It all came down to the Turkey Trot.
Just one point separated Kelsey Gratien and Maura Tyrrell for the top spot in the Buffalo News Runner of the Year series. But the friends and training partners were exhausted by the time November came around. The competition spurred some of their best times across multiple events. And the final 8K of the year, well, that was going to be a challenge.
“We were doing all these races on top of other races we planned to do and it took a lot out of us by the end of the year,” Gratien said. “At the Turkey Trot, we were both exhausted and it was just going to be a battle of who could hold on.”
It ended up being a pretty good race for both women, with Gratien getting the edge, finishing in 29:37, ahead of Tyrrell, who finished in 30:08.
And with that finish, Gratien won the Buffalo News Runner of the Year on the women’s side while Nick Orlowski won his first Buffalo News Runner of the Year title on the men’s side by a comfortable margin over Jim Salmeri.
For Gratien, competing for the series title became her goal for this year after giving birth to her third child in July 2017.
She understood the commitment required to take aim at Runner of the Year since her husband, Pete Gratien, won the men’s title in 2016.
“He’s been immensely supportive,” Kelsey said. “There are so many times I have to leave him with the kids to go running, I think if he wasn’t a runner, I’d feel really guilty. He understands that I need this.”
Gratien grew up doing a little bit of running at Livonia High School then ran cross country in college at LeMoyne, where she met her husband. But it wasn’t until she got married and finished graduate school that she got serious about running. And this summer was off-the-charts good.
“I had my best running year ever,” Gratien said. “I PR'ed in every distance – the mile, half-marathon, 5K, 8K, 10K, 15K. It was just the best season.”
For Orlowski, the Runner of the Year series lined up perfectly with his training.
“At the beginning of the season there was a half=marathon I was gunning for in the fall, but things change along the way, training changes, and I decided to give the series a shot,” Orlowski said. “It’s something I’d been wanting to do and it kinda fell into my court honestly.”
He kicked off the series with a third-place overall finish at the Shamrock run, finishing the 8K in 26:19. He was the overall winner at the GBTC Grand Island Half Marathon with a time of 1:14:51. He took second at the Hall of Fame 5K and third at St. Greg’s Great Race and the Checkers AC Mueller Mile.
“It’s nice getting that range of events in there,” Orlowski said. “It keeps you on your toes with your training and you have to be aware as to who shows up and the mindset for the race.”
Orlwoski started running in middle school and went to the New York State championships in cross country for Alden before running at Niagara University.
Winning Buffalo News Runner of the Year is an entirely different experience.
“It’s humbling,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good runners who won it and to be on that list with them is such an accomplishment and just really, really cool.”
Overall men: 1-Nick Orlowski (Lancaster), 2-Jim Salmeri (Lockport), 3-Alex Farrell (Buffalo), 4-Joseph Moberg (Wilson), 5-Chris Muldoon (Amherst), 6-Jim Park (Buffalo), 7-John Schnitter (Geneseo), 8-Geoffrey Koch (Lancaster), T9-Mutai Kiprop (Bowling Green, Ohio), T9-Chad Maloy (Boston), T9-Jimmy Martin (Buffalo), T9-Austin Oetinger (Getzville), T9-Brennan Root (Rush).
Overall women: 1-Kelsey Gratien (Amherst), 2-Maura Tyrrell (Buffalo), 3-Kim Vona (Angola), 4-Sarah Danner (Buffalo), 5-Amy Fatkerowitz (Williamsville), 6-Mary Lawrence (Boston), 7-Elizabeth Neel (Cheektowaga), T8-Jennifer Boerner (Ithaca), T8-Alexandra Cadicamo (New York, N.Y.), T8-Vicoty Chepngno (Bowling Green, Ohio), T8-Jillian Kosinski (Buffalo), T8-Kennedy Thomson (Thorold, Ontario).
Men 20-24: 1-Nick Orlowski (Lancaster) 10, 2-Jimmy Martin (Buffalo), T3-Omar Boulama (Rochester), T3-Otto Kingstedt (Rochester), T3-Steve Neumaier (Lancaster), T3-Austin Oetlinger (Getzville), T3-Brennan Root (Rush), T3-Kyle Ruffner (Lancaster).
Women 20-24: 1-Sarah Danner (Buffalo), T2-Sarah Abell (Buffalo), T2-Vicoty Chepngno (Bowling Green, Ohio), T2-Amber Custodi (Ransomville), T2-Fiona Danieu (East Aurora), T2-Kailee Defranks (Buffalo), T2-Mary Hart (Hamburg), T2-Syd Steger (West Seneca).
Men 25-29: 1-Joseph Moberg (Wilson), 2-Alex Farrell (Buffalo), 3-John Schnitter (Geneseo).
Women 25-29: 1-Kim Vona (Angola), T2-Chelsey Evaldi (Buffalo), T2-Cassie Goodman (Phelps), T2-Amy Kawa (West Seneca), T2-Lizzy Mahoney (Buffalo), T2-Meg Manley (Orchard Park), T2-Brittany Moore (Orchard Park), T2-Allyn Petit (Getzville), T2-Justine Wahl (Buffalo), T2-Margaret Wanahiga (Lansing, Mich.)
Men: 30-34: 1-Jim Salmeri (Lockport), 2-Chris Muldoon (Amherst), 3- William Balling (Tonawanda).
Women 30-34: 1-Maura Tyrrell (Buffalo), 2-Kelsey Gratien (Amherst), 3-Jillian Kosinski (Buffalo).
