PARKERSBURG - It's a long way from Connecticut to West Virginia, but former University of North Carolina cross country standout John Raneri had quite the Saturday during the 30th running of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon.
Finishing sixth in the field with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes and 42 seconds, Raneri didn't reach his overall goal, but he was more than happy with his effort which allowed him to secure $1,000 for being the top American runner.
"I'm a Yankee," said a smiling Raneri, a former three-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference honoree and two-time NCAA qualifier, shortly after the race. "I haven't been here before.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
John Raneri, of New Fairfield, Conn., was the first American to cross the finish line at Saturday’s Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon.
"I was looking for some races during August and I found this awesome half in West Virginia and I was like 'let me check it out' and I talked to (race director) Chip (Allman) and he got me in."
The rolling hills didn't bother Raneri too much, but when informed the humidity at race time was only 98 percent he quipped "it could've been 100. I haven't been in West Virginia, but I have definitely raced in this heat before.
"I went to North Carolina and the humidity was awful down there. I'm a marathon guy. I debuted at 2:18 last year so I'm looking to run a lot faster than that."
Even though Raneri was hoping for a slightly higher finish, he was just out for a good run and wasn't using the half marathon for training toward any particular future race.
"It was just preparation to get racing in, you know, to get the competitive genes in," he said. "I had an expectation to place in the top three. Obviously, there were four or five better men than me today and they are great athletes and great runners.
"I met a couple of them and they were just absolutely great people. He (Kogo) ran a 62-something (63:42 official) on this course. That's like a little bit impressive."
Raneri, who beat out $500 second-place finisher Juris Silenieks of Pittsburgh (8th overall, 1:07.42), thought the course would fit his style.
"Friday night we drove the course on the bus and I knew it was going to be tough, but I know that I'm a strength runner so the hills come easily to me," he said. "Those hills, I hammered. No problem on 13th street hill. I was a little gassed on the way down and I felt it with a K to go.
"I came in Thursday and went to the pasta dinner (on Friday) and it was awesome. Everyone was extremely hospitable and it was an awesome environment for a pre-race meal."
Despite coming in as the top American, Raneri admitted the 13.1-mile course was far from a pushover.
"It kicked my butt for sure," added the ex-Tar Heel, who was named the 2009 Connecticut Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year. "Like, I'm really tired. I definitely want to come back next year and I'm not sure yet.
"I'm moving to Flagstaff, Arizona, and I might bring a couple runners with me who are pretty decent."
In the masters (ages 40-49) competition of the run, Belpre 44-year-old Brian Woodyard won $750 by finishing in 1:13.00. Runner-up honors went to South Carolina 40-year-old Orinthal Striggles, who clocked in at 1:22.26 to grab $500.
Also winning $750 each were the champions of the grandmasters (50-59) - Virginia's John Piggott (1:23.37) - and senior grandmasters, which went to North Carolina's Peter Gibson (1:28.26).
Parkersburg's Eric Martin was the top male in the Mountain State with a time of 1 hour, 22 minutes and 42 seconds.
The oldest finisher of the half marathon run was 86-year-old New Martinsville resident James Fitzsimmons.