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21 Athletes.

20 Laps.

1 Eliminator.


*Eliminator Records at bottom of page


The Eliminator - Beta

July 12, 2012


Our first Eliminator featured a single race filled with many different types of runners: college athletes, high school athletes, casual runners, men, women, young, and old. No prizes were awarded, the competitors came out simply to enjoy competition and see how long they could last.

With the more casual nature of this first competition we had all of our competitors listen for their lap times and inform our recorders giving us a large amount of data to enjoy.



The First Eliminator... with prizes

June 19, 2013

Coming into our second year we wanted to make the race more interesting. Not only did we add nice etched mugs for our top 3 in each division but we included some prize money for our open athletes. Along with these awards we also added small prizes for the first finisher of each lap, from a $1 gift certificate for Udder Side ice cream to a warm Hillsdale College sweatshirt.


With increased advertising we had enough entries for seperate men's and women's events. To increase the competitiveness of the men's open and the boys HS divisions we combined the two races to form a single men's race with 27 competitors, extracting the two divisions for awards purposes. An adjustment from a 2min recovery period to a 90sec period and the more formal nature of this year's event we only recorded winning lap times.



The First Eliminator... Indoors!

June 18, 2014

It wasn't meant to be an indoor event. The 400m track is better suited to the large field sizes of the early laps and for spreading out on a sprint finish. However, due to lightening we had to move the race into Hillsdale College's beautiful 200m oval. It worked out great and got us thinking about a winter, indoor Eliminator event.


We worked to make this event even bigger than last year, upping the lap prizes to anywhere from $20 awards to one very special $100+ award. We also had our most competitive field. Though the average of the last five laps still doesn't beat the Beta year, our average winning lap time dropped dramatically and there were a number of opening 200's run under 30sec during those last 5-6 laps. Most of this was due to the addition of two very impressive runners joining us in Nathan Martin, our eventual winner, and Luke Pawlaczyk, our Runner Up. Nathan is gearing up for the US National Marathon Championships (2:19 at NAIA Nationals only 36 hrs after winning the NAIA 10k) while Luke is preparing to pace Nick Willis in a Mile attempt later this summer by running a 2:24 opening 1000m. Luke has an 800m PR of 1:47.68.

Though these two made for some great top level competitors, all of the athletes who ran this year had a hand in making the event exciting. We had some crazy fast early laps with guys racing after lap prizes. We had crazy fast finishes with guys pouring out great efforts to move on. And we even had a lap where 3 tired men gambled on their kicks essentially jogging 300m before a blazing last 100m to see who would go on.

I would like to honor a few of our older competitors. Though their prospects of winning the race were low they gave great efforts to last as long as they could and enjoyed showing the young bucks that getting older doesn't have to mean the end of competition. With that said, Congratulations to Rick Jenkins, Bill Lundberg, and Rich Pewe for stepping into the ring and mixing it up with the younger runners. Showing all that the Eliminator isn't just about winning the ultimate prize. Every runner has a competition to be a part of, whether it's winning a particular lap prize or challenging oneself to make it 'x' number of laps.


Due to our low entry numbers the Women's race was held to only 12 laps with a rest period of 2:00. The athletes seemed to thrive because all of the lap times were significantly faster than last year's 15 lap race and made for some great competition in the final 100m.

Our Women's race was highlighted by a strong group of HS runners, many of whom were 2014 Michigan D4 All-State athletes. It seemed that Hillsdale College runner, Shena Albaugh, was the class of the field but with two laps remaining she cramped on the final straight and never got a chance to show that was true. Instead, Lenawee Christian athlete, Colette Lark, who spent most of the laps in the front few runners, showed that she was capable of winning the title, the Eliminator. 

There was only one post-collegiate runner, Tina Smith, who lives in Pittsford with her family. She gave a great show and finished 4th ahead of some very good HS girls and only losing to a couple of All-State high school girls and a varsity athlete from Hillsdale College. Just one more example of how the Eliminator can be an exciting and rewarding race for all runners.


Congratulations to all 2014 Hillsdale athletes!


