As she crossed the finish line of the 24th annual NorthShore Inline Marathon next to the Minnesota Slip on Harbor Drive, Julie “Atomatrix” Brandt-Glass punched the air in celebration and let our a roar.
The 40-year-old national, world and X-Games inline racing champion and roller derby star from Grand Rapids, Mich. — who ESPN once called ‘The Usain Bolt of Roller Derby’ — had just edged Sarah Hopkins, 38, of Calgary, Alberta, for the women’s elite title by 25 hundredths of the a second.
But Glass-Brandt was not the fastest woman on the marathon course Saturday morning. She wasn’t even the first to cross the finish line. She was fourth.
Confusion reigned briefly Saturday outside the DECC’s Pioneer Hall after a trio of women — including a pair of teenagers — who started in a later wave were able to sneak past the elites on Saturday to cross the finish line ahead of them, despite the elites’ two-minute head start.
Giorgia Birkeland, a 17-year-old speedskater from White Bear Lake and second-time entrant, was the quickest and first woman to complete the skate down the North Shore from Two Harbors to Duluth, posting a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 8.78 seconds. She edged out 14-year-old Katrina Brown of Downingtown, Pa., a newcomer, by seven seconds.
Sarah Smith, 36, of Thomasville, N.C., was third in 1:19:17.64 and Brandt-Glass paced the elites in 1:22:42.89.
“I was honestly super surprised,” said Birkeland of the moment they came upon the elites. “I didn’t know if it was them or a different pack. I was really relieved, because I thought we could draft them, but we weren’t supposed to intermix. There was some confusion there.”
Saturday’s inline result had the feeling of another yearly race that concludes in the Canal Park district, Grandma’s Marathon. It was only months ago that Boniface Kongin — a late entrant in the race — came from outside the elites to win the men’s marathon.
Thankfully for Kongin, Grandma’s doesn’t care in what group competitors start. NorthShore does
Because Birkeland, Brown and Smith — who all started in the first advanced wave after the elites — were not registered in the more pricey open elite division, none were eligible for any of the $5,000 in cash prizes being handed out.
While that was a disappointment for the teenagers, their performances weren't.
“We saw the elite women when they were going up the hill, so we passed them and just kept on going from there,” said Brown, who added that she expected the elites to catch them eventually.
“I wasn’t expecting much because it’s my first time, too. It was really fun.”
Ewen Fernandez, 30, of France, won the elite men’s race in 1:03:57.77. There was no controversy as to whether or not he was the fastest man as Fernandez topped the rest of the field — elite or not — by 90-plus seconds.
There was plenty of contention on the course, though, as no one was willing to bear the load of pacing the lead pack against a tough headwind. Fernandez said he eventually had enough and broke away on his own.
While more challenging to face the headwind solo, Fernandez said he actually enjoys being out front by himself with the field well in his wake.
“It’s my style to arrive solo like that," said Fernandez, a first-time entrant. "I like to show that I’m the strongest. I’ve won a lot of races like that in a breakaway. It is harder to drop the other guys when I attack because they attack my draft. The first enemy in inline is the wind, so when you have a headwind, it’s harder.”
1. Ewen Fernandez, 1:03:57.77; 2. Caleb Wakefield, 1:05:34.21; 3. Kelin Dunfee, 1:05:35.65; 4. Steffen Howard, 1:05:35.91; 5. Ken Kuwada, 1:06:45.03; 6. Aiden Brown, 1:07:47.38; 7. Eddy Matzger, 1:07:47.63; 8. Justin Stelly, 1:09:15.22; 9. Wesley Gandy, 1:09:15.71; 10. Michael Pasquarella, 1:09:16.87.
1. Julie Brandt-Glass, 1:22:42.89; 2. Sarah Hopkins, 1:22:43.14; 3. Nicole Campbell, 1:22:43.92; 4. Katie Hoffman, 1:22:44.18; 5. Albany Toloza, 1:22:45.29; 6. Melissa Perry, 1:22:46.64; 7. Andi Wynkoop, 1:22:47.77; 8. Debbie Rice, 1:22:50.92; 9. Lauren O'Donnell, 1:22:51.08; 10. Deborah Brown, 1:22:51.87.
Half marathon skate — Men: Jason Dong, 41:21.27; Women: Kayla Duque, 41:21.52. Tunnel 10K skate — Men: Jim White, 29:08.16; Women: Kacie Cleveland, 25:11.29. Combined 39.3 skate — Michael Olson, 2:10:06. 42K rollerski — Men: Danny Walsh, 2:19:26.01; Women: Julie Garretson, 2:37:34.34. 21K rollerski — Men: Paul Peterson, 52:20.75; Women: Kareena Bovitz, 1:04:17.38. Half marathon run — Men: Kyle Smith, 1:14:28; Women: Michelle Andres, 1:31:55. Tunnel 10K run — Men: Sean Gaskell, 33:54; Women: Kate Peterson, 44:34.