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September 2004

Staff Notes Extra: 25th annual Up-the-Hill Races

A hint of the islands wafted up to the mesa on August 20, as participants in the 25th annual Up-the-Hill Races showed off their best straw hats and grass skirts to celebrate the event’s Caribbean theme.

Hill race

Staffers display their island styles.

This year’s event proved extraordinarily popular. Some 59 men and women took part in the bicycling and running races, which was the highest turnout in the decade for which complete records are available. “After 25 years, this is still an extremely popular event,” says Mark Mulholland, the chair of the Employee Activities Committee, which organizes the event.

Spectators cheered as Alan Hills (MMM) won the men’s bicycle race, the first contest of the afternoon. With a time of 5:50, he edged SCD’s John Clyne by two seconds in a duel reminiscent of the early 1990s, when the two men often vied against each other to win the event.

For Alan, this marked his 11th first-place finish since 1985. As much as he enjoyed the race, the 46-year-old scientist says he’s starting to feel his age.

hill race

Alan Hills edges John Clyne

“It feels a little worse every year,” he said with a smile after the race. “Win or lose, it always hurts a little more.”

DLESE’s John Weatherley came in third with a time of 6:01.

In the women’s bicycle race, Deirdre Garvey finished first with a time of 7:34, followed by fellow RAP staffer Kay Levesque at 7:55 and ACD’s Cynthia Nevison at 8:27. Deirdre and Kay then went back down the hill to take part in the running race—and finished in the same order. Deirdre’s running time was 11:52, and Kay’s was 12:33. Julia Lee-Taylor was third with a time of 13:26.

Deirdre Garvey

Deirdre Garvey bears down for the first of her two victories.

“I love these races,” Deirdre said after her second victory. “This is a great event for everyone.”

While few staffers take part in both races back-to-back, Kay says she liked the feeling of being thoroughly warmed up by the time it comes to the foot race. She credited her strong bike performance in part to her bike — which she bought from Deirdre. “How could this bike not place?” she asked.

In the men’s running race, SCD’s John Tribbia took first place for the second straight year. “It’s a good excuse to go up the hill,” joked John, whose time was 8:35. ESIG’s Rick Katz was second with a time of 8:51, and COMET’s Mark Mulholland finished third at 9:39.

John Tribbia

John Tribbia nears the finish line.

While the first-place finishers had all won races in past years, many staffers back in the pack enjoyed the personal satisfaction of taking part in the event. “I just go for personal bests,” says RAP’s Becky Ruttenberg, who participated in the bike race and scored her second-best time in the event.

relay race

Relay racers run with their hats.

Katja Matthes of ACD had no illusions of setting speed records in the relay race. That’s because she’s nine months pregnant. “I can go 25 meters,” she said of her relay leg.

In the climactic relay race, CGD’s Jim Hurrell crossed the finish line first, shortly ahead of ACD’s Danny McKenna. Jim’s running style was unhindered by his grass skirt, worn in honor of the Caribbean theme and adorned with seashells picked out by his daughter.

Crossing the finish line first, however, does not guarantee a relay team victory. Under the event rules, teams are rated by a complex formula that takes into account such factors as the number of participants, the creativity that went into their straw hats, and how much water remained in the plastic cups that served as batons.

Thanks to the scoring, ACD won the relay race with a strong running time combined with a fine demonstration of tropical shirts and “grass” skirts made out of green newspaper bags. The NCAR Director’s Office, with 100% participation, finished second, and CGD — with lower participation but a great hat — finished third.

Almost as soon as the races ended, a summer rain began to fall. Events Services mobilized quickly to move the Caribbean-style buffet from the Tree Plaza to the indoor cafeteria. The post-race festivities included live music by the band Ricky Fire and an awards ceremony.

David Hosansky

More photos on the web


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