Saturday, September 26, 2015

Griak 2015: Something for All Ages

Somewhere Roy Griak is smiling.  In the first Griak Invitational since the 91-year-old race co-founder passed on, the feature performance came from a High School seventh grader, Winona Cotter's Grace Ping.  The diminutive Ping who was running races in the family's basement at the age of two, surprised everyone except her family by running away with the individual title in the Gary Wilson HS Girl's Gold race in 18:12.5 for 5K.

Prior to the Griak, the age-group multi world record setting Ping displayed her talent mainly in road and track races.  Her father/coach Ryan Ping, noted that Grace was eager to test herself against  high school competition.  It's not records,but rather  a State Championship, that Ping is aiming for, he said.  The Griak was Ping's first 5K race in high school competition and she wasn't planning on being merely a contender.  "She thought she could win,"  her father said.
Ping(3685) and high school senior Judy Pendergast(4039)of Naperville North,
the runner up, battle for the lead early in the race.  Photo by Gene Niemi
During her interview with the race announcer after the race,  Ping revealed that she had planned on running the first mile in 5:30, but ran three seconds faster and she felt good.  She kept up her tempo and broke away from the field to win by four seconds over Naperville North's Judy Pendergast, a senior.  More impressive, said her father, was the fact that Grace's training thus far has only included tempo runs and strength work.  She wears a heart rate monitor in training, he added, noting that her readings indicated that she was running well below her max VO2 threshold.

"We're anxious to see what she can do after she goes through hard training,"  he said, adding that the success of Winona natives, such as the Heath brothers, Garrett and Elliott, has inspired the family, all of whom run.  Members of Elliott's Bowerman Track Club have had meals with the family and offered encouragement.   It's not all nose to the grindstone, though.  After the race the family was off to the Mall of America.  It may not be Disney World, but it'll do.
Gary Wilson HS Girl's Results are HERE.

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