2014 Club Award Winners

The following club members were recognized for their achievements over the past year:
Come Back Runner of the Year Wes Stafford
Member of the Year Rich Symanski
Most Improved Runner of the Year Michelle Zechman
Most Improved Runner of the Year C25K Amy Temple
Runner of the Year Lori Culnane
USATF Female Runner of the Year Sheri Sweigart
USATF Male Runner of the year, Co-Member of the Year Tom Steenkamer
Volunteer of the Year Mark Denio

2014 Come Back Runner of the Year
Wes Stafford

Until 2011, Wes had an impressive running resume. He had run 26 marathons and one ultra-marathon. He ran the Boston Marathon in April 2011, then the Dirty German 50K in May. Little did he know that that would be his last race for years, as he had developed plantar fasciitis (PF). Those who have experienced this injury know it can be nagging and hard to treat.

Unfortunately, that was the case for Wes. He tried everything — physical therapy, ultrasound therapy, hot laser treatments, shockwave therapy, every procedure short of surgery, but nothing seemed to help. For more than two years, he was sidelined from running. But before he committed to going under the knife, he decided that he would give running another try. His thought was that if he pushed it, his PF would either get better or it would be the same. In February of 2014, he started with short run/walk intervals. That was tolerable.

Over time, the running intervals increased to mile intervals, and he was still OK. Slowly, he increased his running mileage and his foot responded. So much so that he was able think about training for another marathon. In December, he ran the Rehoboth marathon in 3:18 and qualified for Boston.

Wes is very grateful for being able to run again. In his words, “Not just for the running itself, but for being able to reconnect with running buddies. It’s one thing to hang out with your friends after their run, it is another to be able to join them.” He is especially thankful for the motivation from Michelle Zechman. Being able to run with her and share that quality time together has been important to both of them. Wes also gives credit for his successful return to the sport to his friends in the running community for their support and encouragement during that difficult time.

Congratulations, Wes, our 2014 Comeback Runner of the Year.

2014 Member of the Year
Rich Symanski

After watching his wife Tricia complete the Beach 2 Battleship Ironman in October 2012, Rich boldly announced he had signed up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Prior to this big event last year, he had competed in a few Olympic distance triathlons, sprint triathlons, Xterra events and completed 18 marathons, countless half marathons and numerous races in various distances over the years.

But much bigger than these recent races of various characteristics was his battle with cancer. As a cancer survivor, Rich wanted this race for himself to celebrate his victory. One of the signs Tricia made for the race read, “13 weeks of chemo, 35 days of radiation and 2 surgeries, 140.6 is a piece of cake.” With many supporters cheering loudly from Delaware, Rich was determined to become an Ironman. He headed west into many unknowns, including the Idaho climate, water conditions and the road courses, but unknowns were nothing new for him. His goal was to finish the race and become an Ironman.

He swam 2.4 miles in 1:21:05, biked 112 miles in 7:24:59 and finally ran 26.2 miles in 5:12. After a long day, Rich crossed the finish line in 14:16:57 and is our newest Ironman. In addition to this colossal accomplishment, Rich qualified for the 2015 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships for Olympic Distance. We couldn’t be more proud of his effort and example to all that anything is possible.

But even greater than an Ironman finish and qualifying for the 2015 Olympic Distance USAT Nationals, Rich is a very valuable member of the Pike Creek Valley Running Club. Along with Tom Steenkamer, he has actively promoted and recruited for the USATF Mid-Atlantic Road and Trail race series. Rich was instrumental in leading the USATF Cross Country championship race for PCVRC, chartering a bus to take more than 60 club members to Lehigh University in December for the race. He made sure that the teams were chosen for the competition, gathered fun facts about many club members that were shared on the bus and ensured that a tent, food and drinks were available for all at the finish. Rich also volunteers extensively at both the Delaware Marathon Running Festival and the Delaware Distance Classic, helping with logistics, course set-up and cleanup, course marshals, volunteers and awards. His favorite event is the Crabowitz 5K fun run that he hosts each year to raise 12 cancer awareness. The run is all about companionship, crabs and raising money to beat cancer. All proceeds from the Crabowitz 5K celebration, which have exceeded $2,500, are donated to the B+ Foundation, which supports childhood cancer research and helps families whose children are going through treatments. Rich also coordinates the best tailgate of the year at the Delaware Marathon Running Festival.

