Cannada applies speed to metropolitan road races


Jeff Cannada beat arthroscopic knee surgery a year ago. Then he beat a series of nagging injuries that followed the surgery -- a bad hip, a bad back.

Now, feeling 100 percent healthy, he consistently is beating some of the area's top runners.

That's no surprise. Cannada, an Arizona native who lives in Columbia, has the kind of speed that made him a three-time college All-American in track and cross country.

His latest victory was in the hilly Zoo Zoom 5-Miler, but this summer he also won the Bon-Ton 5-Miler in York, Pa., the Bel Air Town Run 5K and the Caribbean 5K Run in Baltimore.

He also ran 29 minutes in the prestigious Peachtree 10K in Georgia, good for 14th place. He was second among American runners in that race.

Last Sunday, he ran the Bachman Valley Half-Marathon in Westminster as a workout with his training partner Steve Kartalia, and the two crossed the finish line together in front of the field.

Kartalia, who lives in Ellicott City but went to Westminster High School, officially finished first.

"Steve and I work well together because our strengths complement each other," said Cannada, 27.

Kartalia's greatest talent is his strength; Cannada's is his speed. Kartalia pulls Cannada along during longer strength workouts. Cannada pushes Kartalia during speed workouts.

And their goals are similar. Cannada has his sights set on making the U.S. Olympic 10K team. And Kartalia wants to make the U.S. Olympic marathon team.

Cannada grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., where in his senior year in high school he was ranked No. 1 in the country in the mile. His best high school time in that event was 4:06.

Then he joined the high-powered running team at the University of Arizona that finished second in the NCAA cross country championships his freshman year. That team had five freshmen runners.

The competitiveness on the team was too much for him, so he transferred to the University of Texas.

"Running became too much of a chore at Arizona," Cannada said.

The mile was his strongest college event, and he finished sixth in the NCAA indoor mile his senior year.

Cannada's best mile time is 3:57. His best 10K is 28:35. And his best 5K is 13:33.

In 1985, he made the junior U.S. cross country team that competed in the World Championships in Portugal and he finished 12th. In 1988, he was a member of the U.S. senior cross country team that competed in New Zealand, finishing 60th. In 1991, he won the U.S. Olympic Sports Festival 5,000-meter race.

Cannada now enjoys road racing partly because that's where the money is.

He's made up to $3,000 for a single race and $1,500 several times.

Every bit helps because his wife is a second-year medical student at the University of Maryland. Her studies brought them to Columbia in August 1992.

His fall schedule of races includes the Harvard 5K in Providence, R.I., on Oct. 17, the Chicago Marathon 5K on Oct. 31, an as-yet-undecided local race in early November and the National Cross Country Championship in Montana on Nov. 27.

Like most runners who work full time, Cannada finds the adjustment to both working and training to be mentally draining some days.

"I'm lucky I have a supportive workplace and flexible hours," said Cannada, who works as a loan officer for a Columbia mortgage company.

But Cannada can't really imagine life without running.

"It's a nice release and it's been a part of my life for so long," he said.

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