Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A-Meet Update: CSU

Larry & Sara Mae Berman

Cambridge Sports Union is one of America's oldest orienteering clubs, founded by Larry and Sara Mae Berman in Cambridge, MA in 1962. After hosting its first A-meet in the mid-1980s, the club went through a quiet period before being resurrected with the help of college orienteers in the area in the late 1990's. Now, in 2009, it was time for CSU's second-ever A-meet, held, of course, under the leadership of the youthful Larry and Sara Mae.

The races were held at Pine Hill, part of the Middlesex Fells reservation located very close to the city limits of Boston. The terrain features intricate contour and rock detail, a lot of small and large trails, and a whole lot of green. Throw in unseasonably warm and humid weather, with temperatures reaching 30C on Sunday, and you get one challenging weekend of orienteering.

The M/F21 classes got to race three times over the course of the weekend, as Saturday featured a middle distance prologue and final format, followed by a classic race on Sunday. For the middle distance, the top 10 men and top 8 women advanced to the A final. The prologue and final format allowed for great spectating, with Greg Balter doing live commentary and reporting times from the radio controls. The women's race, both prologue and final, were dominated by Erin Nielsen, who won both races comfortably. The men's race, on the other hand, was a different story. In the prologue, CSU's own Boris Granovskiy (BG) had the fastest time, ahead of clubmate Ken Walker (KW), Jr. The third-best time was posted by DVOA's Clem McGrath (CM), with speedy Jon Torrance (JT) of OOC in 4th and wily veteran Joe Brautigam (JB) of WCOC close behind. These five would battle it out for the win in the sweltering heat in the afternoon's final.

The men's semi-final map (from Peter Gagarin's site)

CSU's Ken Walker Jr. and Boris Granovskiy

Here is a play-by-play reconstructed from the splits from the final. Keep in mind that finalists were started in the reverse order of their placements from the prologue, with two-minute intervals.

The men's final map (from Peter Gagarin's site)

Start-1: Everyone but JT misses right from the start, losing various amounts of time on the vague green hillside, and JT has a 30-second lead over his nearest competitor, though B-finalist Sergei Zhyk (SZ) actually has the fastest split. (Leader: SZ)

1-2: BG is fastest to get down the hill from 1 and then slog back up to 2, but SZ maintains his lead. JT loses about 30 seconds and drops behind BG. (Leader: SZ)

2-3: SZ loses over two minutes and disappears from the picture. JT and BG also lose time, through hesitations and uncertainty in the circle. CM and JB, on the other hand, spike the control, and are back in the mix. (Leader: BG)

3-4: JT and BG continue to lose time, perhaps overconfident from having seen this same control in the prologue. KW wins the split, with CM close behind and taking over the lead. (Leader: CM)

4-5: This tricky leg sees a lot of shuffling in the standings. BG spots KW leaving the control and spikes it, winning the split and regaining the lead. KW, in turn, sees JT and CM ahead of him, as both of them lost a lot of time here, among the cliffs. (Leader: BG)

5-6: Not much happens on this short leg, as all the front-runners are close, though, remarkably, about 15 seconds behind the fastest split, posted by Canadian junior Emily Kemp. (Leader: BG)

6-7: The next leg, coming into the radio control for the first time, involves a long run across an open field. Here, JT shows his speed and wins the split ahead of KW, who runs hard to try to close the gap to JT and CM in front of him and arrives at the radio control with the lead. Meanwhile, BG starts wilting in the heat, and loses nearly two minutes attacking the relatively simple control from below. (Leader: KW)

7-8: The leader carousel continues on this leg, as KW, tired from chasing JT and CM in front of him, gets confused by the out-of-bounds area and loses 2.5 minutes and the lead. As a result, JB, who has been solid so far in the race, takes the lead, and BG catches sight of KW and gets some new energy. (Leader: JB, 6th leader in 8 controls!)

8-9: More of the same. JT pushes hard and wins his third straight split and JB maintains his lead. (Leader: JB)

9-10: Our veteran leader JB, the only one with a relatively clean race so far, finally cracks under pressure and loses his lead. BG picks a good line through the green and wins the split, regaining the lead. He is now together with KW, and they are chasing JT and CM two minutes ahead of them. (Leader: BG)

10-11: Another short leg doesn't really bring any changes. (Leader: BG)

11-12: Back to the radio control. JT wins the split, while CM is second, only three seconds ahead of BG. These three seconds, however, are enough to pull him into a tie for the lead! (Leaders: CM and BG)

12-13: BG pushes hard on the trails, wins the split, and gets sole possession of the lead. (Leader: BG)

13-14: This leg ended up deciding the race. BG, tired from running hard the previous leg, chooses the shortest route, running on the small path that goes along the side of the lake. This path is very rocky and hard to follow, and the steep climb up to the hill the control is on at the end does not help. BG loses 1:30 to CM, who goes around on the left on the larger trails, and CM takes the lead for good. (Leader: CM)

14-15-16-17-F: CM and BG are pretty even through these last few legs, which are similar to the ending of the prologue, and CM extends his lead by 5 more seconds to the finish.

Final results of this exciting and exhausting race in the heat:

1. Clem McGrath 42:34
2. Boris Granovskiy 43:46
3. Jon Torrance 44:25
4. Joe Brautigam 45:09
5. Ken Walker, Jr. 45:34

Sunday's races on the men's side offered no such close battle, as Jon Torrance dominated from started to finish, winning the long course on an even hotter day by nearly 5 minutes over Saturday's course setter Alexei Azarov, with another 3 minutes down to third place. Among the women, Erin Nielsen was the best for the third time in a row, this time having to hold off a challenge from a much-improved Corinne Porter, who finished merely 15 seconds back.

The week-end's top women: Erin Nielsen, Pavlina Brautigam, Kseniya Popova

Overall, it was a very enjoyable weekend of racing, with the middle-middle format on Saturday a deifnite highlight. Pine Hill is not an area one would want to use for training too often, but racing hard and getting bloody once in a while is a whole different story.

Middle Prologue
1 Erin Nielsen 81 UNO 31:16
2 Pavlina Brautigam 61 WCOC 32:15
3 Kseniya Popova 86 HVO 33:49

1 Boris Granovskiy 80 CSU 27:35
2 Ken Walker Jr 78 CSU 29:59
3 Clem McGrath 74 DVOA 30:15

Middle Final
1 Erin Nielsen 81 UNO 41:51
2 Kseniya Popova 86 HVO 43:25
3 Pavlina Brautigam 61 WCOC 45:51

1 Clem McGrath 74 DVOA 42:34
2 Boris Granovskiy 80 CSU 43:46
3 Jon Torrance 71 OOC 44:25

1 Erin Nielsen 81 UNO 86:03
2 Corinne Porter 84 DVOA 86:18
3 Pavlina Brautigam 61 WCOC 88:48

1 Jon Torrance 71 OOC 84:51
2 Alexei Azarov 73 CSU 90:43
3 Sergey Gnatiouk 67 HVO 94:07

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