- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2004

Megan McLaughlin was smiling confidently yesterday after touring the 6.2-mile course around the Eisenhower Valley section of Alexandria during the George Washington Birthday 10K Classic.

The 25-year-old hometown favorite ended up with a $250 check for handily winning the event by more than a minute against nearly 400 runners.

“This today was more of a confidence booster for me, to see where I was,” said McLaughlin, who ran 35:44 in preparation for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials on April3 in St. Louis. “I wanted to start out conservatively, and I wanted to keep it under 36.”

She did both, leading from the start and was never challenged.

Peter Sherry, a 35-year-old veteran racer from Great Falls, came out yesterday to mix it up with two younger guys, 28-year-old Alex Hutchinson of College Park and 25-year-old Eric Kweder of Woodbridge, Va.

The three staged a magnificent race with Hutchinson, the Canadian-born 5,000-meter specialist, pulling away in the first two miles and gapping Kweder and Sherry by 20 meters. The somewhat bizarre course then turned off Eisenhower Avenue onto the bike path along Holmes Run, under Duke Street and over a few bridges.

Kweder nearly wiped out on one bridge but regained his composure and worked with Sherry to catch Hutchinson in Brenman Park by the 6-kilometer mark.

“I was hoping to break away early, then I figured if we ran as a pack, it would be easier,” said Hutchinson, who works in the physics lab at the University of Maryland while training for the Canadian Olympic track and field trials.

Over some grassy and muddy sections, up a ramp past a noisy dog park and onto the sidewalk along Duke Street, the three were far ahead of the rest of the field. It wasn’t until they were back on Eisenhower Avenue headed home that Kweder tested Hutchinson and Sherry, who train together under coach Matt Centrowitz and compete for the Gotta Run store in Arlington, which Sherry partly owns.

With a mile remaining, Kweder slowly pulled away from Hutchinson by 25 meters and Hutchinson began to drop Sherry.

“It got dicey there for a bit,” said Hutchinson, who was the first area finisher at Cherry Blossom last year in 49:20, good for 11th overall. Kweder poured it on as he rolled up the overpass, but Hutchinson cut them down at the top and flew by for the win in 30:37 and $250.

“I was pretty confident in my kick, but with a mile to go Kweder started to go. Once I caught him, I got a shot of adrenalin,” said Hutchinson.

Kweder, a 1997 Edison High School graduate, was seven seconds back. Sherry, training for the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in July, followed by another seven seconds.

Two thumbs up — Announcements this week from two major marathons were positive. First, organizers of the Boston Marathon agreed for the first time to feature a separate start for elite women, just like London and New York.

The women’s elite field, 25 to 40 world- and national-class marathoners, will begin 25 minutes before the rest of the field, allowing them space on the narrow course as well as proper television coverage.

For the first time in Boston’s history, a female open division champion will cross the finish line ahead of a male open division champion.

The other news is that the Twin Cities Marathon will award all of its $200,000 in prize money in 2004 to American athletes. One of the major drivers of this decision was the fact that the October TCM will play host to the 2005 and 2006 USA Marathon Championships.

Another factor was the need to make American distance runners more competitive with the rest of the world, which means no longer giving away so much money to subsidize international runners who are beating Americans.

“American athletes are dependent on prize money to support their development into world-class athletes,” said Charlie Mahler, TCM open elite recruiter. “With all the excitement in U.S. distance running recently, I’m pleased that we’re stepping up for U.S. runners and that we are doing so in a way that will make TCM an especially exciting event.”

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