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Spill fails to slow Sypniewski

Henry Sypniewski will remember 2010 as a year of ups and downs.

Literally.

The 92-year-old runner had an injury problem for part of the year. It's not one usually associated with people of that age, although we know there's nothing conventional about Sypniewski.

"I fell out of a tree," he said matter of factly.

Henry, what were you doing in a tree in the first place?

"There was a branch that needed to come down," he answered.

It was nothing serious, though, and he still had a good year on the roads of Western New York. He won the Paul Spangler Award from USA Track and Field. That goes to the outstanding Masters long distance runner in the oldest age category. Sypniewski also won it in 2009.

The Cheektowaga resident took home the Age-Division Athlete of the Year award in the 90-over class. It's the seventh time in his career that he's won an age-group award from the national organization, dating back to 1998.

What's more, it sounds as if he's ready to win another such trophy in 2011. Sypniewski was invited to a 5-kilometer race in Woodbridge, Conn., on New Year's Day to compete against three other 90-plus runners. It would have been the first time in history that a road race had four competitors above the age of 90. That event was a little far and a little cold for Sypniewski's taste, but when the temperatures warm up here he'll be ready.

"I'm back in shape," he said confidently.

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>Numbers, please

The statistics are in for the 2010 running season, and the local boom in races continues without a sign of slowing.

Fritz Van Leaven of Tonawanda has added the numbers from 282 races in Western New York and Southern Ontario from last year, and the grand total of entries was 86,340. That is a 16 percent jump over the 2009 figure of 72,323. What's more, it's almost double the 2007 figure of 44,624.

Marathons and half-marathons were well-represented on the list of biggest races, taking up four spots. Number one in finishers was the YMCA Turkey Trot at 10,900. The Susan G. Komen WNY Race for the Cure was the only 5K race to crack the top 10. It was 10th at 1,165.

In terms of increases, the Shamrock Run had a great year by going from 2,878 to 3,603, an increase of 725. The Bunny Hop (311) and Lindsay's Legacy (208) also showed healthy jumps in finishers.

Five area races increased their size by more than 100 percent. The Running with the Rapids in Niagara Falls went from 59 finishers to 192, an amazing 225 percent jump.

Two races had more than 400 runners in their debuts this past year -- the Lois Koss Memorial 5K in Hamburg, and the Buffalo Greek Fest 5K. Ten races did at least 200 runners in their first year.

Participation in the Buffalo Runner of the Year series went up 5.6 percent, led by a 62 percent jump in participation in the GBTC Grand Island Half Marathon. A total of 20,324 runners took part in the series.

The most popular month for races was September at 40, with August right behind at 38. December was the quietest month with 6.

Finally, if you think there are a lot of 5K races out there, you're right. There were 268 on Van Leaven's list for 2010. The second-most popular distance was the 10-kilometer race at 21.

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>Upcoming events

On Monday, "Hood to Coast," a movie about the fabled relay race in Oregon that attracts 12,000 runners, will be shown at the Elmwood Center 16 on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo and the Transit Center Stadium 18 on Transit Road in Williamsville. Starting time is 8 p.m.

John Beishline is staging his annual race director's meeting Jan. 18 at the Wendelville Fire Company Hall, 7340 Campbell Blvd., Pendleton, which is just north of the bridge over Tonawanda Creek. The starting time is 7 p.m., and Beishline promises pizza, beer, pop and speakers for a $15 contribution.

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>Race calendar

* Snowball Run, 5K, 4110 Bailey Ave. in Amherst, 10 a.m. Saturday, 440-7507.

* Flurrious Forecast 2 Mile Run, Delaware Park, 9 a.m., next Sunday, 332-3501. Runners try to guess their time (no watches allowed); three closest runners win prizes.

e-mail: bbailey@buffnews.com

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