Escaping from Alcatraz isn't what it used to be. It is no longer a desperate, clandestine feat doomed to failure. But it is still tough, as Chuck Wienckowski learned on March 3.

The 65-year-old Bel Air businessman was one of 1,582 who completed the 33rd annual Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, which began with a plunge from a ferryboat beside the infamous island prison in San Francisco Bay.

Not only was the water a numbing 52 degrees, there were 6-foot swells and a strong outward tide, making Wienckowski's 1.5-mile wetsuit journey a 1-hour-long ordeal. Though he swam the same route in a pre-race boot camp weeks earlier, he found the race-day conditions to be the most challenging he had ever experienced.

Safety crews pulled about 150 swimmers from the water and repositioned them because they were off course or struggling. A 46-year-old Texas man died in the swim, becoming the first fatality in the history of the race.


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The 18-mile cycling phase covered a hilly, winding course, on which Wienckowski averaged about half his normal bike speed, taking 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete it.

It was windy in the final phase, an 8-mile run over rugged terrain of the Golden Gate Recreational Area. Wienckowski finished the run time in 1 hour, 48 minutes. His overall time to complete the escape: 4 hours, 53 minutes.

Swisko, Deller shine in ECAC

In the ECAC track championships in Boston March 2, Chris Swisko ran a personal best and added his name to the Mount St. Mary's all-time top-10 list of milers. A senior accounting major from Aberdeen, Swisko ran 4:11.06, ninth best ever by a Mount runner, to conclude his indoor season with a 10-second improvement. He narrowly missed one goal, however, to reach the finals of the ECAC mile, finishing 2 1/2 seconds short of qualifying.

Amanda Deller of Aberdeen matched the best ECAC finish of her collegiate career in Boston. The UMBC senior threw the shot 48 feet, 2 inches to finish fourth among finalists from 20 different Division I college teams. Her mark was 1 1/2 inches short of a third-place medal. Deller, a team captain, placed fourth last year, fifth as a sophomore and sixth as a freshman.

Elsewhere in collegiate track, Kiersten Bond of Aberdeen was named to the all-region team by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association. A freshman long-jumper, Bond is one of three West Chester University team members to receive the honor.

Harford Tech grad Dana Smothers ran 1:55.21 in the 800 at the Virginia Tech Last Chance Meet Feb. 16. The Bowie State senior placed 15th.

In trail and road racing...

Kevin Hennesey and Christine Trzcinski were winners of the RASAC Guyton Road 4.7-mile Trail Run Sunday. Hennessey led a field of 58 runners in 37:58, with Darren Thompson (38:00) and Jeff Burger (38:08) close behind. Trzcinski finished first among the women in 42:57 with Heather Thompson second in 43:4, and Laura Muneses third in 43:53.

Donald Collins of Abingdon was among the finishers of the Seneca Creek Trail 50K in Seneca March 2. He was timed in 7:04:52.

Duane Christy of Havre de Grace finished 39th in 34:43 in the Snowball 5 Miler in Wilmington Sunday. Other Harford runners among the 267 finishers were Robert Smith, 44:09; Ken Szymanski, 44:56, and Mike Trott, 47:25.

Coming races

March 10 - Kelly St. Patrick's Day 5K, Baltimore, 1:15 p.m. (entries have closed).

March 10 - RASAC Susquehanna 5K, the mill at Susquehanna State Park, 8 a.m., 410-879-9812.

March 16 - Shamrock 'n Roll 5K, Arena Club in Bel Air, 8:30 a.m., http://www.eliteracemanagement.com