Detwiler takes on JFK 50 miler

U.S. Naval Academy wins Kennedy Cup

By Randy Lefko
Posted 11/23/17

BOONSBORO, Md. – Fleming Island High school wrestling, track and cross country standout David Detwiler Jr., a Class of 2016 graduate and now a second year student at the U.S. Naval Academy, took on …

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Detwiler takes on JFK 50 miler

U.S. Naval Academy wins Kennedy Cup


BOONSBORO, Md. – Fleming Island High school wrestling, track and cross country standout David Detwiler Jr., a Class of 2016 graduate and now a second year student at the U.S. Naval Academy, took on one of his biggest challenges and came out with an incredible eight hour plus finish at the JFK 50 Mile Ultradistance Race held Nov. 18 in Maryland.

Detwiler, with classmate Nico Sobrocco running at his side the entire 50.2 miles finished in eight hours, 20 minutes and 43.9 seconds for 84th place overall out of 807 starters. Detwiler finished 49th of 244 in his 20-39 age group and was 66th male out of 574 runners. Detwiler also was part of a larger group from the U.S. Naval Academy that won the Team Military title, the Kennedy Cup, for their efforts.

The JFK 50 Miler was resurrected in 1963 under U.S.President John F. Kennedy after he learned that President Theodore Roosevelt required all military officers be able to run 50 miles in under 20 hours to retain their commissions.

“The military personnel that take part in the JFK 50 Mile are extremely well-prepared, disciplined and (even when greatly fatigued) always courteous to everyone involved with organizing and/or supporting the event,” said race director Mike Spinnler, a former winner of the JFK 50 miler, a long time participant and the current race director since 1993. “It is always a true honor –and pleasure– to host U.S. Military personnel at the JFK 50 Mile.”

For Detwiler, the JFK 50 Mile race became simply a challenge to test his toughness and his Naval Academy training.

“I just felt like the biggest evalution I’d ever have would be just a four mile timed run or a five mile muck run,” said Detwiler. “We were doing the training and we just said let’s just go for it.”

Detwiler credited his high school conditioning with the wrestling team and coach P.J. Cobbert for putting his mind in the right set for the task.

“P.J. used to always say ‘get through it mentally’ when things got tough,” said Detwiler, who won district and region titles three years in a row for Cobbert to earn three state meet invites with a fifth his junior year. “I also wore my Fleming Island cross country shorts for parts of the race.”

Detwiler, though, has not just been sitting in classes at the Academy and doing occasional runs. His weekly regimen with his classmates at Annapolis has involved runs of 8-10 miles with weekend runs near 20 miles.

“My classmates, Jack Krall and Nico Sobrocco, who ran the entire race with me, have been doing runs up to 21 miles with elevation,” said Detwiler, a fifth place finisher in Class 3A wrestling for Fleming Island as well as a top runner in the 800 in track and cross country. “One final weekend included a 16 miler on Saturday and a 21 miler on Sunday.”

For Saturday’s 66th annual JFK 50 miler, actually 50.2 miles, starts in Boonsboro, Md., at Boonsboro High School, heads to the Appalachian Trail and gains 1172 feet in elevation with 13 miles of rugged trail running the first segment of the race.

“The weather was rainy and pretty cold, about 39 degrees, but we got lucky and didn’t get wet until after we finished the trail run segment,” said Detwiler. “From there until the 42 mile mark, we just ran as we felt with Nico keeping tabs on where we were with his GPS watch.”

After the Appalachian Trail segment, runners descend rapidly about 1,000 feet before connected to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath on the Potomac River. This section is 26.3 miles of dirt/gravel with no traffic.

Runners end this segment at the Dam #4 on the canal and finish the final 8.4 miles on rolling, paved country roads in Springfield Middle School in Williamsport.

“It was kind of strange when we got to the 42 mile mark because from there, with eight miles to go, I was thinking that an eight mile run in cross country is a workout,” said Detwiler. “I was fighting off cramps here and not wanting to look like those videos of marathoners wobbling across the finish line.”

Detwiler and Sobrocco gained some time in that final segment with a surge as the finish line was in sight.

“We had a guy in front of us and we both started to run faster to catch him,” said Detwiler. “It was a fun experience with Nico at my side the whole race.”

Detwiler’s race splits were as impressive as his finish with his first 27.1 miles run in 4:28.41 and his second 26.3 miles run in just under 4:10 for a 9:59 per mile pace.

“The rocks and elevation in the beginning were tough enough that I will probably never complain about our runs with elevation,” said Detwiler. “When that got done and it flattened a bit, we got into a good rhythm and gained some time.”

Top male runner was Eric Senseman, 28, of Flagstaff, Arizona, in 5:46.54 with top female runner Emily Harrison Torrence, 31, also of Flagstaff, finishing ninth overall in 6:27.42.2.


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