THE HISTORY OF DETROIT’S ST. PATRICK’S RACES - Part 2
1983 – 2021 Part 2 2000 – 2021
By Dr. Edward H. Kozloff
Throughout the weeks preceding the 2000 race, record-breaking temperatures were the order of the day. Michigan enjoyed the warmest February and early March in a century and no one could recall temperatures topping 80º as they did just a week prior to the race. It looked like there might be a repeat of the 1995 event when the temperature hit 64º. However, on race day temperatures rose to only 34º as a bright sun and none of the ever-present winds on Michigan Avenue made the day reasonably pleasant for racing. The top competitor was 22-year-old Kory Kramer of Highland. He hit the finish tape in 20:06, running the fastest time since 1994. Kramer was a two time NCAA III All-American at Kalamazoo College in 1998 and 1999. Matt Ames, the 1999 champ, finished thirty-one seconds behind in 20:37. Two noteworthy performances were turned by Gary Wolfram, 49, who finished seventh overall in 21:43 and Brian Harris, 64, who finished 50th overall in 25:09. (Throughout the 1970’s, Harris was a national record holder at several distances.) In the women’s competition Cheryl Klotkowski, 24, of Dearborn, held a six-second lead over the second place finisher with a time of 25:11. The first master woman was Sue Madden, 50, of Macomb in 27:50.
The 19th edition of the race in 2001 was started in bright sunshine and 39º temperatures that felt much better than the actual reading. Bob Busquaert, 26, of Ray, led the race throughout and extended his lead to forty-one seconds to finish in a time of 20:17. In 1993 he was the State Class B cross-country champion and went on to set state records in Alabama for the 5,000M and Half Marathon. Leading the master men was Tim Emmett, 45, of Royal Oak in 22:44. Cheryl Klotkowski took top women’s honors for the second year in a row, winning by fifteen seconds with a time of 24:57. Nancy Cassel (Grayson), at age 50, finished third overall in 25:35.
There was no luck of the Irish for the 2002 race. Temperatures in the low teens, with winds gusting to fifty miles per hour at times, and windchill of -10º gave everyone a tinge of blue to go with the ever-present green that bedecked most of the crowd. Runners had to battle the wind most of the way. The winner, James Furkis, 24, of Royal Oak, did it the hard way as he ran alone out front from the half-mile point on. At the finish line, his time of 21:47 was thirty seconds ahead of his nearest rival. He was a top runner at the University of Detroit from 1996 – 1997. The women’s race, like the men’s, was a near solo effort as Lisa Oleksak, 26, of Royal Oak, led from the early stages and finished 1:16 ahead of her nearest competitor. Fortunately, she was able to run with men around her who blocked the wind. Most of the runners looked pretty beat after they finished! Many exclaimed that this was the most challenging race they had ever run.
After these horrid weather conditions, almost anything would have been better for the next race. So, as the 2003 race day dawned, it was with great joy that runners greeted temperatures hovering in the 60º range. Runners realized that it would be a great running day and nearly 700 signed up on race day. This number was about the size of the entire 2002 race! Plans had been made for a 1,000 person field, so everything from shirts to refreshments was in short supply. Nevertheless, everyone was in a jovial mood, delighted that Mother Nature had picked this day to offer ideal weather.
The large field brought its share of bandits. As the leaders approached the finish, the first place runner (who was not registered) ran off to the side, making his effort a good training run but missing the honor of being named race champion. Shortly thereafter, the race champ, former Eastern Michigan runner Mark Scoles, 26, of Monroe, hit the finish tape in 21:15. In the women’s race, it was champion versus champion. Kathy Rink, 36, of Clarkston, had won the race in 1991 and 1998. Cheryl Klotkowski, 27, of Dearborn, had won in 2000 and 2001. This time, the race want to Rink as her 24:22 winning time gave her an 18-second victory over her rival. With this win, she joined Michele Gillispie as the only other three-time winner of the race. The top master finishers were Tim Emmett, 47, of Royal Oak in 22:34 and Gina Norris, 46, of Detroit in 28:31. This was Emmett’s fifth Master title.
