Sunday, five women from the New Balance Chicago running team stood on the first place podium at the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K.

Kristen Heckert, Alyssa Schneider, Janna Mitsos, Karen Lesiewicz and Nora Ferguson made up the winning Female Elite Club team; Heckert, from Bolingbrook, Ill., finished sixth female overall with a time of 27:15. Schneider and Mitsos were also scoring teammates, with times of 27:23 and 28:01, respectively.

“It was a really great accomplishment for our team,” Schneider says. “Pretty much everyone in our group works full time jobs, multiple jobs, or is balancing grad school as well. It’s just a great group of hardworking people.”

A non-professional group had never won the women’s team title before, Schneider adds.

Heckert says the ladies knew winning was a possibility for New Balance Chicago, so focus and control was their main strategy for the race.

“The way we race depends on the type of runners we are,” Heckert explains. “I went out hard and then tried to see how long I could hold it.”

The team’s overall time of 1:22:39 is the third fastest combined team score ever, according to a press release from the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K.  Closely behind New Balance was Movin’ Shoes Races Team at 1:22:58, and Big River Racing at 1:23:27.

“I am so proud of our team and how all of the ladies raced,” Heckert adds. “They are such amazing women … I am so proud to be able to run with them.”

Fifty-three USATF-member club teams from around the country came to compete in the ninth annual Deloitte elite club competition. The winner of the men’s competition was Pike’s Peak Elite with a combined time of 1:35:20.

Overall winners included three-time champion Stephen Sambu, who broke the event’s sixth fastest time ever with 22:47, and two-time Olympian Kim Conley who won the women’s field by 59 seconds at 25:43.

Sambu holds the current 8K record (22:01.1), and is the second male to win three consecutive Shamrock Shuffle races. He now holds the fourth, sixth and fourteenth fastest times of the event.

“It feels really good to win again,” Sambu said in the press release. “This is the beginning of the year so this race is really important for the rest of the season. And Chicago is very nice – the fans are great and the course is fast. I like coming here.”

The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle was Conley’s first Chicago race, and she earned the eighth fastest time in the event’s history.

“The course was great and it offered a really nice five-mile tour of the city,” said Conley. “It has been a vibrant weekend in a great city, and to cap it off with a win feels good. I really enjoyed the experience, and this is a nice precursor to the track season.”

Alexi Pappas, who won the event in 2015 and 2016, was set to race again, but opted out of the elite competition due to injury. She still ran on Sunday and placed in the top 100 females.

Winner of the overall wheelchair competition was three-time Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion Amanda McGrory from Savoy, Ill., with a time of 20:06.

The streets of Chicago were filled with thousands of green runners Sunday as the St. Patrick’s Day celebration continued, and the spring racing season began.

“Grant Park was alive with runners this morning, and what a great annual celebration for our running community,” said Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski after the race Sunday. “I love everything about this race: the elite competition, the team competitions, the local runners and running clubs who come out every year, the families who have made this a tradition – it’s a great running party in a great city.”

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Holly’s running career began in high school; after being bummed about not making the volleyball team her sophomore year, she decided to join some of her middle school friends on the cross country team. She also did track in the fall, where the 1600 m race was her niche. Since then, she has run several shorter distance races and two half marathons. Her goal for 2017 is to try a triathlon, and eventually do the Chicago Marathon. She graduated from Illinois State University in May 2016 with a degree in journalism.

Working at Chicago Athlete, Holly has been able to explore photography a lot more, which is one of her main hobbies. She enjoys taking photos at endurance races, and is also passionate about nature photography and portraiture.

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