TRAVERSE CITY — Kevin Cataldo initiated the challenge.
Tommy Neal answered.
Neal, a Colorado resident, won the Meijer's Cherry Festival men's 5K road race Saturday, finishing in 15:20.26. Cataldo, a former Suttons Bay standout, was second in 15:49.61.
"I tried to do a quick six seconds to try and trigger people to go out hard," said Cataldo, a volunteer coach at Michigan State. "He (Neal) came up after I did that. About four or five (runners) took off. He ran a smart race, more tactical than anything. He made a good move to the front and held it. He's a heckuva runner. He made the Olympic Trials in the marathon.
"It's nice to see people like that coming here and building up the competition because I remember a few years back when 16 flat would win it."
Neal was in Traverse City with his wife, former Traverse City Central runner Adrian Chouinard-Neal. The two were married late last month. Chouinard-Neal ran in the 15K.
Neal, more of a distance runner, did win a 5K on St. Patrick's Day in 15:27.
"I actually took it easy the first mile," he said. "I just wanted to get in a rhythm. We went out a little under 5 flat. I felt pretty good, so after that I just started picking it up and knocking off the miles a little bit faster. I think I averaged a 4:55 mile pace.
"It was a great day, beautiful weather. You couldn't ask for any better. No sunshine cooking us out."
Spring Valley's Neil Klinger came in third at 16:01.77. Traverse City's Ron Ziwicki was the master's winner in 17:01.72.
Brooke Kovacic, a 16-year-old senior at Oxford High School, captured the women's race in 18:30.22. Dearborn's Andrea Blake was second in 19:14.48 and Traverse City's Morgan McCardel third in 19:36.90.
Kovacic finished fourth last month in the 3,200 in the Division 1 state high school finals.
"We have a cabin in Tustin," she said. "We always like coming up for the Cherry Festival. So I just decided to try the race because I like to do a lot of 5K road races during the summer."
After a slow start, Kovacic picked up the pace.
"I like to run pace so when I start out I usually look slower than everybody else," she said. "I'm pretty far in the back. But then I work my way up and let my last mile be the fastest."
McCardel, coming off a strong season at Hope College, ran with several of her teammates who were in town.
"The first mile we went too slow," she said. "So the rest of the race we had to pick it up."
McCardel, who set personal bests in the 400, 800 and 1,500 this spring, took a three-week break, but is now back at it. Next up: The Venetian Festival in Charlevoix.
Williamsburg's Brenda Henige claimed the master's division in 21:54.76.
John Metiva and Lilly Rawlings won the men's and women's 5K walk in 26:44.18 and 22:44.91, respectively.
Two runners post impressive wins
TRAVERSE CITY — Kevin Cataldo initiated the challenge.
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