A totally overcast sky and light rain that stopped just prior to the start of the race helped make the high 30º temperatures somewhat acceptable for the 22nd annual event in 2004. The race was a three-man battle among 2003 winner Mark Scoles, 33-year-old, former Romanian Olympian Ovidiu Olteanu, and 23-year-old Bill Monnett as they raced together until the last half mile. In the end, Monnett’s tough mile speed, (he was the 2003 Firecracker Mile winner and Oakland Universities 1500M and Steeplechase record holder), served him well as he beat Olteanu to the line in 20:27 to 20:29. There was no competition up front in the women’s race. Denisa Costescu, 28, Olteanu’s wife, was all alone as she ran the second fastest time ever in the 22-year history of the event, finishing with a time of 22:40. Before coming to the U.S. she competed internationally for Romania.
Since the inception of this race in 1983, the Motor City Striders had planned, hosted, and conducted this event. However, the club decided to downsize at the end of the year, changing from the more than two-dozen events it had conducted yearly since 1959 to a much lighter schedule. The St. Patrick’s Run was one they would not continue conducting.
The Downtown Runners Club became the new hosts and Doug Kurtis the new race director for the 2005 race. With this group came a new route that now took the runners from the start at Tiger Stadium to downtown Detroit, up Woodward Avenue, past the Fox Theater and Comerica Park, back to the finish. The day of the race, the sun shone brightly in 30º skies. Brian Goodwin, 23, of Allen Park, led the men to the finish in 19:18. While at Wayne State he was a three time All-Great Lakes Region and set a school 8K record. He was followed by Ryan Molloy, of Dearborn Heights, in 19:51. For the first time since 1994, twenty minutes were broken. Unfortunately, however, somewhere along the route the runners had gone astray. The course may have been short by as much as a quarter of a mile. Linda Ewing, 43, of Grosse Pointe, was the leading woman of the day. With a time of 24:34, she knocked over three minutes off her personal best, but the course may have contributed more to that best time than she would have liked.
The 24th edition of the race in 2006 was run in enjoyable, 60º weather under bright sunshine. The day set a record with 1,400 entrants, about 200 more than the previous best. After a year’s absence, the Motor City Striders returned to the race in a less-pronounced role. The event record holder, Paul Aufdemberge, also returned to the race. Now 41 years old, his 1990 time of 19:01 had never been threatened. Sixteen years later, he still could not be conquered as he again won the race, this time in 20:13. The weather helped Anna Gaethe, 24, of Swartz Creek, to a personal record of 25:10 as she won the women’s division.
It was another record field for the second year in a row as the St. Patrick’s Corktown Races celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2007. The 58º temperature brought 1,600 participants to run, walk, and celebrate. The men’s race was a close one as Mark Wehrman, 20, of Pinckney and running for EMU, edged Mark Misch, 34, of Ann Arbor, by two seconds as he won with a time of 20:57. The top master was Scott Fiske, 43 of St . Clair Shores in 22:13. Laura Murphy, 43, had an easier time in the women’s division with a 44-second victory in 24:20. This victory was 14 years after her 1993 victory in the race.
Crisp high 30 degree weather greeted the runners in 2008 as the parade, immediately after the race, celebrated its 50th anniversary. The field this year had 1,942 finishers led by Matt Fecht, 24, of Warren in 20:23. Running for Wayne State, he earned All-American honors at the NCAA Cross-Country Championships in 2005. Finishing behind him was 43 year old Paul Aufdemberge of Redford in 20:36. The first woman , Marybeth Reader, 39, Bloomfield Hills had over a minute lead over the second place finisher 24:14 to 25:31. The top women’s master was JoAnn Berryman, 40, of Washington, Mi. in 26:07.
Each year the number of participants in the race continued to grow. In 2009 the numbers increased by over 800 to a field of 2,780. Paul Aufdemberge, 44, returned to the race for his second win in three tries. His time of 20:33 was 38 seconds faster than Anthony Pavicic, 26, of Sterling Heights. Pavicic won the 2 mile six straight years and holds the course record at the Oak-Apple Run, Oakland County’s oldest continuous race. Jackie Rzepecki, 30, Rochester, took the women’s title in 24:53. In a fitting return, this was her first race since knee surgery the previous June. Leading the women’s master field was Deanna Skelcy, 41, of Rochester Hills in 25:46.
The distance of the 28th annual race in 2010 changed to a 5K after 27 years at the 4 mile distance. Windy, cloudy weather didn’t affect participation as the total number of entrants reached 5,000. Paul Aufdemberge, 45, Redford, successfully returned and took his third title in four tries. His time of 15:40 was 9 seconds faster than Drew MacAulay, 34, of Goderich, Ontario. MacAulay was the outstanding athlete of the year at the University of Windsor in 1998 – 1999. The leading woman was Jackie Rzepecki, 31, of Rochester in 18:36. She won many honors when she ran for the University of Houston in 1997 – 2001. Martha Olsen, 46, of Jackson led the master women in 20:58.