2014 - NE

The First Eliminator... in Nebraska

July 16, 2014

We want to thank all the competitors from Michael's hometown of Kearney, NE. The Kearney running community came together well with local recreational runners, Kearney High School athletes, UNK athletes, and one out-of-towner joining together to run our first Eliminator outside the state of Michigan.


This race blasted some old records including most laps won (13) and fastest lap ever in an Eliminator event (54.8), and finished with one of the most exciting last lap competitions where the two athletes finished less than 0.1 sec apart, very reminiscent of last year's Hillsdale race. Our one out-of-towner, Kyle Johnson, looked to be the lead contender but his 54.8 on lap 13 and his 13 lap wins took a tole and he went out on lap 18. Three UNK runners duked it out for the last three spots with young, Andrew Fields, beating out the upper classman, Bryan Hill, for the ultimate prize.  


We would also like to offer a special thanks to John and Miriam Nikkila, Thad Fields, and Tia Lawrence for their help in running the event.


Congratulations to Andrew and all the athletes from the 2014 Eliminator - NE! 


Kid's 400


The Eliminator - Hillsdale, MI

June 11, 2015

Another great night of competition. The sky was threatening all evening but the lightning and rain stayed away allowing us to finish all of the races on the outdoor track.


WOMEN: The ladies started out with a small race of 13 athletes but there was plenty of quality including three Hillsdale College athletes one of whom was a member of their D2 Indoor National Championship DMR. They started things off with two laps that were quite slow but things heated up immediately finishing the race with 9 of the remaining 10 laps ending in Eliminator Lap Records. There was no sign of slowing down in lap nine when Andrea Jagielski ran the fastest 400m time in the history of the Women's Eliminator regardless of lap with a 69.3.
The final four women included Jagielski, Colette Lark (2014 Eliminator), Kate Royer (2015 NCAA D2 Indoor DMR Champion), and Amanda Reagle (Multiple MHSAA All-State athlete for Homer HS and current Hillsdale College Track/CC Athlete). The final three laps didn't disappoint as Lark and Jagielski sufferend elimination in laps 10 and 11 respectively leaving Royer and Reagle, two HC teammates, to fight it out on the final lap. It was close for 350m but Reagle managed to pull away from Royer to win her fourth lap victory of the day along with the title of women's "2015 Eliminator"


MEN: The women set a high bar for the men and they did not disappoint. With 27 athletes lining up the race had its fair share of tight finishes. Of the 20 laps, 9 ended with less than one second separating multiple athletes from elimination. 16 of 21 athletes in lap 6, 10 of 17 in lap 8, 10 of 12 in lap 10, 9 of 11 in lap 11, and all 7 competitors in lap 15 finished within one second of elimination. Without the use of an FAT camera a number of these finishes were too close to call.
While there was some intense competition for survival, there was plenty of spirited competition for the lap awards as well. Six of the 20 laps included two or more athletes battling to the wire and finishing within one second of each other for the win.
The final five men included Co-Creator Michael Nikkila (2 time Eliminator Champ) hoping to regain his title after being well beaten by some impressive young men in 2014. Unfortunately the hopes of all men over 30 were dashed as Nikkila pulled a hamstring during lap 17. The remaining four athletes included two college graduates and brothers, Anthony and Mitchel Klingler, one college freshman, Ian Daugherty (runner-up to Nikkila in 2013), and one recent high school graduate, David Trimas. Daugherty helped eliminate Anthony with a blistering 59.3 but it came back to bite him in the penultimate lap when Mitchell and Trimas left him far behind. The men's final lap saw age and experience triumph over youth with Mitchell Klingler over-power the young Trimas to come away with the title of men's "2015 Eliminator".


This year saw races all over the track. Races for victory and races for survival. The day proved successful for many regardless of age with our oldest athlete, Scott Vogel, survive through lap 7 in the men's race while a couple our youngest competitors, Nathan Nohr and Tom Oates, survived the men's race through to laps 13 and 16 respectively.


Congratulations and thanks to all of the volunteers and athletes. Fire Up!