Men: 35-39: 1-Geoffrey Koch (Lancaster), 2-Christopher Smykal (Orchard Park), T3-Paul Donnelly (Minneapolis, Minn.), T3-Michael Kraus (Tonawanda), T3-Alene Reta (New York, N.Y.), T3-Michael Selig (Ithaca).
Women 35-39: T1-Jennifer Boerner (Ithaca), T1-Alicen Feroleto (Buffalo), T3-Juli Hergenroder (Orchard Park), T3-Mary Schultz (Buffalo).
Men 40-44: 1-Matthew Dore (Buffalo), 2-Jay List (Amherst), T3-Anthony Cinotti (Akron), T3-Alfredo Longo (Williamsville).
Women 40-44: 1-Mary Lawrence (Boston), 2-Dawn Socie (North Tonawanda), 3- Maureen Sweeney (Depew).
Men 45-49: 1-Jonathan Lane (Buffalo), 2-Kevin Burke (Buffalo), T3-Alan Ruffner (Lancaster), T3-Scott Thompson (Holland).
Women 45-49: 1-Kelly Roberts (Barker), T2-Denise Seelbach (Tonawanda), T2-Kim Strasser (Alden).
Men 50-54: 1-Jim Park (Buffalo), T2-Mike Nier (Rochester),T2-Paul Pulinski (Hamburg).
Women 50-54: 1-Amy Fakterowitz (Williamsville), T2-Nancy Duke (Buffalo), T2-Beth Skorka-Zola (East Amherst).
Men 55-59: 1-Sam Legierski (Buffalo), 2-Paul Noe (East Amherst), 3-Allen Dise (Albion).
Women 55-59: T1-Colleen Magnussen (Buffalo), T1-Christine Quenneville (East Amherst), 3-Ann Marie Gannon (Hamburg).
Men 60-64: 1-David MacVittie (Williamsville), 2-Sam Legierski (Amherst), T3-John Feroleto (Buffalo), T3-Bill Mcnamara (Lewiston).
Women 60-64: 1-Brigitte Soltiz (Alden), 2-Stephanie Spritzer (Williamsville), 3-Teresa Darlak (Williamsville).
Men 65-59: 1-Frank Gioia (Batavia), 2-Joseph Sonneberg (Derby), 3- David Velarde (Buffalo).
Women 65-69: 1-Elaine McGrath (Newfane), 2-Noreen Mcallister (Hamburg), 3-Debra Stachura (West Seneca).
Men 70-74: 1-Tony Gingello (Rochester), 2-Dennis Sears (Orchard Park), 3-Paul Pietraszewski (Buffalo).
Women 70-74: 1-Barbara Sauer (Buffalo), 2- Judy Mowery (Fredonia),3- Mac Mackenzie (Jamestown).
Men 75-59: 1-Michael Williams Sr. (West Valley), 2-Bill Steffenhagen (Franklinville), 3-Bill Harden (Buffalo).
Women 75-79: 1-Christa Maier (Buffalo), 2- Fran Rowe (Niagara Falls), 3-Mac Mackenzie (Jamestown).
Men 80-84: 1-Don Wood (Hamburg), 2-Hap Holway (Tonawanda), 3-Kent Chisholm (St. Catharines, Ontario).
Women 80-84: 1-Edna Hyner (South Wales), 2-Edye Radice (Tonawanda), 3- Wendi Hanger (Toronto, Ontario).
Men 85-89: 1-Jerry Rivard (Buffalo), 2-Ted Sullivan (Williamsville), 3-David Willett (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario)
Women 85-89: 1-Jerry Clauss
Men 90-99: Richard Sullivan (Buffalo)
Saturday, Dec. 15
- Ugly Sweater Caroler 5K, 10 a.m., Irishman Pub, East Aurora
Saturday Dec. 22
- Holiday 5K at Old Fort Niagara, 11 a.m., Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown
Monday, Dec. 31
- New Year's Eve 5K, noon, Fort Niagara State Park, Lewiston
Tuesday, Jan. 1
- iRun WNY 5K New Year’s Classic, noon, Fort Niagara State Park, Lewiston
Saturday, Jan. 5
- Chautauqua Striders Winter 5K Series No. 1, 10 a.m., Lakewood Rod & Gun Club, 433 E. Terrace Ave., Lakewood
Monday, Jan. 7
- Jackrabbit Snowshoe Series No. 1, 2 mile and 1 mile cross country, 6:30 pm. Kissing Bridge
Saturday, Jan. 12
- Chautauqua Striders Winter 5K Series No. 2, 10 a.m., Lakewood Rod & Gun Club, 433 E. Terrace Ave., Lakewood
Monday, Jan. 14
- Jackrabbit Snowshoe Series No. 2, 2 mile and 1 mile cross country, 6:30 pm. Kissing Bridge
Saturday, Jan. 19
- Chautauqua Striders Winter 5K Series No. 3, 10 a.m., Lakewood Rod & Gun Club, 433 E. Terrace Ave., Lakewood
Monday, Jan. 21
- Jackrabbit Snowshoe Series No. 3, 2 mile and 1 mile cross country, 6:30 pm. Kissing Bridge
Saturday, Jan. 26
- Chautauqua Striders Winter 5K Series No. 5, 10 a.m., Lakewood Rod & Gun Club, 433 E. Terrace Ave., Lakewood
Sunday, Jan. 27
- Penguin Run, 5K, 10 a.m., Classics V Banquet Facility, 2425 Niagara Falls Blvd, Amherst.
Monday, Jan. 28
- Jackrabbit Snowshoe Series No. 4, 2 mile and 1 mile cross country, 6:30 pm. Kissing Bridge