In 2011, Waterford Mott High School senior Scott Albaugh, 18, took a one second victory over Leo Foley, 29, of Howell, 15:58 to 15:59 in the tightest race ever in this event. That fall he took a 2 second victory, as he won the state’s High School Cross-Country Championship. The women’s race was not even close as Denisa Costescu, 35, of Commerce took top honors in 17:51 over a minute ahead of the second woman finisher. This was her second victory in this race. Her husband, Ovidiu Olteanu, 40, finished sixth overall in 16:30 as he topped the men’s Masters field. Lisa Veneziano, 46, of Fenton led the women Masters in 18:53. She would go on to be the Michigan Runner Magazine’s Runner of the Year five consecutive times from 2011 through 2015. The race had a record of 6,000 entrants, over a thousand more than the year before with 5,342 finishers in the 5K.
It was race number 30 in 2012. Sixty degree weather day’s before the event still left reasonable March weather and the ever present wind on Michigan Avenue. Mike Anderson, 25, of Milford won the race in 15:03 setting a course record for the event. Anderson was a three time Atlantic 10 All-Conference runner when he attended the University of Dayton in 2005 – 2009. He would go on to win the Free Press Marathon in 2014. Jay Steele, 40, of Plymouth was the Men’s Master winner in 17:01 and Lisa Veneziano, 47, of Fenton led the women in 18:55. More than 8,000 runners and walkers turned out for the event with 7,657 finishers.
A field near 10,000 entrants and 8,886 finishers in the 5K packed the 2013 race. Mike Anderson, 26, of Milford took top honors for the second year in a row with a time of 15:13, ten seconds slower than his winning time the year before. Like many others have said before him, the wind on the way back to the finish is brutal. Finishing behind him was the first Master, John Trojansek, 42, Windsor, Ontario in 15:44. Trojansek, after graduating high school, took a quarter century absence before returning to St. Clair College to study Journalism. Though the oldest member on the team and seven years older than his coach, he was an OCAA All-Conference runner. Dayna Pidhoresky, 26, of Toronto had a 1:22 lead over the second place woman with her time of 16:35, setting a woman’s record for the distance. She held the unoffical Canadian Half Marathon record of 1:11:45. The first woman master was Janet Harden, 40, of Lake Orion in 20:55.
Despite snow flurries, temperatures in the teens, and a frigid crosswind in both directions of the out and back course, the 2014 race had 9,300 entrants in all events with 7,393 finishing the 5K. For the third year in a row Mike Anderson, 27, of Walled Lake won in 15:31, his slowest victory, yet still 42 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor Austin Taylor, 25 of Ann Arbor in 16:13. John Trojansek, 43, Windsor, was the first Master finishing fourth overall. Stephanie Smith, 32, of Detroit took the women’s title in 18:36 to 18:49 over Sarah Gryniewicz, 34, of Grosse Pointe.
It took a course record of 14:46 as Jon Rock, 25, of Wixom ended Mike Anderson’s three year winning streak in 2015. Rock, an Air Force Academy graduate, was an All-Conference honoree on the Academy team. Anderson barely took second with a time of 15:28, one second faster than the third place finisher. Ovidu Olteanu, 44, of Commerce led the Masters in 17:07. Denisa Costescu, the race winner in 2011, led the women’s race for the first 2 miles but relinquished her lead at that point to Kayla Gagnon age 22 of Riverview. Gagnon, a recent graduate, was a Second Team All-GLIAC at Wayne State. Costescu took second in 18:31 and Sheri Darlison, 45, of Belle River, Ontario was the top Master woman in 21:21.
A wet day for the 34th annual race in 2016. This year the Dublin Double was added to the program. The event featured an award for running both the Emerald Mile and the 5K. The mile was won by Ovidiu Olteanu, a past Master winner in the 5K, in 5:02. The women’s champ was Amber Dermyre in 5:32. The men’s 5K was taken by Jon Gries, 30 of East Lansing in 15:10. Mike Anderson, 29, the race winner in 2012, 2013, 2014 and second in 2015, had to settle for third place this year in 15:46. Megan Vogelsong, 24, of Defiance, Ohio, led the women in 18:20.
She was an All-MAC runner at the University of Toledo.
