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Up-the-Hill races feature the fast, the slow, and the toga-clad

To dust off a venerable phrase, the 23rd annual Up-the-Hill races featured the best of times and the worst of times. And not all contestants aimed for the former.

The 13 September event saw some near-record-breaking performances, such as SCD’s Blake Caldwell’s breakaway sprint on his bike, as well as the dramatic first-place finishes of two stalwart veterans: RAP’s Deirdre Garvey and ESIG’s Rick Katz.

And yet the worst of times—last place, that is—also seemed to hold a peculiar fascination. How else to explain the biker who pedaled at the very back of the pack—and yet could claim, with some mathematical plausibility, that his time was every bit as good as Blake’s? And then there was the relay race, in which two teams, disregarding traditional competitive norms, staked claim to the seldom-coveted position of last place.

The theme of the event, sponsored by the Employee Activities Committee, was the “UCAR Olympics.” Accordingly, relay racers ran with sawed-off toilet plungers held carefully upright to represent Olympic torches. And many participants wore togas—some of which, it must be said, were quite fashionable.

“They're high end, straight off of Fifth Avenue, the latest in rubber wear,” explained Athena Quinopolus (a.k.a. Loretta Quinn) of the trash bag togas she and fellow JOSS colleagues sported.
Others dressed in more conservative bedsheet togas, although, as SCD’s Scot Colburn noted, "there's significant drag at high speeds."

The weather cooperated, if begrudgingly. Early-afternoon thunderstorms gave way to sprinkles and a few breaks of sunshine by 3 p.m., permitting a timely start to the 2,000-meter races up the hill to the Mesa Lab


The bikers went first. Blake led the pack with a winning time of 5:06, followed by ESIG’s Jeremy Hackney at 5:37 and HAO’s José Garcia at 6:06.

This marked Blake’s third consecutive victory, although his time was a few seconds shy of the course record he set in 2000 of 4:59. The 18-year-old, one of the nation’s top young bike racers, has been competing across the United States and overseas since the spring. “A lot of traveling and a lot of racing has worn me out,” Blake said after the race. But, he added: “This race is always fun.”

On a per capita basis, veteran racer John Clyne of SCD more than held his own. John, a star of the event in the early 1990s, finished with a time of 8:45—even though he towed a trailer with his five-year-old daughter, Michaela. “That’s pretty good,” John pointed out when he heard his time. “Divide it in half.”

Pulling up the rear was first-time bike racer Ned Riedel of ACD, who was towing two children—Ian, 6, and Sean, 3. “If my time was sub-15, I’m claiming victory,” a grinning Ned declared by the finish line. His time, as it turned out, was just about 15 minutes.

RAP staffers dominated the women’s cycling. Deirdre Garvey finished first with a time of 7:15, trailed by Beth Chorbajian (7:47) and Kay Levesque (8:08). For Deirdre, the bike race was just a warmup: she promptly headed back down the hill to compete in the foot race—and again scored first among the women with a time of 11:42. Taking second among the women in this contest was ACD’s Julia Lee-Taylor, at 12:20, followed by F&A’s Betty Valent, at 12:38.

Deirdre had been a dominant figure in both the bike and foot races in the early and mid 1990s, last leading the women in both events in 1996. But then she took several years off following an ankle injury. “This is fun,” she said after winning the foot race. “It’s really nice to be back.”

Taking first place in the men’s foot race was another veteran: ESIG’s Rick Katz. Rick had won the first two Up-the-Hill foot races in 1980 and 1981. But the 54-year-old scientist had last won in 1996, and he said he hardly expected to win this year “considering how old I am.” Rick’s principal competitor in recent years, RAP’s Andrew Crook, took the year off because of an injury —after winning the race five times in a row.

Trailing Rick were in a tight race for second place were José (9:12), fresh from his third-place finish among the bicyclists, and MMM’s Carl Schmitt (9:16).

Then came the day’s last event: the relay race.

Nonathletic staffers, take note: the Finance and Administration relay team for years has run at the back of the pack—and bragged about its slowness. Just last year, F&A star Bob Roesch declared: “No one steps on our heels.”

This year, however, the race appeared to shape up slightly differently. While ACD, MMM, and HAO vied for first place, a plodding EO team slipped behind F&A with an unassailably slow time of 10:37. Unable to claim victory, EO attempted to claim defeat.

“We just outslowed them,” exulted EO’s Linda Carbone, who eased her way across the finish line behind everyone else. A true team player, Linda pointed out that the last-place finish was definitely a group effort, "We have a lot of slow people with a lot of enthusiasm."

A despondent Katy Schmoll, F&A’s final runner, conceded the lack of defeat. “I’m bummed. Tradition has been broken.”

Ah, but nothing is simple at a scientific institution. The Employee Activities Committee determined the winner of the relay race with a complex formula that weighted such factors as the level of participation and the number of runners wearing togas. And under that formula, EO actually moved up to the number-three spot, behind first-place HAO (which had the third-best time at 7:31), and second-place CGD (6:59).

Preferring first place over last, HAO team members basked in their victory. “HAO is proud that its overall mediocrity has finally been recognized," said Craig Hartsough

With the jostling for last place behind them, everyone headed to the ML cafeteria for the post-race festivities, featuring first-rate refreshments served up by Food Services. UCAR’s Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) played a role at the event as well, administering first aid to a bicyclist who fell and bruised her leg after the race. • David Hosansky and Ellen Leslie

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