[Empire Orienteering Club]

Thacher State Park
November 10, 2001

Thacher 2001: Record Setting Local Meet

Somehow, I just knew this would not be a "normal" meet. In fact, early on I managed to get myself out of being the Meet Director for November at Thacher Park as originally scheduled, by switching with Bill Jameson when he had Army Reserve exercises scheduled for the September weekend we had set for Moreau. So I thought I was free from then on. Then Bill got called up for real; not exercises this time. And I was left scrambling to make something happen for EMPO in November.

I already knew we were going to have larger than usual attendance because (fortunately) I had been contacted previously by the Girl Scout leader covering the entire Latham/North Colonie area who was planning to bring a group of 50-100 girls and leaders. This was not something I could just shoulder alone. So I did what a leader needs to do in these situations: I looked for people to whom I could delegate tasks. And after a few plaintive appeals, both using e-mail and in person at the Columbus Day meet at Peebles Island, by George, people volunteered to help!

Glen Tryson shouldered the biggest task, designing the courses, including some field-check work. Amazingly, we were both in the same Thacher woods at the same time one day and never saw or had a clue that the other was there. We never did "see-eye-to-eye" on the dry ditch control on the plateau; but all the runners seemed to find it OK, so who am I to quibble?

Then there was the Fire. After everything was all set between Glen & I, and we had everyone lined up, I came home Thursday night in time to have Sue tell me that according to the news Thacher Park was burning down! We continued to hear occasional sirens through the night, as the Berne (our home) Volunteer Fire Department was one of the companies called to help in fighting this fire.

I had taken Friday off from work to hang flags (Red, Green & Orange; Glen was going to do Yellow & White on Saturday) and generally finalize things. So after a fitful night's sleep I headed over to the Park in the morning to assess the situation, and perhaps hang the flags if they would still let us in and there were still trees to hang them on.

It turned out that the fire was well away from where we would be, not even above the escarpment, and in a place I had not even realized was technically in the Park at all. Hey, it's not on the map! So once the Trooper in charge told me things looked OK for us (though he'd have to check with the Park Manager who was out at the fire site at that moment), I said thanks and headed into the woods to get those flags up.

When I got home that evening, not surprisingly there were a zillion messages from people wondering if our meet was till on given the situation with the fire. I tried to get back to everyone as quickly as I could, and sent a general message out to all active EMPO to let them know we were set to go. After copying another 50 maps or so, in order to keep the Girl Scouts from having to copy theirs, I finally hit the sack.

I probably wasn't ready for Saturday, but it dawned nonetheless. After a quick wash & gulp of food & coffee, off we (and now Sue & Marty were with me since they had to run their courses early, then help out later) went. I hung my remaining two flags, and met Glen (& Janet & Rob) at Hop Field only a few minutes after our appointed meeting time of 8 AM. I gave Glen the flags he needed to hang, got Sue started on her course, and with Janet got most of the Registration area together. And then the rest of our "First Shift" volunteers began to filter in.

To me, this was one of the highlights of the whole event: people kept coming in ready to work and help make it a great day for others. In the end, something like 20 people helped in some capacity or other. And when the Girl Scouts arrived, we were actually able to deal with all 100 or so of them and their parents and leaders and siblings. But beyond just the Scouts, we still had a huge crowd by our usual standards. It was thrilling to see Lines people waiting to start out on their courses (even while we tried hard to shorten split, and otherwise deal with those lines).

In the end, I think it all worked. Everyone who started a White course finished, so that was appropriately set (thanks, Glen!). The more challenging courses had some HFA's (Had Fun Anyway), but it seemed as though they really did. A few people managed to get caught in the (in)famous Thacher crevasses, but no one was seriously hurt. I got nervous at the end while we waited for the last controls to be picked up; but eventually they appeared, and the last of our volunteers were able to call it a day and head home. And then I drove Sue & Marty & I back home, after dropping the (long) list of meet participants off at the Park Office, so they could show someone all the wonderful things they do for so many people.

Altogether, it was a memorable day and event. We learned we could accomplish a lot together. Which is good to know as we slowly move towards hosting another national level event in a year or two or three. I would like to personally say "Thanks!" to everyone who helped (the list is WAY too long to include here), and everyone who attended. You were great teammates and great participants.