The 2017 race was the second year in which a special award was offered for running both the mile and the 5K. Leading the milers was Christian Vorovenci, 31, of Southfield in 5:05. The women’s title was taken by Lauren Lumley, 24, of Sarasota, Florida in 6:36. Vorovenci finished 6th overall in the 5K in 16:32 for a best combined time of 21:37. Bonnie Handfeild-Jones, 39, who was the 6th woman in the mile at 7:12 and 44th in the 5K with 23:10 had the best combined time of 30:22 for both races. In the 5K, Zaccheaus Widner, 25, of Lansing topped the consistently top finisher Mike Anderson, 30, of Brighton 15:30 to 15:35. Widner was an All-American at Oakland University before he transferred to Siena Heights University where he made All-American status two more years. Leading the women was Amber Dermyre, 27, of Canton in 18:32. A personal trainer at the Detroit Athletic Club, she had a 45 second lead over her closest competitor. There were 4,976 finishers in the 5K with another 516 for the mile.
A clear blue sky and mid 30 degree temperature made for a pleasant day for the milestone 60th Annual Detroit St. Patrick Parade and 36th Annual Race in 2018. It was another victory for Mike Anderson, 31, in 15:42. This was his fourth victory in this race (2012, 2013, 2014, 2018) to accompany three second place finishes (2015, 2016, 2017). The woman’s champ was Sarah Gryniewicz, 28, Royal Oak in 17:53. Top Masters were Claudio Salas, 47, Allen Park in 17:34 and Denisa Costescu, 42, Commerce who was also 4th overall in the women’s race in 19:27 In the mile, River Janette, 16, Holly, finished first in 5:15 and was also the Corktown Double winner with a combined time of 24:27 (19:12 & 5:15). Angelina Ramos, 32, Saginaw, finished first in the mile in 6:06. Finishing behind her in second place was Christina Swoal, 24, Bay City in 6:10. However, Swoal was the double winner in 27:57 with times of 21:47 & 6:10.
For the 37th Annual Race in 2019 the typical winds along the Michigan Avenue course were much stronger than usual. In a tight race to the finish, William McElgunn, 21, of Ferndale held off Robert Diebold, 18, of Riverview, 16:32 to 16:34. For the women, Emily Van Wasshenova, 31, of Monroe took top honors in 18:23. In the Master’s competition, Ryan Johns, 40, of White Lake finished fourth overall in 16:48 and had little competition as he was over two minutes ahead of the next master finisher. For the women masters Denisa Costescu 43, of Walled Lake also had over a two minute lead over her closest competitor in her division. In the Mile, Robert Diebold of Riverview was the champ in 4:51 and Abigail Cook, Haslet, led the women in 5:30. The Corktown Double winners with the fastest combined time for the mile and 5K were Robert Diebold, 21:25 (6:24 & 4:51) and Racheal Reed, 33, Port Huron, 29:55 (7:08 & 22:48).
The 38th Annual Race was scheduled for March 15, 2020. Meetings were held and awards, refreshments, start, finish and course equipment, volunteers and all arrangements necessary for the event were complete. There were well over 5,000 who had pre-registered. On March 11th the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a Pandemic. The Annual Parade and Race were immediately cancelled. Eventually arrangements were made for entrants to pick up their shirts and medals at local running stores. The 39th edition of the race was scheduled to be held on March 14, 2021. However, the health situation in the country and throughout the world remained still at a dangerous level. In early January, the race was cancelled. Hopefully, looking ahead, the next race will be held on March 13, 2022.
Since the inception of this event in 1983, the Fraternal Order of United Irishmen and the United Irish Societies, led by Joe Parsky, have planned, sponsored, and assisted in all of the races and the spirited St. Patrick’s Parade. With the large crowds and their Irish cheer, they have made this race the unofficial start of the racing season. However, in 2020 and 2021 both events had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 epidemic. The St. Patrick Senior Center has been a primary recipient of the race proceeds. For the latest information about the event and what can be done to show your support go to corktownrace.com.
4 MILE RACES (29) 1983 – 2009
Race Record Men: Paul Aufdemberge, 1990 – 19:01
Race Record Women: Sue French, 1984 – 21:53
Master Men: Tony Mifsud, 1985 – 19:45
Master Women: Nancy Grayson: 1998 – 23:54
5K Races (10) 2010 – Present
Race Record Men: Jon Rock, 2015 – 14:46
Race Record Women: Dayna Pidhoresky, 2013 – 16:35
Master Men: Paul Aufdemberge, 2010 – 15:40
Master Women: Lisa Venziano, 2011 – 18:53