Zack Ornelas and Elizabeth Northern Win Gold at USATF 50 km Road Championship

Written by USATF Championship Liaison Lin Gentling

Held in conjunction with the Caumsett 50K at Caumsett State Historic Park, NY

Sunday, March 3 was a short reprieve between two winter storms to strike the Long Island New York area giving the Greater Long Island Running Club just enough time to stage the incredibly successful 2019 50K USATF national championships under sunny skies with only a slight breeze. Runners would race on a paved path through Caumsett State Historic Park with outstanding scenic views overlooking Long Island Sound. But it’s also strategic with athletes running ten 5k laps to complete the 50k course.

The snowfall from the day prior was completely cleared from the 5K running loop. Morning temps were in the mid 30’s, but warmed as the day progressed to the point where runners stripped down to running singlets and shorts.

The starting field included many runners who had met the Olympic Trails marathon qualifying times this past year. With a position on the 2019 US 50K national, team which will compete at the 50K world championships in Romania this September on the line, elite runners were poised on the start line to make history.


Immediately, Austin Bogina, 25, from Arma, Kansas who ran a 2:16:20 at California International Marathon in December went out fast to take the lead. This was Austin’s baptism into ultrarunning having never run beyond the marathon in competition. Right behind him was 2018 50 mile road national champion, Zach Ornelas, 27, from Plymouth, MI. Coached by the highly successful David Roche, Zach has a long resume of impressive accomplishments, including being on the 2013 US team competing in Poland at the World Mountain Running Championships, the 2014 US 50K team competing at the 50K world championships in Doha, Qatar, and on the 2018 US team competing in the World Trail Championships in Spain. Zack was also a returning Caumsett 50K champ having won the event in 2015 and coming in 3rd at the 2016 race. In 3rd position was Kallin Khan, 22, from Iowa City, IA. Kallin was also new to ultrarunning, and had a 2:22 from the Houston Marathon in January; in 4th place was Craig Hunt, 28, Flagstaff, AZ who has a 2:18:25 2017 CIM marathon to his credit and rounding out the top 5 was Derrick Hamel, 35, Newmarket, NH.

At 15K, Hunt and Hamel moved up a notch into 3rd and 4th respectively as Khan slipped back to 5th . By 40K those new to the 50K distance really began to feel the effects of running a marathon vs running 50K. Khan had a slow loop into 40K and Eric LiPuma passed him taking over the 5th position. Hamel and Hunt also changed places with Hamel moving into 3rd and Hunt taking 4th spot, again at the 40K mark. Third thru fifth would stay to the end of the race. However, the battle for first between Bogina and Ornelas was not settled until the final lap where Zach’s ultra-experience made the difference. Finishing the 9th loop (45K) Austin had a 3:19 lead on Zach. That last lap must have seemed like eternity for Bogina. Ornelas ran according to his plan, running consistently and waiting, waiting, and waiting. It paid off as Ornelas ran 17:28 the last 5k while Bogina ran 21:32 losing his lead and finishing behind Ornelas by 53 seconds. Zach Ornelas finished in 2:50:02 as the 2019 US 50K national champion and a new personal best. “I knew Austin and several others were very good runners but I was confident in my experience at 50k+. My plan was to stick to my race and not somebody else’s, and that proved to work like a charm. My good friend and training partner Geoff Burns always calls the day before these big races and offers sage advice. He reminded me again that the race doesn’t start until 42k and to stick to my page and execute from that point forward. That’s exactly what I did and I heard that voice in the final miles!” When asked about the best part of the race. Ornelas easily replied, “Best part was hugging my mom at the finish. I don’t even want to know how much debt my parents took on in my lifetime to go see my races. To all the parents reading this: showing up for your kid makes a HUGE difference. My best students, and my best student-athletes, have parents who are there as often as possible and it’s not a coincidence. It has always let me know that my parents care about my passion, even though neither of my parents were ever serious runners. When you care what your kids do, they feel supported in ways that a coach/private coach/tutor/teacher can’t replicate.“


Austin Bogina finished an amazing race wih his inaugural ultra attempt in a very respectable 2:50:55. Self-coached and a PhD student in sport management at the University of Kansas, Bogina commented that this was a great 1st ultra, “a good test of what I did right and what I can do better next time”. Ornelas added, “Last time out here I led 9 laps and lost in the final. I know from experience how bad that feels but I hope Bogina uses that feeling to seek vegence and come to Romania to break an AR. I want a team of animals out there.”

