RCU Charity Classic
Results and History
Joe Uhan (2005)
Finch (2010) 31:29
Dan Held (1989)
(2011 - present)
Fischer (2013) 11.01
The RCU Charity
Classic has its roots in Eau Claire's Sawdust City Day Festival which
sought to celebrate the city's heritage in the lumber
industry. The ITC organized the Sawdust City 6 mile race on
June 26, 1971 to join the celebration. The entry fee was $1 and over 50
runners participated. The first course was a 2 mile counter-clockwise
loop, starting at Owen Park crossing the Water Street Bridge, turning
left onto State Street then recrossing the Chippewa River at the Grand
Avenue Bridge before returning to Owen Park. The runners were required
to make 3 circuits and the finish line was adjusted to insure a precise
6 mile course. Chuck Ceronsky of Bloomington, Minnesota finished first
with a time of 30:14.
In 1972, the club changed the route to an out and back course.
From Owen Park, the runners crossed the Chippewa River, went down
Putnam Park Drive to the 3 mile turn-around point and returned. This
course remained unchanged for years to come. Although Putnam Park Drive
was shady, it could be a very hot run with little breeze. Chuck
Ceronsky defended his title in 1972 winning in 29:29. That year, there
were 65 runners.
In 1976, the
club decided to mix things up a little. Two separate heats were run:
the women's heat and the open heat. For instance in 1977, 19 women ran
in the women's heat which was won by Kim Merritt, the winner of the
Boston marathon and the
New York marathon, in 36:04. The open heat drew 109 runners.
Kim Merritt, also ran in this heat, finishing in 26th place with a time
of 35:09, almost one minute faster than her run one hour earlier in the
women's race. The 2 heat race remained format popular for a number of
years and continued up to 1983 when 103 runners competed in women's
heat and 309 runners competed in the open heat.
Legend has it that many women's records were set during that time since
the women did not have to worry about any men trailing behind, getting
lost and not asking for directions. Another legend says that the women
loved their own race, but the men complained about the "lack of
scenery". Like all legends, we may never know the complete truth about
what prompted the re-unification of the separate races.
Conway won the open division in 31:42 in 1983 before going on
to become master's World Champion at the 10K distance with a time of
30:26. In 1989, Dan
Held, the former UW-EC runner, and Brett
Burt, the former UW-La Crosse runner, finished first and
second with times of 28:15 and 28:57. This was the first time anyone
had run under 29 minutes. "This was an amazing performance---about as
good as you'll see on this course", said Sean Harnett, who was one of
Held's coaches at UW-EC.
In 1992, Kris lhle's finished with a women's record time of 35:51 In
1994, her record was broken by Kris Hoel who finished in 35:16 which
record continues to this day at the 6 mile distance.
Union first became involved in the race in 1983 as one of the sponsors.
In 1994, the Royal Credit Union was looking for a way to raise money
for worthy charities in the Eau Claire community that involved
community participation in some kind of healthy sporting event, and the
club was looking for new sponsors. After a lucky meeting between ITC’s
Cheri Uelmen and RCU’s Charlie Grossklaus at a local watering hole, the
ITC and RCU decided to create the RCU Charity Classic. The original
Sawdust City 6 mile distance became the RCU Charity Classic
10K. A 2 mile race was added to appeal to walkers and runners
who want to race a shorter distance.
the proceeds from the event are donated to local charities.
In 2004, Jason
Finch, a former UW-Eau Claire All-American from Hudson, and
Jen Theisen took advantage of cool and crisp weather to establish the
race records for the 10K. Finch beat the record set in 2003 by Vince
Temu by seven seconds, and Theisen beat the record set by Suzy Stanley
in 1996 by 32 seconds.
In 2006, the race moved from its long time Owen Park location to the
RCU Corporate Center in Phoenix Park at the confluence of the Eau
Claire and Chippewa Rivers. It is also the location of the
Farmers’ Market which runners are free to visit during and after the
Larry Mbogo, while holding no
race or course records, has the most victories in the history of this
race, winning four times in the 2 mile race and four times in the 10K.
The race in 2010 is
well-remembered. Not only did a record 817
finishers cross the line at the 15th annual event, but two former
UW-Eau Claire standouts returned to their former stomping grounds to
break the 10K course records under hot and humid conditions. Jason
Finch, 33, of River Falls bettered his own mark in the 10K set in 2004
by 26 seconds, crossing the line in 31 minutes, 29 seconds. Finch, a
1999 Blugold alum and All-American, also claimed 10K titles in 1998 and
1999. Mary Palmer, a 2009 graduate, ran 38:06 for the women’s 10K
title, beating the second-place finisher by more than 3 minutes, but
barely eclipsing Jen Theisen’s 2004 record of 38:10. The 2010 course
featured a 180 degree Menomonie Street turnaround that was eliminated