Ryan Hagen had no intention of again finishing second — to Silas Frantz or anyone else — at the 18th Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k.
Hagen captured Saturday’s running of the annual 6.2-mile spring road race in epic fashion. A stirring sprint over the final 150 yards enabled him to defeat Elon sophomore Nick Ciolkowski by 3 seconds.
Hagen’s time (30:37) wasn’t particularly swift. But his final push along Franklin Street more than compensated.
“I’m a miler — that’s my focus,” said Hagen, a former Virginia Tech standout who is pursuing a graduate degree in physical therapy at Mary Baldwin. “One of my goals for this year is to run a mile in less than four minutes. I’ve been close — 4:02. So I was confident that I’d have some speed left at the end.”
His flourish at the finish, he said, provided “a little redemption” for his runner-up finish to Frantz in last year’s Monument Avenue race.
“I definitely wanted to win this year,” he said.
Hagen, 25, and Ciolkowski, 20, worked in tandem to overtake Frantz at the 5-mile mark. Thereafter, the two ran virtually stride for stride until the final uphill stretch on Franklin Street.
“I tested him a couple of times with a few hard, quick steps — and he matched me every time,” Hagen said. “I knew then that it was going to come down to the last 30 seconds.”
Said Ciolkowski: “It was a great race. At the end — what can I say? He had another gear that today I just didn’t have.”
Frantz, a former All-Metro cross country athlete at Douglas Freeman High School, finished third in 30:49.
The elite wave attacked the course in conditions that were very nearly ideal. High clouds kept temperatures in the mid-50s for much of the morning. Not until the leaders passed the halfway point did clouds give way to periods of bright sunshine. Wind was negligible.
Hagen applauded the Collegiate Running Association for its involvement in the Monument Avenue race. The CRA awards NCAA-sanctioned cash prizes to the top 10 male and female finishers who currently are enrolled in at least one college class. Race winners receive $2,000. Runners-up receive $1,000.
Said Hagen: “It’s amazing. I can’t even put into words how much grateful I am for what (the CRA is) doing for me and other people in my situation.”
Given the rigors of his field of postgraduate study, he said, “employment is strongly discouraged. They want us to focus as much as possible on our studies. So to have an opportunity like this — an opportunity to run and compete and maybe make some money in the process — it’s something that all of us really, really appreciate.”
Ciolkowski, a two-time CAA cross country champion agreed. Elon doesn’t offer men’s track. Thus, he said, the Monument Avenue race offered an opportunity not only to run on “a beautiful course in a beautiful city,” but also to become reacquainted with serious competition.
“And the chance to make a little money doesn’t hurt, either,” he said.
Circumstance smiled on Frantz, a University of Virginia master’s candidate who Friday was declared ineligible for a CRA prize because he currently is neither enrolled in classes nor actively working on his thesis.
He earned $500 in a non-CRA competition that awards cash prizes to the top three male and female finishers from the metropolitan Richmond area.