NorthShore Inline Marathon: Stoddard, Kuwada win in different fashion
A year after photo finishes dominated the NorthShore Inline Marathon, Saturday was shaping up to be a dud after Ken Kuwada blew away the elite men's field to win by nearly a minute.
A year after photo finishes dominated the NorthShore Inline Marathon, Saturday was shaping up to be a dud after Ken Kuwada blew away the elite men’s field to win by nearly a minute.
Enter best - and fast - friends Corinne Stoddard and Franchesca Pasquarella, who dueled along Harbor Drive as they approached the race’s modified finish behind the DECC.
If Kuwada’s romp was a yawn, the elite women salvaged the morning in dramatic fashion. Pasquarella had surged ahead climbing the Interstate 35 ramp that empties onto Fifth Avenue West. Stoddard received some blunt advice from her Bont teammate, Kelsey Helman.
“Kelsey was like, ‘You have to go because she’s gone,’ ” said the 17-year-old Stoddard, who lives in Salt Lake City, where she trains on ice.
The up-and-comer obliged, reeling in Pasquarella of Orlando, Fla., by the time they reached the final turn, a 90-degree left onto a stretch of Harbor Drive that parallels the waterfront, the big lake’s waves lapping up against the breakwall. There, counterintuitively, Stoddard went out wide while Pasquarella hugged the inside, losing speed in the process.
“The corner’s so sharp you can’t step, but I turned wide, so I was able to step once, where she wasn’t able to,” Stoddard explained.
Buoyed by the resulting momentum, Stoddard cut back across the road. Down the straightaway they went, side-by-side, arms pumping. Simultaneously, they lunged for the line, with Stoddard getting there first - though “barely” is an understatement. She clipped Pasquarella by, at most, the length of a skate wheel. An inch, maybe two.
Officially, Stoddard won by four-hundredths of a second, 1:12:09.22 to 1:12:09.26.
As she spoke inside the DECC arena afterward, well-wishers greeted the potential-packed teen, a short- and long-track whiz for the U.S. national team who has visions of qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. Asked if she expected to win the nation’s largest inline marathon, Stoddard paused. Not because she was carefully choosing her words, but rather because she had simply spaced out.
It already had been a long morning.
Thanks to the gullywasher of a thunderstorm that pummeled the Northland on Friday night and into Saturday, Stoddard didn’t get as much sleep as she would have liked. Ditto for Helman, who was third Saturday in 1:12:12.26.
“I was up at 2:30 and then 4:30 in the morning,” the 22-year-old from Hagerstown, Md., said. “There was a lot of lightning and I don’t like thunderstorms.”
For the record
As a reporter tried to catch up with Kuwada inside the DECC on Saturday, it was easy to sympathize with competing skaters tasked with doing the same thing earlier on the course. Kuwada is an elusive dude.
He wrestled the crown away from 2017 champ and MPC Wheels teammate Sebastian Guzman by making his move at 15 kilometers and progressively expanding his lead. So fast was Kuwada that in a normal year he would have been “wheel” close to Chad Hedrick’s 1998 course record of 57:18. Indeed, he was done in 56:56.12, but that was only for 26 miles, not the marathon-standard 26.2. Thus, a new mark Saturday would have registered as an event record and not a course record.
Construction next to the William A. Irvin forced NSIM organizers to alter the traditional finish line and shorten the course. In the past, a “bounty” has been offered for topping the course record. Had he produced that kind of effort any other year, Kuwada might have earned an extra $10,000 to go with his $1,000 winner’s check.
“Yeah, we know that,” the charismatic Argentinean said dryly, a knowing grin splayed across his face. “But we’re here because we love to skate.”
Early in the race, Kuwada was ready to get out of the way so Guzman could defend his title. But the latter wanted nothing to do with that plan. He had no problem finishing runner-up.
“Just as long as it says ‘MPC’ on the front of his jersey,” Guzman, the 22-year-old Venezuelan, said.
Reminiscent of 2017, Guzman and Justin Stelly jockeyed to the end, with Guzman (57:49.18) leaning past Stelly (57:49.19) to capture second place. Those two finished 1-2 a year ago, and the margin was similarly close.
Weather threatens, ultimately cooperates
NSIM executive director Skeeter Moore went to bed Friday night knowing he could awaken to a mess. Sure enough, intense rainfall, powerful wind and relentless lightning arrived, but the storm’s timely departure allowed the 23rd annual NorthShore to go on without a hitch. It did, however, necessitate some scurrying early Saturday.
“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into producing this type of event,” Moore said. “All our barricades down here (at the finish line) were blown over, the scaffolding was misplaced. So you get down here at 4 in the morning and you just have to go to Plan B and get to work.”
About the only weather-related hiccup was a humidity level that rested near 100 percent throughout the morning.
“We ended up having great course conditions, plus a little tailwind that helped the racers and even dried out the course,” Moore said. “There were a couple puddles, but not any big issues.”
Winners of the NSIM’s affiliate races included:
Inline half-marathon: Ian Frederick (40:16.20) of Bluffdale, Utah, and Tammy Davis (43:23.70) of Bloomington, Minn.
Wheels-Off Half Marathon: David Hyopponen (1:17:34) of Duluth and Bethany Motley (1:32:49) of Edina, Minn.
Tunnel 10K run: Eric Hartmark (32:55) of Duluth and Sarah Quade (44:38) of Superior.
Roller-ski marathon: Alexander Vanias (1:15:07.79) of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Jenna Ruzich (1:41:00.99) of Baxter, Minn.
NorthShore Inline Marathon
1. Ken Kuwada, Argentina, 56:56.12; 2. Sebastian Guzman, Venezuela, 57:49.18; 3. Justin Stelly, Murray, Utah, 57:49.19; 4. Jonathan Blair, Roswell, Ga., 57:50.32; 5. Michael Pasquarella, Orlando, Fla., 57:50.50; 6. Aiden Brown, Downingtown, Pa., 57:50.62; 7. Francisco Ramirez, Edgewater, N.J., 57:50.93; 8. KC Boutiette, Erie, Colo., 57:51.05; 9. Andrew Reichert, Stockton, N.J., 57:51.20; 10. Steffen Howard, Traverse City, Mich., 57:51.28.
1. Corinne Stoddard, Tacoma, Wash., 1:12:09.22; 2. Franchesca Pasquarella, Orlando, Fla., 1:12:09.26; 3. Kelsey Helman, Hagerstown, Md., 1:12:12.27; 4. Melissa Perry, Evans, Colo., 1:12:14.44; 5. Sarah Hopkins, Calgary, Alberta, 1:12:15.00; 6. Nicole Bischoff, Donora, Pa., 1:12:17.19; 7. Deborah Brown, Brighton, Colo., 1:12:18.71; 8. Melissa Dahlmann, St. Paul, 1:12:20.17; 9. Hannah Vanasse, Bemidji, Minn., 1:12:24.89; 10. Sandra Spirovska, Madison, 1:12:27.20.