Pennel Highlights Impressive Weekend Performances

This past weekend ZAP-Fitness Reebok had 6 athletes in action with 4 racing Saturday the 16th at the HCA Richmond 8k and the other 2 racing the following day at the .US Road Racing Championships in Alexandria, VA. Kevin Schwab and George Alex made their ZAP-Reebok debuts alongside veterans Cameron Bean and Cole Akin under the rainy skies of Richmond Saturday morning. The rain was falling in the early stages of the race, but that didn’t stop American Mile Record Holder Alan Webb from forcing the pace over the first two miles. After the opening mile and a half the rain stopped and the lead runners began to reel Webb in. As the athletes came into the final stages of the race the field was strung out with Bean leading the chase pack that included Alex and Atkins behind the top 3 runners. The final half mile of the race is a blistering downhill to the finish which Alex and Bean made good use of to catch Webb and finish in 3rd and 4th place both with finishing times of 23:03 for the 8k race. Atkins crossed the line in 8th place running 23:17. Kevin was forced to slow his pace dramatically after suffering a calf injury at the 2 mile mark.

The weekend continued the following morning 100 miles up I-95 in Alexandria, VA where first year athlete Joe Stilin and second year athlete Tyler Pennel competed in the inaugural .US Road Racing Championships which were being contested over 12k. The athletes had to qualify for the Championship by finishing in the top 10 at any previous US Championship event this spring in events ranging from 1  mile to the marathon. Stilin qualified by virtue of his 5th place finish at the US 5k Road Championships in September while Pennel posted 3 top 10 finishes at US Championship events this year. In a loaded field Pennel added his 4th top 10 finish of the year in a big way. On a windless day in the low 50s the field set off on an honest pace from the gun, covering the first 5k in 14:29 with most of the field still in tow.

After 5k the pace picked up slightly as 4-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman started throwing in surges to test the field. The surging began to string the pack out and by 10k eventual champion Aaron Braun had put a couple of seconds between himself and the remaining lead pack of Shadrack Biwott, Christo Landry, and Pennel. Pennel made a move to close the gap to Braun just after 10k and took Biwott with him and the chase pack was down to two. Biwott returned the favor and threw in a surge to gap Pennel by a few meters at the 11k mark before Pennel rallied to take over 2nd place with just over 400m to go. Biwott was able to edge Pennel at the line, but Pennel was rewarded for his efforts with the best race of his professional career and a 3rd place finish as well as moving him up to finish 7th in the overall yearly standings. Pennel’s time for the 12k was a swift 34:37 which is 4:39 per mile pace for the 7.4 mile race. Stilin ran well to finish 14th in 36:05 to complete the longest race of his career at a rate of 4:51 per mile.

Pennel will toe the line next at the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving where he returns off his 3rd place finish from last year. Stilin will join him at Manchester along with Alex, Bean, Schwab, and Mary Ballinger. Cole Atkins will be on the opposite coast competing in the San Jose 5k the same champs