RCU Charity Classic

Results and History

Race Records
RCU 2 RCU 10k
Male Joe Uhan (2005) 9:46.8 Jason Finch (2010) 31:29
Female Dani Fischer (2013) 11.01 Dani Fischer (2013) 35.37
Sawdust City 2 Sawdust City 6
Male Dan Held (1989) 28:15
Female Kris Hoel (1994)  35:16
Course Records
RCU 2 RCU 10k (2011 - present)
Male Sean Olson (2011) 9:58 Brent Kann (2011) 32:23
Female Dani Fischer (2013) 11.01 Dani Fischer (2013) 35.37

2015 •  2014 • 2013 • 2012 • 2011
2010 • 2009 • 2008 • 2007 • 2006 • 2005 • 2004 • 2003 • 2002 2001

History. 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 1976 Boston marathon and the 1975 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.

Dan 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.

Royal Credit 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. 

Each year, 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 race.

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 in 2011.

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