Open Mile


The First Eliminator... with THREE races (Kearney, NE)

July 17, 2015

It was a crazy day at the Kearney Running Festival. With vendors helping spectators become better athletes and a Kid's Pentathlon for the youngsters there were runner people everywhere. 


MEN B: The Eliminator competitions started with a Men's B race which featured 18 athletes running a slimmed down 15 laps. Grouped well together throughout most of the laps one man seemed to show himself the better athlete. Travis Kovarik won a couple of early laps and managed to stay near the front of those he didn't. As we neared the end, Kevin McCartney tried to assert his dominance by winning laps 7, 9, and 10 but his race was cut short on lap 12. Kevin Witte, though not winning any laps, maintained a strong showing finishing near the front throughout the event but the final three men were too much for him on lap 13. Kovarik was joined by Nolan Little and Brock Steinbrink for the last two laps. Nolan showed a bit of fire winning lap 11 but Kovarik and Steinbrink were too strong for him. Our final two men raced tightly for a 300+ meters but it was Kovarik stretching for the victory on the final lap, running a time of 73.3 seconds (our fastest lap of the day).


WOMEN: The women ventured onto the track next. With only 12 athletes the race included only 12 laps with one mystery lap in which none of the women were eliminated. The pace was relatively slow early on which made for some tight racing. But as the race wore on three former UNK track athletes showed their superiority. Briana Adams, Jordan Bloesser, and Marissa Bongers were quickest on the end of nearly every lap and the former teammates found themselves facing off in the final two laps. With one middle distance runner (Bongers) and two 5k/10k athletes (Adams/Bloesser) all eyes were on the speedster to see if she still had the legs to run away from the two distance ladies. Sure enough, with Bloesser going out on the penultimate lap, Bongers laid down a quick final lap leaving Adams well behind for the victory. Her final lap, 70.2, was the fastest 12th lap in Ladie Eliminator history.


MEN A: Finally, the A heat men stepped on the track with a mess of current high school all-staters, current college athletes, and former college stars. This race was not so pedestrian at the beginning and to survive the first two laps the athletes needed to run around 72 seconds. The middle laps slowed a bit as some of the runners tired out though there were a few brave souls who ran to the front hoping for a lap record (there were 4 on the day). As many would expect the race boiled down to five very deserving athletes including a couple of high school runners, a couple of college athletes, and one impressive post collegiate. Our final three included recently graduated Reno Law (4:16 1600m), collegian Matt Gilbert (4:08 Mile), and teammate Jacob Olson (4:07 Mile). The college boys graciously showed the young one the door on lap 19 to leave the two teammates to dual it out. 

In the end, Gilbert was unwill (or unable) to hang with Olson for the full lap but he pushed a hard first 200m to help Olson get in position to try and hit the lap 20 record. Olson finished lap 20 in 56.1 seconds one full second faster than the previous lap record run by Mitchell Klinger this June in the 2015 Hillsdale Eliminator. Though the crowd didn't get to see a fight on the final lap, they did get to see an athlete give it a go! No trottin' for the win here!


Congratulations to all of the competitors and thanks to all of the spectators for supporting them. This was our first big event and we hope to see everyone back again next year... plus some.

Fire Up!


The First Eliminator... in Saline, MI

June 17, 2016

It was the first relatively warm day we'd had in a week: Sunny and 80 deg. In it ran, quite possibly, the most competitive field assembled for an Eliminator to date. With a handful of sub-15 min 5k runners, a few sub-4:10 milers, and one Eliminator Champion (Mitchell Klingler - Hillsdale '15) we looked to have a very competitive night...they didn't disappoint.


Highlights included:

The seconds fastest lap run in Eliminator history - (lap 1)

The highest average winning time - (64.0)

The most laps won under 65.0 sec - (13)

Ties for the most laps won under 60.0 - (3)

The highest average lap time (all competitors, all laps) - (71.0)

The race started with 19 competitors including one woman. Tamara Stevenson, upon finding out the women's race was canceled, signed up to test out the race with the boys. Unfortunately, she was Eliminated after the first lap...however, she ran the fastest first lap for a woman in Eliminator history and just missed the fastest women's lap of all time. Thanks, Tamara, for coming out and representing the women in our first Saline Eliminator.