For the past ten years, he has encouraged many PCVRC members to attend the celebration. The tailgate is inspirational to all as many of us are racing in the relays, running the half or full marathon distances. When the festivities come to an end, Rich has always made sure to donate the remaining food to the homeless shelters. Congratulations to Rich, a heckuva guy, and, along with Tom Steenkamer, our 2014 member of the year

2014 Most Improved Runner of the Year
Michelle Zechman

Starting in 2014, Michelle went from what she calls “a casual runner” (running a race once or twice a year for fun) to a much more serious runner. She credits Wes Stafford for the inspiration to take running much more seriously after they got together and proved that commitment to running in January 2014 when she signed up to run the 2014 Delaware Marathon. “I did it because I knew he loved running and that he was apprehensive to start again after being off his feet for over two years,” she said. “I figured if I was crazy enough to run through the polar vortex of last winter maybe he would join me — the things we do for love!”

With all that motivation, Michelle had a great tune up race at the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon (2:13 finishing time). Then, she ran a 4:37 at Delaware Marathon in May — an improvement over her first marathon (which was 5+ hours) and on a hilly, hot day, no less! The rest of 2014 was just as impressive. She dropped her personal best times in the 5K from 33:07 to 25:36 and 10K from 1:08:13 to 53:35. But her streak did not end there. Michelle bettered her marathon PR by 30 minutes at the Rehoboth Marathon, running a 4:07. In her words: “I am so honored! I wish I could be present to accept in person because this award is so special to me! I would like to accept in honor of my dad, David Thomure, who was an early member of the PCVRC in the 1980s. He suffered sudden cardiac death on February 27, 1988 after running a 5K.” [In fact, Michelle has saved an article about her dad written by Kevin Tresolini!]

“I also want to say that the Rebel Runners, especially those girls who come out Sunday mornings to run from Panera, are the ones who have been responsible for all the improvements I have made in the last year in my running. They are fun, positive, encouraging and inspiring! A special thank you goes to Lori Culnane who ran with me on almost all of my long runs and who paced me during the Rehoboth Marathon (my PR). There are really no words to describe her dedication to running and her willingness to encourage others! She rocks! And my two daughters, Aubrey and Sydney, get special recognition for being patient and supportive and for waiting around for me (a lot!) to do “mom duty” while I’m out on a run.”

We have no doubt that Michelle will indeed reach her next goal — qualifying for Boston! Congratulations, Michelle, our Most Improved Runner of the Year.

2014 Most Improved Runner of the Year C25K
Amy Temple

Amy started with our Couch25K program in August of 2013. She was among the 20+ participants we had for that fall session. Almost immediately, a core group formed to work out together and provide support and motivation for each other as they tackled the weekly runs. Amy took the lead and started a Facebook page so that they could plan group runs. After 9 weeks, nine participants conquered the DDC 5K.

That was Amy’s first 5K, and in 2014, she added even more “firsts” to her racing resume. She completed the Hot Chocolate 15K (her first), White Clay Triple Crown 5K (first trail race), 2014 Delaware Marathon Running Festival Half Marathon (her first half), St. Anthony’s Italian Festival 5K, Delaware Distance Classic 15K and the Rehoboth Half Marathon. An impressive collection, for sure!

In Amy’s words: “Joining the C25K group and PCVRC has been a great experience. I’ve made new friends through the C25K and Panera meet-ups. I have the encouragement, support and confidence now to go outside of my comfort zone and try new things.” Her energy is contagious and her commitment to training unwavering. She has been an inspiration and motivator to her friends.

This is truly a long way from the program’s beginnings “on the couch,” and we couldn’t be more proud of Amy. Congratulations, C25K Runner of the Year.

2014 Runner of the Year
Lori Culnane

Lori’s first marathon was in 2001, and she has run 36 marathons in six different countries since.

Her passion for distance running is evident by the fact that she has run more marathons than 5Ks (it is close). Interestingly, she will tell you that her pace is the same for both races and that has served her well. She took that love of running long a step further and ran her first ultra-marathon in 2011 (Dirty German 50K).
This depth of running experience would make her a candidate for outstanding runner in any year, but it is her many tremendous accomplishments in 2014 that really make her stand out.

Her 2014 race season started in March when Lori ran the HAT Run 50k in 7:30. She had such a great experience that she decided to try a 50-miler. To train, she ran Boston Marathon in April, the Delaware Marathon Running Festival Half Marathon in May and the San Francisco Marathon in July.
She supported the club at six USATF races and ran countless miles with anyone who needed a running partner for a long run.
In September, she toed the line at the North Face 50-Miler in Wisconsin and cruised through the fifty miles in 10:28, placing first in her age group. She carried that fitness into the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November and finished the year running the full at Rehoboth in December. What makes the Rehoboth Marathon more special is the fact that she qualified for the 2016 Boston Marathon. (And keep in mind, she just turned a young 54 in November!)