Third place went to Derrick Hamel in 5:54:41, 4th place to Craig Hunt in 2:56:07, and 5th to Eric LiPuma, 2:58:30. Five men under 3 hours, absolutely amazing and a testament to the elite quality of the men who raced in the 2019 50K national championships.

First master was Boyd Carrington, 46, Amityville, NY, who also placed 7th overall.

Of special note is Jean Pommier , 55, Cupertino, CA who finished in 9th place overall and 1st in masters 55-59 in 3:31:58 and a new American age group record

The women also presented a very impressive field. Janet Bawcom, 40, Falgstaff, AZ, is a name that many will remember as a member of the 2012 US Olympic Team competing in the 10,000 meter where she placed 12th in 31:12. Growing up in Kenya where Henry Rono coached her, Janet came to the US to attend college at Harding University (Arkansas). In 2012, she set the American record for the 25K in 1:24:36. Most recently, Janet finished the 2019 Phoenix Marathon placing 1st with a time of 2:42:18. This was Janet’s inaugural effort at the ultramarathon. Running with Janet in the early laps was Tara Richardson, 27, Glenwood Springs, CO. She is an accomplished trail and mountain runner and placed 2nd in the 2018 national trail marathon in Moab, Utah. In 3rd position was late entrant Elizabeth Northern, 31, from Fort Worth TX. Elizabeth decided only 2 days before that she would participate in the 50K nationals with the sole purpose to make the national team. She was coming back to running after taking time off for the birth of her two children (ages 1 and 3). She has a very consistent history of running marathons in the low 2:40’s since 2013 and most recently, she ran 2:43:51 at the 2019 Houston Marathon. She also has a 3:21:30 at the 2016 50K Cowtown 50K.


The order of the women remained the same for the first 3 laps (15K) with Richardson and Bawcom running side by side and Northern running only a few seconds behind. At 20K, Richardson began to gain on Bawcom with a 41-second lead as Bawcom appeared to be laboring. Trying hard to finish another lap, Bawcom was really suffering from respiratory distress and dropped from the race just shy of 25K leaving Richardson in control of 1st place with Northern almost a minute behind at 25K. The race was now really between Richardson and Northern as Richardson continued to lead through 45K. At 40K, the lead for Richardson had grown to 2:43 and it looked like things were going well for Tara. Meanwhile, Northern was breezing through her 5Ks being very consistent with her 5K loop times and not appearing to be laboring grinning continuously. For Richardson, things were not going so well. The wheels really started to come off at 40K with a slowdown of over 3 minutes for that 5K loop. Meanwhile Northern continued to run consistently, not appearing to be slowing at all. On the final lap with Richardson really suffering, and after 45K being behind Richardson, Northern took the reins and led the women to the finish line as the 2019 women’s national 50K champion in 3:20:07. Northern accomplished her goal of making the national team. “I know I can’t go out fast, my goal was to get under 3:33. I saw Tara on the out and back finishing up the 9th lap. Once I passed her, I tried to get some space between us, but I still felt slow. My 9th lap was the slowest, but I was on pace the final loop. I will be ready for Romania!!”

Tara Richardson ran a gutsy race and followed in 2nd place in 3:31:06. She commented that the “half marathon was good, smooth and went by quickly, but by the marathon, things were tough and painful. Next time (she hopes to return to Caumsett) I will fuel better with items that provide greater sustenance. My goal is to make a national team” Running with Janet Bawcom was a very special opportunity. Richardson mentioned,” we talked and joked around, and said the first 9 laps would be a warm-up then we would race the final lap”.


A very special thanks and appreciation to Carl Grossbard and Sue Fitzpatrick of the Greater Long Island Running Club and to all the outstanding volunteers for putting on an amazing and incredibly well orchestrated event. I am so grateful to all of you and for what you have contributed to the running community. Definitely the gold standard!!!

1 Comment

  1. robert ford

    we are proud of you Elizabeth northern do good at the worlds for our us team.


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