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Decker Rookies Collin Smith and Juliane Masciana Prevail

The vagaries of the Decker Challenge course are such that familiarity with the hills and wind is always a major advantage. Newbies rarely do well on this grinder of a half marathon around Decker Lake in the far eastern reaches of Austin.

So much for experience as two Decker rookies—Collin Smith and Juliane Masciana—proved on Sunday morning. Neither had run Decker before and both easily prevailed to notch significant wins in the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge.

“I had heard how difficult the hills were,” said Smith, a spring UT grad, “but I didn’t think they were that bad.”

Winners can talk like that.

Actually, conditions were relatively benign on Sunday morning for Decker which for some reason brings out the worst Austin weather. But on Sunday, temps were 51 degrees and there was a thick cloud cover. The north wind was certainly a factor—it always is in the first four miles—but it was tolerable 10-12 mph breeze (with some gusts) that didn’t stand anybody up.

Smith, Joseph McCellon and Marc Bergman led the 800 or so half marathoners from the Travis County Expo start out onto Decker Lane and quickly separated themselves. By the four-mile mark when the leaders turned off Decker into the relative calm of the country roads that surround Decker Lake, Smith and McCellon were all alone at the front, averaging between 5:30 and 5:40 miles (depending on which hill they were ascending).

“I didn’t know Collin,” said McCellon who has only been back to training since August, “but I could tell he’s in better shape than I am.”

That much was obvious as the 23-year-old Austin HS grad gradually began to pull away from McCellon (who works late nights as a bartender and didn’t get to bed until 2 a.m.) on the tough mile between eight and nine. By the 10th mile, Smith had more than a minute lead and cruised to victory in 1:13:40. McCellon held on for second in 1:14:51 which paled in comparison with his 1:10 the last time he ran Decker in 2011. Bergman, one of the most consistent runners in town, ran steady to grab third in 1:16:28.

Paul Terranova—the gifted triathlete and ultramarathoner—took fourth and was the first masters guy in 1:17:20. Patrick Montgomery claimed second masters in 1:21:12 (eighth overall) and Antony Zaia was third in 1:23:25.

For Collin Smith, it wasn’t just his first Decker—it was also the first half marathon he has ever run. Third at the Run for Water 10-Miler in 50:44 in October, Smith was easily the class of this Decker field.

“I felt really good this morning,” said Smith after accepting the $300 first prize, “and was able to work the hills. I had also heard a lot about the wind, but it wasn’t anything I’m not used to. Once I pulled away from Joe, I was able to relax in the last few miles.”

Next up for Smith is the Aramco Houston Half Marathon (the national championships) on January 18th when he’ll be shooting for a sub-1:05. If he gets that, he’ll qualify for the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials.

Juliane Masciana wasn’t technically a Decker rookie—she paced some Marathon High kids last year—but her prep for Decker wasn’t exactly ideal either. The 29-year-old Cal State Fullerton grad ran the Beer Mile World Champs on Wednesday night—she was fifth in 6:48—and it took her a few days to recover from that excitement…and her hangover.

“I knew Decker was a tough course,” said Masciana who won the Dallas Running Club Half Marathon in 1:16:23 in her only other half, “but the Beer Mile was the hardest race I have ever run.”

Masciana didn’t even decide to run Decker until late Saturday night. “Honestly,” she said after winning in 1:18:02 (fifth overall), “my car is in the shop and I don’t have any money. Someone told me about the prize money here {$300} and I really need it for my car.”

Like Smith, she was easily the class of this field. Sarah Jackson was second in 1:26:40 and Patricia Vargas was third in 1:30:04.

The first masters woman was Dana Stanley Torres who has shown steady improvement over the last two years. Torres, an acupuncturist and mother of two, won in 1:37:09. Sharon Wood was the second masters woman in 1:39:33 and Amy Farley was third in 1:40:31.

The Distance Challenge takes a one-month hiatus before returning with the Rogue Distance Festival (30-K and half marathon) in Cedar Park on January 11th.

2017-10-19T00:38:58-05:00 Categories: Local Runners - Elites, Race Coverage|Tags: , , |