Allen Heights Veterinary reclaims title at Josh Billings RunAground


Photo Gallery | 40th annual Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon

Related | Full results list from 40th Josh Billings RunAground

Related | Original Josh Billings RunAground winning team members meet on the water in 2016

Video | Steve Monsulick ran for Josh Billings RunAground champion Allen Heights Veterinary.

Video | Steve Monsulick anchored Allen Heights Veterinary to a victory in the 40th annual Josh Billings RunAground.

STOCKBRIDGE — The number on the bib kind of gave it away for the members of the Allen Heights Veterinary team.

They were the No. 1 team when the 40th annual Josh Billings RunAground began in Great Barrington Sunday morning. More than two hours later, they were Josh champs again.

"Our paddlers and biker did a really good job setting me up," said runner Steve Monsulick. "I just had to go out there and hold on."

Monsulick ran the anchor leg of the cycling, boating and running triathlon. Josh Lipka was the cyclist while Tom Keefe was joined in a kayak by Ben Pigott. Pigott was a member of last year's championship team.

Allen Heights, racing in the Double Kayak over 16-foot division for the first time, completed the triathlon in a impressive 2 hours, 17 minutes, 21 seconds. The team called 3-plus-1 with cyclist Todd Roberts, paddlers Jeff DeFeo and Steve Miller and runner Sean Duncan was second in 2:26:06.

The winning time was much better than last year's 2:23:19, but the course was different 12 months ago. This year's triathlon started with the cycling leg from the traditional spot at the Price Chopper Plaza in Great Barrington. Last year, the race started at the Great Barrington Airport.

Comparing times to similar times on the same course, Allen Heights had a faster time than its wins in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. It was the fastest time since the Bold Move team won the 2008 race in 2:16:36. The Allen Heights foursome was seeking to break the Josh record time of 2:15:55.

Pigott moved into the boat with Keefe as Mike Dostal was competing in the canoeing world championships in Brandenburg, Germany. Last year's win by the Pittsfield Health Food Center team stopped a streak of four straight wins by Allen Heights.

"It was really good. It feels good to win this thing two years in a row," said Pigott.

And it was a change for Keefe, as well. The Allen Heights boat had been a canoe — until Sunday.

"I feel that I know how the boat works," said Keefe. "I know how to paddle from the canoe. It's a very different technique, and I have a lot to learn still. Now, I feel like every week, I take a big step forward."

Keefe took no bigger step forward than when he jumped into the kayak with Pigott. They started their first lap about two minutes ahead of the rest of the field.

Two years ago, on the same course, Lipka biked the 27 miles in an hour, 3 minutes and 13 seconds, five seconds ahead of Pittsfield Health Food's Dean Phillips. This year, Lipka came to the boat ramp on Route 183 in 1:02, and was two minutes ahead of the rest of the cycling field.

"Josh set us up perfect. Josh is an animal. Josh is one of the best bike riders in the country," Keefe said with a smile. "He proved it today.

Lipka said the road was a little faster because of the showers that hit Southern Berkshire County as the rain started. It did, he admit, cause some issues on turns. There were a couple of crashes, one when a cyclist could not navigate the turn from Route 102 in Stockbridge up Prospect Hill.

But from the start in Great Barrington, Lipka was near the lead. He said he decided to push things on some uphills near Alford town hall.

"My teammates gave me a goal of an hour and five minutes to finish today," Lipka said after his 27 miles. "That was the goal today. Luckily, I was able to do it for them."

The 3-plus-1 team was at a disadvantage with a canoe in the water instead of the faster kayaks. It was going to depend on a good bike leg.

Todd Roberts, the cyclist for the second-place team on Sunday, said he had Lipka in his sights for what he said was a little longer than "normal."

"It kind of was an accordion effect for a while, but then he snapped it, and rolled away," said Roberts. "We saw him for a while, and then a group formed of about 10 of us. I think if we had worked a little more cohesively, we could have cut the gap down a little more.

"He was just focused and we weren't as focused."

When the final leg of the Josh began, Monsulick had about a 10-minute lead on the rest of the field. He described running the 6.2 miles alone was a challenge.

"Running is all about just finishing. You try to run just as hard as you can," he said. "It's just about racing the clock at that point."

The clock beat Allen Heights, but nobody else did.

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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