El Mustafa plus Bishop plus Bishop plus Moeller plus Volik plus Hughes plus Wizeman plus Paulis plus Starkes equals…victory.
“A great team effort”—that’s how team captain, Maritza Bishop puts it. She was of course describing the Hellgate victory at the competitive and rapidly growing Need for Speed Relay—a 50+ mile, 9 person relay, run from the Northern most section of Westchester all the way to the Long Island Sound in New Rochelle. The annual event is sponsored by Avon and endorsed by Joe Torre, the manager of the New York Yankees. The event raises thousands of dollars to help prevent domestic violence, but once the gun goes off, it is a race that is all about winning.
Commenting on the team’s dramatic come from behind win, the confident captain noted that, “in order to win an event like this you need a solid team 1 through 9. This year I wanted to win the whole event and not just co-ed. I knew it would be tough with so many all-male teams but I felt we could go the distance with the 9 talented runners on Team Hellgate. Naturally, there are stand-outs and to win you need the superstars, but to make it work you need solid runners who can give a solid performance. Going into it I knew we would be the team to beat but we just had to prove it. And we did.”
The race had a staggered start with six heats, so the more competitive teams started later than the lower seeded squads. Since Team Hellgate was in the fastest heat, they started as much as an hour and 15 minutes behind other teams. So in order to cross the line first, they had an enormous amount of ground to make up. But the combination of superstar and steady performances necessary to pull it off were plentiful and ultimately the team was able to make up the entire stagger.
The team proved to be steady because no Hellgate runner finished less than 24th in their segment out of the 130+ competitors in each stage and almost every Hellgater placed in the top ten percent of their respective heats. But perhaps more impressive were those standout moments. 1st leg winner El Mustafa, beat the next best runner in his segment by over 2 and ½ minutes—an astounding feat considering the depth of talent in that heat. 2nd stage standout, Mike Bishop, tackled one of the most challenging and competitive legs in the relay, a course lined with rocky trails and unmarked paths, and helped push the team closer to the front of the pack. The Hellgate ladies stayed competitive and kept the team in a secure position before Andrei Volik took the fifth leg, winning that leg overall and getting the team within real striking distance. It was at that point when Captain Maritza felt that victory was in sight. “We began the race 1 hour and 15 minutes behind the first wave, but by the time Matt (Wizeman) finished his leg we were in 1st place overall!” But perhaps the most exciting leg of the relay was the final stage, where Kevin Starkes, who began the leg over three minutes off the pace, managed to take both his heat and bring home the gold for team Hellgate.
Hellgate’s 12 second margin of victory was particularly sweet, since they were the only co-ed squad on the podium. Sweeter still was the fact that they were able to avenge the team that was the overall winner last year when Hellgate took first in the co-ed division but was third overall.
-by Maritza Bishop and Matthew Wizeman