On a day where the air was so thick that it could be sliced with a knife, Elmer McPhail, 54, showed that age and experience can overcome youth by winning the Anne Arundel cross country series race at South River High School.
McPhail, a long time Anne Arundel County coach, let Trevor Keen of Salisbury University and Richard Pineda take the early lead and just let the humidity take its toll.
"I knew the heat would wear everyone down, so I just went out easy and let them come back to me", said McPhail. McPhail won in an impressive 18:22 for the 5K course through the woods.
Josh Carroll, the South River high school coach and meet director, said that the course brought its own challenges.
"With the storms last week, we had a number of downed trees and big water puddles through the woods", said Carroll. "We had to spend a lot of quality time with chainsaws to move the trees out of the path."
While the heat and humidity was oppressive in the field, once the athletes entered the woods with no breeze, the humidity levels drained even the most prepared runners.
Keen and Pineda who were running far in front of the field at the two mile mark, wilted in the last 800 meters with Keen finishing third in 18:41 with Pineda fourth in 18:58. Scott Phipps of Chesapeake moved into second in the last 400 meters with a 18:31. Andrew McLean from Huntingtown completed the top five at 18:59.
Carolyn Zotti was the first female runner coming in at 24:36.
McPhail is preparing for the John Wall mile run this Saturday and hoped that the heat and humidity didn't take a lot out of him.
"I'm hoping to run around 4:50", said McPhail, "I've prepared for the race, but there is no way you can prepare for this heat."
Stu McLean of Huntingtown was one athlete who despite the conditions was able to significantly cut his time from last year.
McLean, who ran 24:32 time this year said he cut his time in half from 2009.
"It helps when you don't get lost in the woods and spend 20 minutes trying to find your way out", said McLean with a smile.