Allen Heights Veterinary team rewrites Josh Billings RunAground history book to take home overall title
LENOX — Allen Heights Veterinary rewrote the Josh Billings RunAground record book on Sunday — and that might be an understatement.
The team of cyclist Josh Lipka, paddlers Tom Keefe and Ben Pigott and runner Steve Monsulick not only broke the kayak record they set in 2016, but got their goal of surpassing the Josh overall time record that had been in the books since the turn of the century.
"That's something we've been talking about for a while now, and it's exciting to get it for Tom, Josh and Ben," said Monsulick. "They've been doing this longer than I have.
"It's a really exciting team effort there."
Allen Heights has won its second consecutive Josh, and has only lost once — in 2014 — since 2010.
The foursome covered the 27-mile cycling leg, the 5-mile paddling leg and 6-mile running leg in 2 hours, 15 minutes 28 seconds. Allen Heights beat runner-up You Doin The Josh? by 11 minutes. That team consisted of cyclist Jonathan Molk, paddler Tim Hudyncia and runner Scott Carpenter, the former Lenox High School and Georgetown University standout.
The winning time beat not only last year's record time of 2:17.21, but also beat the old canoe record set by the High Lawn Farm team back in 2000. That team, with cyclist Sean Nealy, paddlers Steve Galib and Bob Rapant and runner Dave Ward, held the record of 2:15:55, until Monsulick wrapped up the new mark with his team.
"I'm just excited. It's great," Keefe said. "Steve ran amazing to do that. On a hot day like today to do that, I really didn't think he was going to be able to do it.
"I'm super-impressed between Josh and Steve. Oh my God, they were awesome."
Coincidentally, Rapant had paddled with both High Lawn Farm and with Allen Heights until he switched teams in 2015. The Allen Heights paddlers were in canoes until switching to a kayak in 2016. In 2015, they won the canoe division, finishing second to Pittsfield Health Food Center, winners in a kayak.
As it turns out, the biggest battle of the day came in the cycling leg, and that was between Lipka and Will Dugan.
Dugan is a past Josh champion with the Smokin' Aces team, and was called back into action this year to team with race director Patty Spector on a two-person paddle board team.
A cyclist was caught on video jumping the start and was disqualified. Lipka and Dugan did not need to jump the start. They took off right away and eventually pulled away from a group of riders.
"At the first hill, we had a pretty big group. It might have been almost 30 guys, which was surprising," said Lipka, after handing off his wristband to Keefe and Pigott. "I think it was going to be a pretty long race, and to have that many people at the top is unusual.
"After that, we pushed it, got away from the group. It was just the two of us, and after that, we were cruising."
The two rode together until Wheatleigh, when Lipka pulled away.
"If I had dug as hard as I could go, I would have [gone with Lipka]," said Dugan, "but I also had to run for Patty. Josh did most of the work, so honestly, he deserved to get a bit of a gap too."
Molk, whose team finished second, was in that first group of bikers, and couldn't do much but watch Lipka and Dugan pull away.
"You can't catch them. You don't even try because Will and Josh are pro-level riders," said Molk. "It's a whole different level. We're all in our 50s, all of us who ride together. They're in their 30s and are priming out as far as their power output."
Lipka's cycling leg was 1 hour, 3 minutes, 54 seconds, with Dugan hitting the Stockbridge Bowl boat ramp in 1:04:34.
Keefe and Pigott went into the water first and ran into a bit of a problem when the rudder cable on their kayak broke. The cable was caught up with some weeds from the bowl. So the duo had to steer using their paddles.
"It was difficult," said Pigott. "But with experience, you overcome that, and you don't let that bother you. You just do what you have to do and move on."
When the boats first hit the Stockbridge Bowl, the early-morning fog was still hanging over the course. By the end of the first lap, the fog had lifted and the Keefe-Pigott duo was ahead of the field.
"Tom and I paddled what we normally paddle, and Steve had a clean transition and brought it home," Pigott said.
Monsulick ran alone all the way to Tanglewood. Had the runners-up been closer going into the last leg, things might have been a little different.
That's because the "You Doin the Josh?" team had an All-American as its anchor.
Carpenter, who is in graduate school at Georgetown, had exhausted his eligibility in cross-country, so he could not compete in the fall. He had asked his coaches at Georgetown if he could race, and he got approval.
The former Lenox runner had run the Josh back in his senior year of high school. He hadn't been back because of the cross-country season at Georgetown.
The weather was pleasant enough at the start of the biking and paddling legs. But when Monsulick and later Carpenter took off from Camp Mah-Kee-Nac, the weather had changed.
"It was really hot. I could feel the heat on my chest," Carpenter said. "It was fun. I timed how far I was behind at the start of my leg. I knew that it wasn't likely that I was going to catch [Monsulick]. I ran hard. I ran pretty much as hard as I could."
Some veteran Josh performers finished in the top five. The Boss' Mainely Massive Men were third in 2:28:25. That team had cyclist Andrew Piper, paddlers Kevin Boss and and Dave Vandorpe and runner Shaun Rumery. Finishing fifth was the Minkler Insurance I team with cyclist William Thompson, paddlers Tim Minkler and Gary Quadrozzi and runner Nick Curelop, the cross-country coach at Hoosac Valley.
Reach sportswriter Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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