Outside of racing, Lori has been an invaluable resource to PCVRC’s Couch 25K group, as well as to runners considering their first ultra-distance races. She is generous with her knowledge of running and her time running with others. Congratulations to Lori, who exemplifies what it is to be Runner of the Year.

2014 USATF Female Runner of the Year
Sheri Sweigart

Sheri has made the Mid-Atlantic USATF racing series a major component of her annual race calendar for the past four years. She has competed in both the Grand Prix (road) and off-road (trail) series during this time period and has always been eager to take on the challenge of another event, regardless of the distance, conditions or terrain. (What else would you expect from an accomplished equestrian?!)

The 2014 USATF season was a special one for Sheri. She competed in three offroad events, including the USATF National Cross Country Club Championship race at Lehigh. However, it was in the Grand Prix series where she excelled. Competing in six of the 9 Mid-Atlantic USATF road races in 2014, Sheri demonstrated her versatility by covering distances from the 5k to 8k to 10 miles and half marathon.

This year, Sheri received recognition from the Mid-Atlantic USATF for one of the top 10 individual age performances for the 2014 Grand Prix series. It should come as no surprise to learn that Sheri has also been a regular contributor to the club’s team scores for these events.

Congratulations on your successful 2014 season, Sheri, and know that we are looking forward to seeing that smile again at many events in 2015

2014 USATF Male Runner of the year, Co-Member of the Year
Tom Steenkamer

Tom moved up to a new age group this past year and quickly established himself as one of the principal competitors in that group for the Mid-Atlantic USATF series.

Tom represented PCVRC in 12 Mid Atlantic USATF events last season, splitting his competitions between both the road and trail events. Despite the two feet of snow on the hills of Mt. Penn, he tackled the Ugly Mudder last February and followed that up by competing in the Adrenaline 5K, where he managed an age graded score of 86%. He continued the spring season competing in several of the Grand Prix and off-road races, where he was consistently one of the club’s key team contributors.

During the summer months, he got in a few extra miles chasing his college-aged children around the trails of Fair Hill and White Clay Creek parks. His commitment to training paid dividends during the fall competitions where he again frequently found his way into the top of the club’s team scores.

The Mid-Atlantic USATF recognized Tom for his both his success in the age group competitions and as one of the top 10 individual age grade scorers for the 2014 season.
In addition to his feats on the field and road, Tom has been invaluable to the club leading our USATF Mid-Atlantic competition teams. Without Tom and Rich’s commitment to recruiting runners and promoting the benefits of racing for PCVRC, a first place club finish would have been out of reach.

Congratulations and thank you, Tom! We wish you continued success for the 2015 season.

2014 Volunteer of the Year
Mark Denio

Mark had an eventful 2014. The highlight was training with his C25K friends leading up to walking three half marathons in 58 days from mid-March to Mother’s Day. He walks numerous local 5Ks and, when not participating, volunteers at events. Additionally, he often posts comments on Facebook to motivate others, and shares photos to help us all enjoy and remember our races. He attends more club events than most and makes it a point to support fellow members.

We all benefit weekly from Mark’s time and dedication to writing our club eBulletin, which he has upgraded to include links and photos. He often personalizes it, so it’s more interesting to read. Great job!

Taking the summer off from training led to an injury at an August half, but he was still able to wait for several hours for his friends at the finish line and hand them their medals! His best friend came from Wales for a visit, and, while wearing an ankle boot, Mark took him for long walks around Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC and New York City! Highlights included walking the length of the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC and walking from Arlington Cemetery down to the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials and back.

Those who have done the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler know what a hike that is! His friend gave Mark his camera so Mark could work on his photography. He has used this gift to start a photography business focusing on racing. Mark has taken pictures at the DDC, USATF Nationals, the Icicle Run 10-Miler and several 5Ks —and he’s just getting started! At the Club Nationals alone, he snapped more than 1,500 photos while braving the cold weather for several hours to make sure he captured everyone.

Mark’s goals for 2015 are to get walking again and complete the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon in September. Mark vows to run a 5K before his birthday in early August. The injury may sideline the timing, but he states that he “firmly has his eye on winning the Comeback Runner Award at the 2016 banquet!” Mark has made himself our club’s biggest cheerleader and gets involved as much as he can. We appreciate that he contributes his talents to helping us improve as a club and as individuals. Congratulations, Mark, our Volunteer of the Year.

PCVRC Hall of Fame members at 2015 banquet

PCVRC Hall of Fame members at 2015 banquet