-Phil Hawkes-Teeter

club champions: first second third
click on the map icon to see the course
all maps approx. 1086x790, 165k
White Course
2.2km, 70m, 8 controls
Ashley WillseyF-Open0:26:43
Anna KuslerF-120:26:47
Christina ColeF-120:28:20
Barry SandersGS0:28:24
Scott ZoufalyGS-Troop 919 0:29:30
Jordyne GunthertF-120:30:00
Barbara DeFrancescoGS-Troop 828 0:32:55
Nancy McKillipGS-Troop 770 0:33:11
David BrattM-Open0:34:50
Emily HanGS0:36:01
Bill BrizzellGS-Troop 229 0:36:28
Beth OstwaldGS-Troop 292 0:38:40
Wendy GruenbergGS0:38:57
Melissa GilbertGS0:39:15
Fran FishlockGS0:40:03
Lucretia BulsonGS-Troop 919 0:40:39
DeFrancescoGS-Troop 8280:44:24
Kari VandenburghGS-Troop 926 0:45:07
Mary LabargeGS-Troop 828 0:46:40
Ann GiguereGS-Troop 826 0:46:56
Theresa MontanyeGS0:52:46
Jean BulmanGS-Troop 926 0:53:45
John Rajczewski Group 0:59:00
Patrice LoomisGS-Troop 826 1:07:45
Kathleen Rose F-121:08:45
Susan MackayGS-Troop 8261:10:26
Scott NeJame Group 1:10:27
Bev LaroseGS-Troop 9561:18:31
Yellow Course
2.9km, 90m, 8 controls
Mariana BartonicekF-150:38:20
Rob Tryson M-150:43:46
Ashley Willsey F-150:44:12
Jason Norray M-150:46:51
Geir J. GabrielsonM-Open (NROTC)0:51:59
Bruce France GroupBS-Troop 1491:18:00
Scott Bard GroupBS-Troop 1491:21:06
Robert Canham Family 1:28:28
Tom WrightM-Open1:30:51
Rachel Wright F-151:31:56
O'Neill Family 1:31:58
Megan & Mark Eiser 1:33:00
Connie Turner Family 1:33:35
Jay & Ben Watsky 1:34:58
Brian Rose M-151:40:23
Alexander Phillipson GroupNROTC1:42:40
Teresa Marzec Family 2:22:42
Jordyne GunthertF-15HFA
Verna Engstrom-HegF-OpenHFA
Kathy Staats Family HFA
Orange Course
3.8km, 120m, 9 controls
Marty Hawkes-Teeter M-18 0:46:50
Kato FellegiF-Open1:07:11
Tim Colston GroupNROTC1:20:05
John Rajczewski Group 1:35:17
Jack Norray M-181:39:30
Julie StenkenF-Open1:55:49
James Naughton Group 2:07:40
Mitchell/Clark Group 2:09:58
Liz & Alan Gee 2:14:27
Steve Perog Family 2:36:50
Craig Hoeffner Group HFA
Green Course
4.5km, 125m, 11 controls
Eric Hamilton M551:17:42
Robert M. LangeM-Open1:35:34
Rita Reed F351:38:45
Gerard MarzecM-Open1:46:47
Sue Hawkes-Teeter F451:49:44
Jim & Steven Rose 2:42:00
Mark StaatsM-OpenHFA
Dick Curtis & Shirley Morehouse HFA
Don Pettengill & Brenda Chase HFA
Red Course
6.5km, 200m, 15 controls
Laszlo Kolyvek M211:07:18
Grant Staats M211:08:36
Gabor BobokM211:17:38
Robert Reed M451:46:47
Kevin Matocha M211:58:26
Janet Tryson F212:03:05
Candice Raines F212:19:44
Susan Atwood F212:48:48
Michael GeorgeM21HFA
Reid SmalleyM45HFA

How The EMPO Champs Ran The Course

Several of the Club Champions recorded how they went on the Orange, Green and Red courses. The map shows routes taken by Marty Hawkes-Teeter (M-18) on Orange, by Rita Reed (F35+) on Green, and Laszlo Kolyvek (M21+) on Red. There are some good lessons which can be drawn from their experiences.

route map (approx. 1800x1300, 531KB)

Orange Course

Marty's route choices show him making good use of Thacher Park's extensive trail network. Because the Park is so developed, it is impossible to place many controls which don't offer a viable trail route option. This is even more true for an Orange course than for Green or Red. The course setter will try to present a control with a reasonable overland route. But unless it is quite a short leg, the runner will frequently choose to "bounce out" to the trail, run to a good attack point on the trail, and then cut into the woods to the flag. This is basically what he did for the entire course. There are a few interesting points to note, however.

From #1 to #2 he felt he made a bad choice by going directly to the flag, rather than around on the trail to the W side of it and then in. But note that the problem didn't really occur when he left the trail to climb the bank, it actually occurred when he left #1 and went WNW. He should have immediately gone SW to get on the trail there, and then there would have been no question of trying to climb the bank. The clue to making this choice up front was that going WNW he would be going down several contours. Anytime you see your route going down, check that where you want to end up (the control) is also down. If it's not, then look closely to be sure there isn't another route choice that might be a bit longer but avoids making you have to waste the elevation you've already gained and then climb back up again.

Green-Red Courses

The Green and Red courses had a lot of overlap. This greatly simplifies a lot of the work in putting on an event, and doesn't compromise anything until we start having much larger numbers on those courses (maybe when all of our White course Girl Scouts are a few years older?!). One of the things orienteers always have to watch out for in any event, is being too much influenced by what other orienteers are doing. If you see another orienteer going somewhere, they  may well not be looking for your control; and even if they are, they may be completely off target. This probably cost Rita a little time on Green#1. "My route was fairly direct, although I was briefly distracted as I noted Rob, my spouse, passing me on the right as he aimed toward his #1 Red control. Knowing that the course setter has been known in the past to use multiple common controls for the Red and Green courses, I was wondering for just a moment if I was perhaps off track. But no, shortly thereafter I spotted my control about 25 feet to the south."

