Masters attempt re-run of relay record

Ten years ago, four Williamsburg runners formed a 4×800-meter relay team that broke the American club record for men 50-59 at the USA Track & Field Masters national indoor track championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.

The Colonial Road Runners quartet of Rick Samaha, Danny Schlickenmeyer, Jim Goggin and Steve Chantry averaged less than 2:17 for 800 meters for a time of 9:06.90, breaking the previous mark by more than 13 seconds, held by the Shore AC of New Jersey. Samaha, who had turned 50 that month (March 2008), started with a 2:16 leg and Chantry anchored with a 2:10.9.

After a seven-year hiatus from serious competitive racing, Samaha turned 60 last month, and he and Chantry wanted to revisit their glory with another record by the CRR, this time for men 60-69. However, reality got in the way for the same foursome. Goggin, a PE teacher for Clara Byrd Baker, had hip replacement surgery and could no longer handle the pounding of the track. Former Jamestown High head track coach Schlickenmeyer was hopeful for a return, but fall surgery and back problems nixed that idea. Chantry and Samaha searched for alternatives, first with Pete Gibson of Murfreesboro, N.C., who ran some indoor track events this winter to prepare, but brutal work obligations (12 hours a day, seven days a week from mid-February to early April) and nagging injuries stopped that. Yorktown’s Rob Whitaker would have been an ideal candidate, but he won’t turn 60 until November.

So instead of a club relay record, Chantry, 63, and Samaha, 60, changed their plans, forming an all-star team with two other non-CRR runners — Dave Schmanski, 63, from Nashville, Tenn., and Rodney McGregor, 61, from Ohio -— and went for the world 4×800-meter relay record for men 60-69 at the March 16-18 USATF National Masters Indoor Track Championships at the Prince George’s County Sportsplex in Landover, Maryland. They succeeded big time and now own a world record.

Chantry started the weekend Friday evening by winning the men’s 60-64 division of the 3,000 meters by 12 seconds in 10:25.17. He led from the start, and lapped all but one runner on the 200-meter track. Saturday was the 1,500 meters, and in a crowded field of 20, Chantry settled in the pack for several laps, then took the lead and won by 13 seconds, in 4:52.34.

Next up Saturday was the 4×800-meter relay, for which the record was 9:55.96 by the same Shore AC that had previously held the men’s 50-59 club relay record. Schmanski opened the relay with a 2:26.6 split, McGregor was next at 2:33.9, Samaha ran the third leg in 2:25.3 and Chantry anchored with a 2:25.1. Their total time of 9:50.90 broke the world record by five seconds.

Schmanski and Chantry now are part of two world-record 4×800-meter relays for men 60-69, as they previously broke the outdoor record, along with Horace Grant of Texas and George Haywood from Washington, D.C., running 9:30.92 to break the 23-year-old record by a team from The Netherlands.

Chantry completed his busy weekend Sunday morning with his final race, the open 800 meters. He again led from the gun, reluctantly, with a leisurely first 400 of 73.3 seconds, then picked up the pace. It came down to a kicker’s duel between Chantry and relay teammate Schmanski, with Chantry prevailing 2:23.15 to 2:23.26. Chantry commented that it was “my fourth gold and third individual national title of the weekend. I could not have asked for a better weekend! To win all three middle distance races in my age group at the National Championships and run a World Record relay was phenomenal.

“It finally felt like I was back to my old self being able to train and race fast this indoor season. My Achilles surgery and other health issues over the past four years had been extremely frustrating.”

For next year’s USATF national Masters indoor track championship, Chantry and Samaha want to go for the American club record for men 60-69, potentially adding a healthy Schlickenmeyer, or Gibson, or a then 60-year-old Whitaker. They will be going for the club record of 9:55.95, or even improving on their all-star team world record of 9:50.9. Whitaker had two seventh places at the USATF indoor championships for men 55-59 and a sixth place in the 800 meters (2:28.10).

Platt is president of Colonial Road Runners.