Buffalo Mile is Huge Success
Mike Heitzenrater Wins Feature Race
BUFFALO - (June 9, 2001) - This year's Buffalo Mile, held Saturday at the Erie Basin Marina, may have been the best yet. It had all the ingredients of a major sporting event including the drama of tight races, scores of broken course records, enthusiastic spectator support and a surprise visit from a prominent U.S. Olympian.
Spread over 13 individual races, 183 mile performances were recorded, 17 runners beat existing course records and 12 course records were broken.
The surprise special guest was U.S. Olympic Steeplechaser Marc Davis. Davis holds the current American record for the 5K (road) and has recorded a personal best in the mile of 3:54. He kindly volunteered to share megaphone duties with Checkers Athletic Club volunteer Bob Eberhardt. The Olympian gave the runners instructions and encouragement. Later, he delighted local sports fans by acceding to requests that he run a mile too. Davis, who is 31, retired from professional running a year ago. He was heard to say "What the heck. I'll do it!"
The feature event of the Buffalo Mile was the Elite Mens Open race. The crowd was abuzz with excited anticipation. The field of entrants was packed with some of the area's best running talent including such notable runners as Pat Leone, Bob Carroll, Jim Dunlop, Dave Carroll, Ryan Forrestel, Jason Walsh, Matt Glynn and Mike Rogers among other accomplished speedsters. And, now, unexpectedly, the field was augmented by one of America's most recognizable Olympic athletes.
Among the elite entrants was 23 year old Mike Heitzenrater of Lockport. Heitzenrater has won many small local road races this year and placed very high in most of the area's major events. But today, he would embark on what may become known as the Heitzenrater era in local distance running. At the start, he lined up right behind Olympian Marc Davis. As a steeplechaser in college, Heitzenrater probably knew better than most who Marc Davis was, because something seemed to inspire him to run brilliantly this day.
At the start, the pack accelerated rapidly and moved out together. It looked fast. The runners were out of sight when a crackling voice from a walkie-talkie reported that the throng was passing the half mile point. "2:08!", said the voice. The crowd "oohed" in unison. It was a fast race. When the runners reappeared three men had separated from the pack and were in a tight group. It was Jim Dunlop, Marc Davis, and Mike Heitzenrater. With about 200 meters to go Davis and Heitzenrater sprinted away from Dunlop - no easy task. As the two men zoomed toward the finish it appeared that Davis had it won by a whisker but the Olympian glanced at Heitzenrater, smiled, and eased up. Mike's winning time was a 4:24 - the second fastest time ever recorded in the Buffalo Mile. Did the Olympian run out of steam? Did he misjudge the finish line? Or did he allow the local man to have the glory? We'll never know for sure.
Marc Davis was favorably impressed with Mike Heitzenrater's tenacity. "I put it in a higher gear" said Davis, "and tried to shake him. I couldn't lose him. The kid led practically from start to finish. I felt he really deserved to win." Davis was clocked in 4:24 also and Dunlop finished 3rd in 4:27. The lead trio was followed, in finish order, by Jeffrey Gruendike , Jeff Scull, Jason Walsh, Matt Glynn, Pat Leone, Dan Smaczniak, and Bob Neidlinger. These top ten finishers all broke 4:40 - an unprecedented occurrence in the Buffalo Mile.
The women had great races too. In the Elite Womens Open, Becky Heuer, of Forrestville, shattered her own course record of 5:16, which she ran in 1997, by posting a 5:14 performance.
At the conclusion of the Elite Female Masters heat, Orchard Park's victorious Sue Munson pumped her fists in the air ala Joe Montana. She had good reason to. Munson had bettered another of the event's major records. Her 5:27 clocking replaced the record established by Leslie Jones in 1998. The old record was 5:34.
Another emerging local running star is 13 year old Jessica Hamm. Hamm along with 14 year old Kaitlin English bettered the previous course record for the 14 and under division by posting times of 5:50 and 5:52 respectively. The old record of 5:58 was set by Courtney McMahon in 1998.
In the womens 40-44 age group Sue Devlin obliterated the old course record of 6:44 by racing to a clocking of 6:03. Joni Padginton also bested the old record with her time of 6:21. The old record had belonged to Kathy Melling since 1998.
Carolyn DeWitt equaled the existing record in the womens 50-54 division. DeWitt's time of 6:34 will now share the course record honors with Judy Allyn's year 2000 performance.
In the men's 40-44 age division, Dan Essler eclipsed the course record (5:03) set by Mike Rogers in 1998. Essler's new age group course record is 4:48. Bob Fussner equaled the old record by running 5:03.
In the mens 50-54 age division Jerry Irving (5:11) and David Peterson (5:17) crushed the old record established by David Young in 1999. The old record had been 5:29.
Ralph Zimmerman, who was one of the area's most dominate open runners as a masters athlete 20 years ago, pleased the crowd by speeding to a victory in his heat and a new course record in the 60-64 age division. The new record is 5:46. Frank Shea also bested the old record when he managed to finish second to Zimmerman in 5:49. The old record had been set by Jack Meegan (5:52) in last year's Buffalo Mile.
Meegan is not without a course record though. While he was losing his 60-64 division record to Ralph Zimmerman, Meegan was demolishing the course record for his new age group, 65-69. He posted a 6:02 which replaces Joe Antkowiak's old record of 6:18 set in 2000.
In the mens 70-74 division, Jesse Kregal ran an excellent 6:53 to erase Jerry Magoffin's record of 7:01 set last year. In the same age group Helen Bueme set the womens record by clocking 8:12. The previous record had been set by Margarate O'Brien (9:46) in 2000.
There was even a new course record set in the Clydesdale division (men over 190 pounds). Patrick Garrity ran a fabulous race for a man of his size when he clocked 5:22. Garrity's run erased the old record set by Gary Schintius (5:56) in last year's Buffalo Mile.
One of the most exciting finishes was the "down to the wire" race between Hermann Pohl and James Masiello in the mens 35-39 division. Both men were clocked in 5:11 and it took the high tech PhotoLynx equipment of expert race timers Pat Leone and Don Mitchell to know for certain that Masiello had eked out the win.
Other male heat winners included Bob Carroll (4:46) in the Elite Male Master's division; Charles Bauer (8:00) in the 75-79 division; Henry Sypniewski (8:03) in the 80 and above division Sam Adams (5:31) in the 55-59 division; Mike Rogers (5:10) in the 45-49 division; Dan Essler (4:48) in the 40-44 division; Jason Mcgrath (5:17) in the 25-29 division; Jason Raby (5:13) in the 15-19 age division; Mike Deren (5:15) in the 10-14 division; and Conor Flynn (7:30) in the under 10 division.
Female division winners, not yet mentioned, included Helen Botti (7:30) in the 60-64 division; Edna Hyer (8:30) in the 65-69 division; Judy Mowery (6:54) in the 55-59 division; Diane McGuire (6:34) in the 45-49 division; Diane Pauli (6:04) in the 30-34 division; and Susan Watkins (7:18) in the 25-29 division;
The Buffalo Mile is hosted by the Checkers Athletic Club. The race actually was threatened earlier in the year by several forced venue changes. Fortunately, co-race directors Tony Garrow and Joan Crouse and the club's president, Diane Sardes, were determined to stage the event despite the many unexpected obstacles. Their efforts, along with the devoted labors of the membership of the Checkers Athletics Club, really payed off. Almost all in attendance agreed this was surely one of the best local running events ever.