Saturday, July 29, 2017

Running with the Devil and Matt McCurdy

Matt McCurdy, a Florida State University doctoral student in applied mathematics, won Tallahassee's annual Devil-Take-The-Hindmost Race at the Mike Long Track on Saturday evening, 29 July 2017. That's more impressive when you know what the Devil-Take-The-Hindmost Race is.

Matt McCurdy
Matt McCurdy

Briefly, a Devil-Take-The-Hindmost race is a run where the last runner is taken off the track at the end of each lap. In Tallahassee, removal is done by the Devil, or at least by someone dressed as the Devil. The winner is the last athlete left on the track. In the Tallahassee version, the first lap is a parade lap and elimination doesn't start till the end of the second lap. Each elimination lap has a two-minute limit. Anyone who doesn't finish the lap in two minutes is out of the race. Also, no one can start the next lap till the two minutes is up, allowing the field to regroup at the end of each lap. The length of the race depends upon the number of runners. If there are 50 athletes in the field, the race could go on for 50 laps.

27 athletes made it to the starting line of the 2017 race. At 7:00 PM, the Devil led them around the track for their first lap. Then the Devil waited for the end of the second lap and her first victim.

2017 Devil-Take-The-Hindmost Race
The First Lap

The first to be taken off the track was Alexa Poage, an eighth-grader on the cross-country team at Deerlake Middle School, out after two laps. After the third lap the Devil grabbed Nashville, Georgia master runner John Bolmer. The Devil had an especially good harvest at the end of the fourth lap, collecting Zack Bridges, Zack Scharlepp, and Lance Bolmer. 22 survivors started their second mile.

Wakulla master runner Doug Cole went to the Devil after the fifth lap, Tallahassee master runner Mike Boll after the sixth. Eleven-year-old Tallahassee runner Ryan Poage fell after seven laps, and master runner Stuart Poage after eight laps. The third mile began.

Stuart Poage
Stuart Poage

The Devil caught Tallahassee master runner Monica Judd at the end of the ninth lap, leaving Kat Sack and Katie Sherron as the last two women on the track. Matt Hohmeister was the Devil's victim on the tenth lap. Zach DeVeau, pushing his infant son Barrett in a stroller, was gone after the eleventh lap. Seth Kerr couldn't avoid the Devil's embrace at the end of lap twelve. Lap thirteen proved unlucky for Morgan Bolmer, a Berrien County High sophomore cross-country runner, taken by the Devil after that lap.

Two master runners went out next, Laryn Flikkema after lap fourteen and Brian Molen after lap fifteen. Kat Sack was the Devil's victim on the sixteenth lap, so Katie Sherron was the only woman left on the track. The women's champ only lasted one more lap, though; Sherron was gone after lap seventeen. Jack McDermott, the last master runner left in the race, fell into the Devil's clutches after eighteen laps. Eight runners were left.

2017 Devil-Take-The-Hindmost Race
Lap 18

Ryan Truchelut yanked his shoes off before starting the nineteenth lap, but barefoot running didn't help him evade the Devil. Truchelut never saw lap twenty. Bobby Duggleby did survive to start the twentieth lap, but met the Devil at the end of that circuit. Paul Guyas, exhausted by lap twenty, couldn't keep up on the 21st lap and was greeted by the Devil. Trevor Sununu had won the 2016 Devil-Take-The-Hindmost Race in 2016, going 21 laps without being caught by the Devil. In 2017 he went 22 laps before the Devil caught him. Added together, Sununu covered 43 laps before meeting the Devil, but meet her he did. The field was down to four.

Charlie Johnson took the lead on lap 23. Matt McCurdy and Chris O'Kelley let him go, safe because they were ahead of Bryce Cole. The Devil got Cole at the end of that lap, leaving three runners.

2017 Devil-Take-The-Hindmost Race
Lap 22

Johnson and McCurdy left O'Kelley behind for the Devil on the 24th lap, McCurdy hugging the rail to conserve energy. The Devil watched as Johnson and McCurdy started the 25th lap and a 400-meter duel for the win. The Devil would take the loser.

The Devil wouldn't get McCurdy. Starting off at a scorching sprint, McCurdy jumped out ahead of Johnson and didn't let up. It wasn't a surprise, though, for anyone familiar with McCurdy's career on the track team of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Charlie Johnson, Matt McCurdy
Charlie Johnson & Matt McCurdy

"I ran the 800 and the 4 x 400 relay," said McCurdy. "I've got some leg speed."

McCurdy finished the 25th lap safely, half a straightaway ahead of Johnson, winning the race. The Devil had to be satisfied with Johnson and 25 other souls. As for McCurdy getting away, well, there's always next year. The Devil can be patient.

Charlie Johnson
Charlie Johnson

Nancy Stedman starred as the Devil at the 2017 event. Bill Lott was timer and gatekeeper, while Tec Thomas kept score. The three kept the event running smoothly in spite of any obstruction Herb Will could come up with. The next Devil-Take-The-Hindmost Race will be Saturday, 28 July 2018, unless it isn't.

Devil Take The Hindmost Race
Mike Long Track, Tallahassee, Florida
Saturday, 29 July 2017 @ 7:00 PM ET
PlaceFirst NameLast NameM/FAgeHometownLaps
1.  MattMcCurdyM24Tallahassee, FL26
2.  CharlieJohnsonM37Tallahassee, FL25
3.  ChrisO'KelleyM24Tallahassee, FL24
4.  BryceColeM19Wakulla, FL23
5.  TrevorSununuM21Tallahassee, FL22
6.  PaulGuyasM39Tallahassee, FL21
7.  BobbyDugglebyM26Tallahassee, FL20
8.  RyanTruchelutM31Tallahassee, FL19
9.  JackMcDermottM48Tallahassee, FL18
10.  KatieSherronF35Tallahassee, FL17
11.  KatSackF25Tallahassee, FL16
12.  BrianMolenM41Tallahassee, FL15
13.  LarynFlikkemaM41Tallahassee, FL14
14.  MorganBolmerM14Nashville, GA13
15.  SethKerrM29Tallahassee, FL12
16.  ZachDeVeauM29Tallahassee, FL11
BarrettDeVeauM1Tallahassee, FL11
17.  MattHohmeisterM36Tallahassee, FL10
18.  MonicaJuddF43Tallahassee, FL9
19.  StuartPoageM42Tallahassee, FL8
20.  RyanPoageM11Tallahassee, FL7
21.  MikeBollM53Tallahassee, FL6
22.  DougColeM52Wakulla, FL5
23.  ZackScharleppM34Tallahassee, FL4
LanceBolmerM10Nashville, GA4
ZackBridgesM34Tallahassee, FL4
26.  JohnBolmerM41Nashville, GA3
27.  AlexaPoageF13Tallahassee, FL3