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Tollefson shares spotlight in William A. Irvin 5K

Runners charge past the stern of the William A. Irvin near the starting line of the Irvin 5K on Harbor Drive in Duluth on Friday evening. A total of 1,783 runners finished the race. Photos by Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com1 / 3
Carrie Tollefson, 37, of St. Paul embraces Angie Voight, 37, of St. Paul at the finish line of the William A. Irvin 5K on Harbor Drive in Duluth on Friday evening. The two crossed the finish line holding hands as they were the top two female finishers. Tollefson won the race, though both finished with a time of 18:36. 2 / 3
Scott Behling, 24, of Duluth approaches the finish line of the William A. Irvin 5K on Harbor Drive in Duluth on Friday evening. Behling won the race with a time of 15:19. 3 / 3

U.S. running legend Carrie Tollefson has accomplished just about everything a runner could hope for during her storybook career, going from high school star in Dawson, Minn., to record-setter at Villanova University and on to the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Now 37, Tollefson’s focus is on giving back.

Playing the part of pacesetter at the 21st annual William A. Irvin 5K on Friday in Canal Park, Tollefson’s pace was fast enough to win the women’s 3.1-mile title on a windy, 45-degree day where runners could see their own breath. Tollefson crossed the finish line in 18 minutes, 36 seconds, a split-second ahead of longtime friend and training partner Angie Voight. The runners, who live just blocks apart in St. Paul, crossed the line raising their hands together in triumph.

Duluth’s Scott Behling won his third Irvin men’s title in 15:19, outsprinting Nate Hoffman of South Haven, Minn., to the finish.

“Our goal was to run together, and we did,” Tollefson said. “Sometimes there is a little pressure on me. (Grandma’s Marathon officials) wanted me to break the course record (17:11), but I wanted to help my friend. She wanted to break 18:50, so I helped her do that.”

Their friend, Paul Giannobile of Minnetonka, Minn., ran with them until the end, getting caught up in a sprint at the finish. He finished in 18:33, good for 14th among men.

Tollefson estimated she had run the Irvin 5K four times while it was the 37-year-old Voight’s first time. Both are no strangers to Grandma’s. Voight’s first marathon was Grandma’s more than a decade ago.

Tollefson grew up going to marathons with her family as her father used to run Grandma’s. She said it holds a special place with her. She emceed the Marsh Nelson Media Award luncheon earlier Friday and today will provide radio commentary of the women’s marathon. The mother of two works as a running ambassador for Reebok and hosts a weekly running show at

With Tollefson in the lead, Voight, a doctor in sports medicine, said going against the wind was no sweat.

“Carrie blocked the wind for me,” she said. “My job was easy. Carrie did all the work.”


The Irvin men’s race was a classic tactical duel among Behling, Hoffman and Dominique Aulagnon of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Advantage: the hometown boy.

For distance runners, a 5K is almost like a sprint, so when the 24-year-old Behling made his final move, Hoffman couldn’t recover, finishing 3 seconds back. Aulagnon was third 11 seconds behind.

“Behling knew what he was doing,” said the 31-year-old Hoffman, a former Wisconsin-La Crosse runner. “You could tell he has run this before. He’s a smart runner. There was a lot of strategy to it. That was the best run I’ve had all year.”

The Irvin course goes west along Railroad Street before doing a 180. Aulagnon led the way back into the wind while Behling and Hoffman drafted off him. As they wrapped their way around the DECC, it became a seesaw affair between Behling and Hoffman. Behling made the last move just before the final turn on Harbor Drive.

“He was gone; he just took off,” Hoffman said. “In a short race like this, it’s the moment of surprise that makes all the difference. If you’ve got good speed and can get a couple steps on the other guy, it’s over. That’s it.”

Behling also won the Irvin in 2010 and 2011.

Both Behling and Hoffman are entered in this morning’s Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. While they said Friday’s weather would be perfect for today, they both realize Duluth weather can change in an instant.

Behling recently finished a storied running career at Wisconsin-Superior, setting the school record in the 5K in 14:33. He was always just a matter of seconds from making it to nationals, both in cross country and track. He didn’t come up short this time.

“That was a great race; it was fun,” Behling said. “For running, that’s about as good as it gets.”

Behling earned a mass communication degree from UWS but plans on taking some time off before joining the real world.

“Maybe next year, but for now, I’m going to be a bum,” he said.

  • Sam Johnson, who recently graduated from Mesabi East, where he was a Nordic skiing and cross country standout, finished sixth in the men’s race in 17:09.
  • A sold-out record field of 2,029 registered for the race and 1,783 finished. The 2013 men’s champ, Matt Grey of Minneapolis, is entered into the Garry Bjorklund today, while last year’s women’s champion, Savanna Plombon of Frederick, Md., is not entered this weekend.

21st Annual William A. Irvin 5K

Friday’s Results

Top 10 Men

1. Scott Behling, Duluth, 15:19; 2. Nate Hoffman, South Haven, Minn., 15:22; 3. Dominique Aulagnon, Thunder Bay, Ontario, 15:30; 4. Grant Pulver, Chippewa Falls, Wis., 16:14; 5. Blake Anderson, Sartell, Minn., 16:27; 6. Sam Johnson, Aurora, 17:09; 7. Alan Evans, Beaver Dams, N.Y., 17:11; 8. Jordan Bringgold, Roberts, Wis., 17:29; 9. Brian St.George, Mountain Iron, 17:35; 10. Alex Wischnack, Norwood-Young America, Minn., 17:55.

Top 10 Women

1. Carrie Tollefson, St. Paul, 18:36; 2. Angie Voight, St. Paul, 18:36; 3. Jaclyn Rollins, Thunder Bay, Ontario, 19:19; 4. Jordan Paschke, Chanhassen, Minn., 19:42; 5. Michelle Ostien, Mora, Minn., 20:10; 6. Elizabeth Schlafke, Annandale, Minn., 20:09; 7. Elise Longley, Bloomington, Minn., 20:12; 8. Rachel Norby, Mora, Minn., 20:27; 9. Lauren McCollor, Plymouth, Minn., 20:43; 10. Natasha Frank, Thunder Bay, Ontario, 21:04.

38th Grandma’s Marathon

What: The 16th-largest marathon in the United States

Where: 26.2 miles along North Shore Drive from Two Harbors to Canal Park Drive

Who: Field of 7,964 (4,433 men, 3,531 women)

When: 7:45 a.m. today (wheelchair start 7:40 a.m.)

At stake: Prize money of $100,000 ($10,000 each to men’s and women’s winners)

Radio: WEBC-AM 560 and at 6 a.m.

Information: (218) 727-0947;

24th Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

What: The 58th-largest half-marathon in the United States

Where: 13.1 miles along North Shore Drive from Talmadge River to Canal Park Drive

Who: Sold-out capacity field of 8,498 (3,349 men, 5,149 women)

When: 6:15 a.m. today

At stake: Prize money of $26,100 ($3,000 each to men’s and women’s winners)