horseheads for her 45:22, and 56-year-old Brenda Osovski of Candor took home the vets prize with a 47:34.

Full results are available on the FLRC site, and don’t miss RunSignup’s 10K and half marathon awards pages to see who took home the framed Skunkadelic album covers as their awards. Steve Gallow’s excellent photos will be available soon, but if you have any good ones, please upload them to our public album for all to enjoy, too (it’s easy from a phone or computer).

While there’s no room to thank every one of the 80+ volunteers who made Skunk possible, I want to call out my super volunteers. Marte Reps gets huge points for ordering and picking up the significant quantities of food that hundreds of runners consume, and Lauren Milano provided key setup and food replenishment coordination. Tonya Engst left no detail to chance—so many signs and sets of instructions!—while managing a large crew of registration and shirt-pickup volunteers. Tom Hartshorne coordinated the safety aspects of the race with multiple area agencies and set out all the cones to calm traffic in Ellis Hollow. Vinny Cappadora brought his years of race directing to bear in setting up and breaking down the course singlehandedly. Alan Lockett worked with the Tompkins County and Dryden transportation departments to close roads and provide barricades, and on race day, he trained course marshals. FLRC equipment manager Gary McCheyne schlepped all the gear we needed and managed the finish line audio. Finally, Joel Cisne was our utility infielder, helping connect with the Cornell Police, repainting mile markers, and setting up the finish line.

In terms of organizations, we appreciate the assistance we received from Cornell University Athletics, Cornell University Police, Dryden Ambulance, Girl Scout Troop 40855, the Ithaca Hash House Harriers, the Tompkins County Amateur Radio Association, the Tompkins County Dairy Princess Program, the Varna Volunteer Fire Company, Cornell Dairy, Gimme! Coffee, Ithaca Bakery, Ithaca Milk, Wegmans Food Markets, the Barton Hall facility staff, Finger Lakes Running Company, Happily Running, Leone Timing, Rentals To Go, and USA Racing. 

That’s a wrap for Skunk 2023, but if you’re looking for new inspiration for your spring and summer running, sign up for the FLRC Challenge. I’ve developed 10 new courses, and we’ll have our kickoff group run on April 15th.