On Green#7-Red#10  all of our Champions chose the Southern trail route. Why? Though it is further around than going direct, it was obvious to everyone that going through the woods would be much slower, particularly since by this point in the course they had been reminded how slowly you often have to move over the rocks and rock-holes in Thacher. And the third option of taking the N trail around along the cliff line was not as good because of losing elevation as you came down from the cliff line to the stream crossing. As Janet described her route and decision (very similar to Laszlo's, which is drawn on the map): "E to trail, then decided to go around to the south. This decision was made partly to eliminate the climb back up the hill on the trail NW of control. Then I cut the corner and ran the trails until the junction SW of control. Down into reentrant; went around the W-most cliff first before I saw the bag on the other cliff. Had a similar leg at previous EMPO meet where I attempted to go straight across and lost a little time because I wasn't always sure where I was relative to the cliffs, plus the footing is tricky up there, so I decided to play it safe this time around."

Green#8-Red#11 proved difficult for a number of folks, and the main reason is that there are not any good and obvious attack points right nearby. You needed to "read your way" in along the land forms, as Rita put it: "I traveled northeast, and came to the trail. I then followed the high route along the brook bank (following it too literally at first), and carefully made my way back to the park entrance road. I crossed this, observed land features, and eventually saw #8 perhaps 40 feet off to my right. It sure is nice to orienteer when the leaves are down."

With Green#9-Red#12, the best route choice revisits the question of paying attention to the climb involved, but here there is no trail option, so a different skill gets involved, called contouring. This means maintaining about the same elevation as you go around a hill or bank. If you get really good at it you can use this technique to hit a control quite precisely, but that much precision wasn't need here. In this case you just want to avoid going too far down the bank and hit the creek somewhere E of the cliff which is on the stream, in the flatter area. From there it is pretty easy to go N to the reentrant which you leads you to the depression and the control. Laszlo's route shows him getting it just right. However, Rita lost a little time getting too far down: "The route to #9 was a bit adventuresome, and certainly not the best choice, although it turned out reasonably smoothly. From #8 I carved down the steep bank. As I got closer to the cliff edge, I can say that I was a bit uneasy with the slippery leaves and the approaching precipice. I actually was probably 30 feet from the edge where it curves to the west before coming to the brook, but the slope, the leaves, and the lack of spiked shoes just made me a bit uncomfortable. In a short time I was crossing the dry brook bed, and began to carve up the opposite bank. I proceeded across the tableland, traveled over and down the terrain and soon came to the appropriate depression."

Red#14 was not on the Green course. It proved to be Laszlo's only miss, but he used an important orienteering skill, re-locating on an obvious major feature. The little reentrant used for this control is an unusual feature in that it is a pronounced gouge in the land, but it doesn't run for any great length, with little above or below it to help you home in, so it's easy to miss. "I saw something down at the cliff edge that I thought was the sharp bend in the path. So thinking I had gotten too far NW, I turned back SE, only to arrive back to the reentrant/stream-bed. At that point I knew exactly where I was, so I returned NW to the control." Thus despite the miss, Laszlo was able to re-locate quickly, and minimize the error.

It's always important to learn from the successes and mistakes of other orienteers. So go over your course with others after an event. Try drawing your route on the map, and see if there were other and perhaps better ways you could have gone. The next time out, you could have some new mental tools to use.

-Phil Hawkes-Teeter

Photo Album

EMPO meet workers provide beginning instruction as the lines form at the Start table in Thacher Park
You'd better get that course copied right, Dad Kevin punches in at the last control
Candice dashes from the final control to the Finish
Gerry leaves the flag and runs South to the Finish Grant gave Laszlo a very close run for the title of M21 EMPO Champion Rita is a blur as she leaves the last control and heads for the Finsh
The Start crew got a bit Cold, and perhaps a bit Crazy, as the morning wore on The Navy steams in to the Finish line
Agnes and Koppany arrive at the Finish The Clarks near the Finish
Pondering the results "You really messed the map up here, Dad"
EMPO M18 Champion Marty Hawkes-Teeter goes over his route with an interested party
"But what is that Crazy Guy talking about Dad?" "I found this bomb right here, Mom."
EMPO M15 Club Champion Rob Tryson goes over his course with his mother, Janet.
The Talmudic scholar studies the runes F12 EMPO Club Champion Kathleen Rose
EMPO F21 Club Champ Janet Tryson EMPO M21 Club Champ Laszlo Kolyvek receives his "ditty bag" award
The EMPO Club Champions for 2001 in the adult Female classes
F35 Rita Reed, F21 Janet Tryson, F45 Sue Hawkes-Teeter

last updated: --Thu May 27 2004 11:46:45 PM EDT--