SHELBY TOWNSHIP, MICHIGAN, November 17 — COVID kept the Nike Bowerman Track Club out of last fall’s first edition of the Michigan Pro Ekiden, but Year 2 version saw the Portland-based team flex in a big way, winning by more than 3½ minutes in a course record 2:08:25 over defending champion NAZ Elite in the 6-person marathon relay.
With 4 Olympians on its roster, Bowerman came in as the prohibitive favorite on a balmy 60-degree (15C), damp, breezy day on the 6M loop course at Stony Creek Metropark. However, on the first 6.1K leg, steeple silver medalist Courtney Frerichs was schooled by marathoner Anne Frisbie, who broke away after the mile mark and finished with a 18-second lead in 19:25. Frisbie, who ran 2:26:18 in the recent New York Marathon, gave Minnesota Distance Elite a lead that lasted halfway through the next leg.
The following 5K saw Bowerman newbie Thomas Ratcliffe (14:10) chase down Minnesota’s Colin Albert (14:38). Said Ratcliffe, “I just wanted to make sure I didn’t go out too hard.” Thereafter the Bowerman lead grew and grew. Vanessa Fraser continued the trend, covering the next 5K leg in 16:22.
Up next, Woody Kincaid, the Trials 10,000 champion, zipped 17:16 for his 6.1K segment to add 24 seconds to the margin. Frank Lara brought the Roots team from 4th to 2nd with his 17:40, handing off just ahead of NAZ.
The event finished off with two 10K legs. Elise Cranny ran a solo 32:19 for Bowerman, while farther back, NAZ’s Lauren Paquette impressed with a 32:33 and Hanson Brooks’s Natosha Rogers produced a 32:44. Those performances sealed the prize money order.
Getting the sash (the Ekiden baton, as it were), Grant Fisher cruised the final lap of Stony Creek Lake with no one else in sight, finishing up with a 28:36.
“This was a really fun event,” said Fisher. “Nobody missed exchanges, so that was good. We’re used to officials yelling at us, ‘Get on the line, get on the line!’ and this time it was kind of an estimation.”
Bowerman won the $20K first prize, plus five $2000 bonuses for fastest split on each segment. NAZ Elite scored $10K for its runner-up 2:12:03 and Hanson’s Brooks $5K for its 3rd in 2:12:28.
(marathon relay: 6.1K, 5K, 5K, 6.1K, 10K, 10K)
1. Bowerman TC 2:08:26 (Courtney Frerichs 19:43, Thomas Ratcliffe 14:10, Vanessa Fraser 16:22, Woody Kincaid 17:16, Elise Cranny 32:19, Grant Fisher 28:36); 2. HOKA NAZ Elite 2:12:03 (Lauren Paquette 32:33); 3. Hanson’s Brooks 2:12:28 (Natosha Rogers 32:44); 4. Roots Running Project 2:13:02; 5. Minnesota Distance Elite 2:14:36; 6. Team Boulder 2:17:30.