Fleet-Footed Runners Make Their Marks In Race

Nearly a quarter century ago, Steve Gates established a course record for a local entrant in the Manchester Road Race. He was timed in 22:59 over the 4.748 miles.

During the last quarter century, hundreds of Manchesterites have taken a shot at lowering the standout performance without success.

Gates, 50, is the only hometowner to break 23 minutes.

The 1980 run marked the fifth time Gates was No. 1 in the final tabulation of Manchester residents. He finished seventh overall, his highest in 33 years.

He'll be toeing the starting line for a 34th time Thanksgiving morning in the 68th running of the race.

Far from being superstitious, he'll wear No. 13 on his jersey, a number he's been identified with since 1979.

The stiffest challengers to the record have been Tim DeValve and Brendan Prindiville.

DeValve led the pack three straight years, 23:18 in 1983, 24:13 in 1982 and 23:22 in 1981, clearly a showing of consistency by the former Manchester High and University of Connecticut track standout. He led the home brigade a record eight times with other successes in 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1990.

Prindiville covered the paved street course in 23:28 in 1997 and 23:39 in 1998. The former Loomis Chaffee and Brown University star made the select top 25 list twice in world-class fields, gaining 23rd place in 1995 and 24th in 1996.

Todd Liscombe is the only other Manchester runner to claim a 25th or under finish since the big influx of professional talent started in full swing in 1980.

Liscombe was 23rd in 1997 and 24th in 1996. He, too, was a one-time Manchester High harrier who competed in college at Old Dominion.

Drew Best, top Silk Towner in each of the last three years, placed 56th, 38th and 33rd overall with times of 27:15, 25:25 and 25:28. He also gained fame at Manchester High and at Bates College.

Gates, in 36 years of competitive running, has won more than 300 races in more than 600 starts. He has been involved in distance running from mile to marathons with a career best 4:09 mile in the 1974 NCAA Nationals, a year in which he won the Division III cross country championship.

Gates holds membership in both the Eastern Connecticut State University Hall of Fame (1980) and the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame (1985).

Among his major running accomplishments, Gates noted near the top was his record time performance in Manchester 25 years ago.

Sports Expo Set

The annual Sports and Fitness Expo, sponsored by the Manchester Road Race committee, will be offered Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Bennet Middle School's Cone gym. The program will be free and open to the public.

Area exhibitors will offer tips on training, stretching, chiropractic treatment, nutrition and therapy, cardiac fitness and orthopedics.

The Silk City Striders will have a "Know Your Pace Run" lecture to give runners an opportunity to determine the proper pace.

High school coaches Gerry Chester of Griswold and Doug Sharples of East Lyme will head a symposium titled "The Four Speeds of Distance Training."

Four-time Manchester race champion John Treacy will address the gathering. The Olympic silver medalist was Ireland's Athlete of the Year in both 1978 and 1979.

Bus Service Offered

Finding a suitable parking place for the Manchester Road Race hasn't been easy, but for the first time free shuttle bus service will be offered from two areas Thanksgiving morning.

From 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., buses will leave from the spacious Manchester Community College lot and the former drive-in just off routes 44 and 6. Riders will depart at the Fuss and O'Neill lot on Hartford Road, a 10-minute walk to the starting and finishing line on Main Street. Buses will depart every 10 minutes, with return trips scheduled from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Large reflector signs will direct motorists to the designated pickup locations.

Golf Election

Nick DiPietro and Ed McKenney were re-elected president and vice president for the 2004-05 season earlier this month at the annual meeting at the Manchester Country Club.

Rick Clough, Alan Lammey and Marion Roscio were named to the board of directors for one year. Jon Golas, Kevin Murray and Mark Oakman were named for two years, and Kathy Dimlow, Ben Gaetano and Niall Purcell were named for three years.

Mike McCarthy was chairman of the nominating committee.

Two Ball Champs

Chris Busineau and Jeff Dolin teamed to win the Two Ball golf championship, the final major tourney for Manchester Country Club members.

Runner-up was the team of Len Horvath and Bob Pagani. The margin was 2 and 1.

Stardom Predicted

"Matt Anderson will be the next All-American in track at Trinity College," head coach George Suitor said.

Anderson was a record-making member of Manchester High's outdoor track team last spring and has been impressive in his freshman college year.

Triple Success

Ernie Uthgenannt notched triple success in three events this summer for athletes 70 and older.

He was a member of the winning 3 on 3 entry in the Connecticut Senior Games and qualified for the 2005 Nationals.

The longtime tennis pro teamed to win three of four major tournaments to secure No. 1 ranking in New England.

Teamed with his brother, Uthgenannt took first place in the Housatonic Regatta sculling event in their age bracket. Overall, they finished 13th out of 16 teams over the 3-mile course.

Tae Kwon Do Champion

Brian Vincent, 48, won the veterans division of the Tae Kwon Do World Championship in Malaysia.

Vincent's gold medal performance came in the male middleweight sparring classification in Genting Highlands, Pahang, in the four-day competition.

The former Rockville athlete now lives in Vermont.

Shutout Wins, Losses

Manchester High's football shellacking at the hands of powerful New Britain High recently, 80-0, was the worst inflicted on the schoolboys in the high school's history going back to 1923.

Will Duchesneau recently compiled a complete year-by-year MHS record and, during this 80-year span, the local gridders suffered five lopsided defeats.

Before the loss to New Britain, the previous scoreless setback was administered by Middletown High in 1940, 59-0. Middletown also tallied the most points against a Manchester team, 62-6 in 1975.

Whitewashings by wide margins were 48-0 by Conard in 1958, Bristol, 45-0 in 1934, Plainville, 41-0 in 1947 and the former Penney High in East Hartford, 37-0 in 1981. East Hartford High School will host Manchester Thanksgiving Day eve at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and $5 per car parking fee. All prices are all-time highs.

Four of the five previous scoreboard blankings were administered by then-Central Connecticut Interscholastic League rivals. Plainville was the only non-league opponent.

On the other side of the stick, Manchester's largest shutout win was against East Catholic, 40-0 in 1992.

Manchester's high scoring day came against East Catholic, 67-7 in 1995. The previous year East Catholic also was victimized, 57-12. The 1995 win marked the termination of the Thanksgiving Day relationship because of the uneven strength of the two programs.

Things changed dramatically since Cheney Tech merged with East Catholic and Bill Baccaro was named head coach. Last year EC went undefeated in 10 games and this fall won eight straight in its first nine games.

When the EC program hit rock bottom, a losing streak reached 52 games from 1992 to 1997.

Those days have long been forgotten.

Meanwhile, Manchester High is struggling to post .500 records.

Champs To Return

Defending champions Patrick Nthiwa of Kenya and Emilie Mondor of Canada head the scheduled field of runners for Thursday's 68th annual Manchester Road Race.

Both made their debuts last year and Mondor surprised with a course-setting time of 23:59, breaking the record by seven seconds set in 1991 by Cathy O'Brien.

The 20-year-old Nthiwa didn't set any records, but wound up one second better than 2002 champ Andrew Letherby in 21:37.

Familiar faces will include nine-time winner Amby Burfoot, 58, who will be making his consecutive string 42 years.

Late entrants may register Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Manchester Road Race Sports Expo and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Bennet Middle School on Main Street. Cost is $25.

Earl Yost, a retired sports editor for the Manchester Herald, writes about sports in Manchester. To contact Yost, write to him c/o The Hartford Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040, or fax him at 860-643-8548.