Marquette University alums Cassie Nelson and Scott Mueller started their Fourth of July celebrations at full speed Sunday morning.
Nelson ran a 23:54 to win the women's division in the Firecracker Four in Hales Corners, and Mueller bested the field with a 19:48 - keeping the tempo just under 5-minutes-per mile. Both won by comfortable margins: Nelson nearly 40 seconds ahead of Heidi Haapasklo, and Mueller 12 seconds in front of Ryan Jacobs. of Roxue, Ill.
The 33rd annual race through the wooded neighborhoods off Highway 100 not only drew a big field of 1,100, it also drew an international one.
According to the results, Haapasklo hails from Tampere, Finland.
Nelson, 25, earned Big East All-Conference honors on the Marquette track team. Pursuing post-graduate studies, she has been near the top of most local races over the past three years.
Mueller has been all but unbeatable in the short-distance road races. He now has a three-peat in the SuperRun 5K and didn't waste any time adding another trophy on the Fourth.
Nelson and Mueller have added some great young talent to the local race scene and help pull along an impressive group in the master's divisions. Haapasklo is 40, Mary Gellerup-Bolich, fifth overall among women, is 48, and Jerry Husz, 6th overall in 20:49, is 50.
In the New Berlin National Dash, Ben Garbe won the men's division in 16:10, and Briana Boehmer ran the 5K in 17:58 to lead the women.
Personal note: I've talked about running the Firecracker Four for years, but always gave in to a cup of coffee and the Bay View Fourth of July Parade down the street. Skipping the usual Summerfest shenanigans also helped get me on the road early in the morning.
It was well worth it. The course rolls nicely and the tree-lined streets provided just enough shade to counter the humidity. I somehow hit a good groove early, and steamed to the finish in 25:39, well under my 27ish thinking going in.
This either means I am in good fitness for the Summerfest Rock 'n Sole Half-Marathon, or I burned the snap out of my legs a week too soon.