17 October 2002

The Edmund Fitzgerald 2002 National 100Km Championships  
October 19, 2002, Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth, MN - The 2002 edition of the National 100Km Championships returns to northern Minnesota this Saturday morning, with a weather forecast that is looking more like winter than fall.  With temperatures expected to peak at around freezing, the competition along the North shore of Lake Superior will ultimately be a test of will, not only against the 62.1 mile distance, but the elements that mother nature loves to throw at runners during times of seasonal change.  

The competition pits veterans of the 100Km distance with speedy newcomers yearning to master the difficult distance.  Headlining the men's field is defending Fitz champion and multiple National 100Km Team member, Mark Godale, 32 of Streetsboro, Ohio.  He will be challenged by fellow team members, Bob Sweeney, 35, Ryebrook, NY, and Scott Eppleman, 35, of Coppell, TX.  

Though they are relative newcomers to the Championship and distance, the biggest challengers may come from two speedier ultra standouts in Chad Ricklefs, 35, Boulder, CO, and Charles Hubbard, 40, of Minneapolis.  Ricklefs is coming off a course record run at the mile-high Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run in Colorado this past August. He is also the defending champion of the country's largest and oldest ultramarathon in the country - the JFK 50 Miler in Boonsboro, Maryland.  

Charles Hubbard has been a dominating force at the 50Km distance the past few years, with numerous course records over a variety of trails around the Midwest.  Combine this with some speedier road credentials and it makes this Minnesota resident an interesting contender.

The women's field is as impressive and interesting as the men's.  With three veterans of the World 100Km team present and two very strong challengers, this is probably the strongest women's field in over a decade at the Edmund Fitzgerald.  

Headlining the field is Ann Heaslett of Madison, Wisconsin, currently the top ultrarunner in the country. Coming off a pair of national titles this year, Heaslett is attempting a very difficult double; winning the 24 Hour Title in September and now the 100Km event only five weeks later.  If she manages to pull off a Fitz win, she will be ultrarunning's first three-time champion in a single year.  In July, she won the White River 50 Mile Trail Championship near Mount Ranier, Washington.

Two of Heaslett's top competitors will be Daniele Cherniak, 39, of Cohoes, NY, the senior women on our National 100Km Team and Tania Pacev, 43, of Littleton, CO, the top American at this years World Cup in Belgium.  Pacev is a multitalented ultrarunner, having competed on roads, multi-day events, such as the Marathon des Sables in Morocco and the Sunmart Trail 50 Mile Run.  Cherniak is purely a road specialist, usually running only the 50 mile and 100Km distance, but has more top finishes over the past decade at those distances then any other American.  

Giving chase to this trio will be two-time JFK 50 Mile winner, Laura Nelson, 36, of Waynesboro, Maryland, and Connie Gardner, 38, of Medina, Ohio.  Nelson has some "short speed" that allows her to stay in the hunt early.  The challenge will be for her to stay patient and close to the lead group through the middle stages to make a run at the end.  Gardner's strength is distance, versus speed.  She will have to keep the front-runners in sight to give her "second half move," a chance.  Gardner won April's Umstead 100 Miler in North Carolina in a time of 17:21:38, just two weeks after finishing fourth at the GNC National 50Km Road Championships in Pittsburgh.

The Edmund Fitzgerald is a great tradition, having hosted some of the most memorable ultra competitions in North America.  In 1990, "The Fitz" hosted the annual 100Km World Challenge, the only time the event has been held in North America.  The rolling course begins in Finland!....Minnesota, that is, and passes through the town of Two Harbors, where it hugs the shores of Lake Superior for the final 30 kilometers.  Long time "Fitz" correspondent, Gary Cantrell often opined, that "The first to the lake will not win. To win the Fitz, you must run the first 70 kilometers with your head, the last 30 with your heart."  

By Kevin Setnes


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