HILLSBOROUGH: Teacher wins Princeton Half-Marathon

Auten Road School teacher leads the field

By Justin Feil, Packet Media Group
   Despite the stereotype, catchers can run.
   Mike Davis, a former high school and college catcher, won the inaugural Princeton Half Marathon in one hour, 21 minutes, 23 seconds on Nov. 3.
   ”I’m trying to break that stigma,” laughed Davis, who averaged 6:12 per mile.
   Davis, a physical education teacher at the Auten Road Intermediate School in Hillsborough, will run the Philadelphia Marathon this Sunday, Nov. 17. The Princeton race was the perfect tune-up for him, and a big confidence boost. He had run about the same time seven weeks ago at a flatter, faster Philadelphia Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon, and his improved fitness paid off.
   ”This is my first first-place finish, so it was awesome,” Davis said. “I was joking around with my wife — she’s running it as well — and I said, I’d like to place in my age group. Halfway through, I thought I might place first. So I just tried to hold on for as long as I could and finish up strong.”
   The 32-year-old from Scotch Plains trailed Princeton University lightweight men’s crew coach Marty Crotty through the first six miles of the course before Davis caught him going up Washington Road.
   ”I caught him in the middle of the hill, and I turned to him and he said, ‘Gravity’s taking me down,’” Davis recalled. “He said, ‘All I wanted to do was be in first place to see my kids.’ I said, ‘Did you see them?’ He said, ‘I did. Go ahead.’
   ”From there, I took off and the weather was great and I felt good. It was a great run. I was happy with it.”
   Crotty would finish fourth in 1:26:24. Davis is a relative newcomer to the running scene, but, with a Boston Marathon qualifying time and a regular training and racing schedule, he is hooked on his new passion.
   ”I just started running three years ago,” Davis said. “I played baseball and basketball through high school. Then I played college baseball. Then my wife and I were looking to do some competitive stuff and I picked up running three years ago, and it’s kind of taken off.
   ”I was a catcher. I was 40 pounds heavier in college. One knee surgery, and now it’s part of my life. I (run) every single day.”
   Albert Lee, a West Windsor-Plainsboro High South graduate who is now a sophomore at Princeton University, finished second in 1:22:20.
   ”I could always see (Davis) ahead, but I just concentrated on running a good race,” Lee said. “The course was really beautiful, and it was really fun. There were people cheering you on every mile. It was just a great race and I really enjoyed it.”
   Lee is part of the Princeton University running club that had a strong presence in the race. Another Princeton University running club member, Jacob Miller, came in third in 1:24:52. David Kimmel rounded out the top five in 1:26:55.
   Denise Peterson led start to finish to win the women’s division in 1:31:17, ahead of Christen Rillo, who closed the gap toward the end of the race but never caught Peterson, who celebrated and then planned to return to New York City to watch that city’s marathon with more hardware than she ever expected.