Things got hot right from the get go with Ryan Hoffsess running a blistering 55.1 for the first lap of the day only missing the all-time fastest lap by 0.3sec. The next three laps followed with three different lap winners. The race ended with seven different lap winners, six of which came during the first eight laps.

Lap four contained the first interesting result of the night with Chris Kelley falling off the back in the final 20 meters only to be reinstated with our first mystery lap. Unfortunately, Kelley would be Eliminated during the next round.
Lap six brought with it the closest finish of the night. With Hoffsess well ahead of the group, the rest of the competitors were content to trust their kicks. Aside from Hoffsess, the remaining 14 competitors finished within 0.4sec of each other with Stone Mathers getting the short end of the stick. It's a good thing we had our FAT cameras running.

The next lap brought our second fastest finish as Jalen Weaver dusted the field with a 57.6. However, with Jason Bigelow having a rough go the rest of the field rested up running the third slowest average lap of the night at 76.0sec. Weaver proceeded to finish last on lap eight only to find himself the lucky/unfortunate recipient of a mystery lap...he was Eliminated on lap nine.

At this point the race got serious. Of the final 11 laps 10 were won in 65sec or less and 9 laps had average finish times under 70sec. Our final five athletes consisted of Ian Hancke (EMU grad - 3:48 1500m), Hoffsess (UDM grad - 4:16 Mile), Klingler ('15 Eliminator - 14:16 5k), and Ben Kendell (UDM athlete - 14:17 5k), Matthew Melvin (9:15 Steeplechaser) with Hoffsess, fighting off a sore plantar, and our two 5000m runners (Klingler and Kendell) out lasting the others to finish in our top three.

Lap 19 started out quick but 100m into the race Hoffsess had to step off the track with a sore foot. He ran well all night finishing with six lap wins and the fastest lap of the day but his foot wouldn't permit him two more. This left the young, 18 year old Kendell to race Klingler for the championship. 

The two took off hard from the gun and ran shoulder to shoulder down the back stretch, but as they entered into the final turn it seemed that Klingler was starting to fall back. Kendell powered on and pulled away down the homestretch to become the 2016 Saline Eliminator!

Klingler lived up to his '15 title finishing in 2nd with six lap wins but Kendell's patient strategy led him to victory. He was in the mix all night but only won two laps(19 and 20). Of course, the last being the most important.


Congratulations to Ben Kendell and all of the Saline competitors for a great night of racing!

Fire Up! 



Open Mile


The Kearney Running  Festival - Hot On and Off the Track

July 23, 2016

It was a hot week in Kearney but the competitors came out to race nonetheless.

Kearney Parks and Rec put on a great Pentathlon for the youngsters. More than 40 athletes under the age of 13 competed in long and short races, hurdles, throws, and jumps. It's great to see youngsters take part in athletics.

Our open mile field was 15 people strong including runners of many different ages. Our winner, Dillion DeVore, ran a strong time for a youth finishing in 5:52.9.

MEN B: We started the Eliminators off with the Men's B Heat. It may have been a "recreational heat" but these men were competitors. The laps got out fast with the first four won in under 83 seconds and the fourth in 71. Randy Pallas gave the field a break when he had to pull out of lap five with an injury. With 7 laps to go the competition heated up. Laps 10, 11, 13 and 15 were all won by 2 seconds or less. Dane Schmitt, who won the most laps, won lap 15 in the fastest time of the day at 70.0sec winning and avoiding elimination by mere tenths of a second. Scott Haug, who looked tired during the free 5th lap, had played his cards right having the legs to win lap 14, avoid elimination in lap 15, and out-pace the young (20yrs) Schmitt to win the 16th and final lap in a solid 71.2. Haug, a former UNK Loper, was a worthy champion and showed all of the youngsters that youth alone can't with you races. Well done, Scott and all of the Men's B Heat competitors.

WOMEN: The women's race included a great blend of ages. We had two young ladies under the age of 14, a handful of high schoolers, and some recreational runners come out to do battle. Kay Lynn and Maggie Trenkle, our youngest competitors ever in the Eliminator, held their own making it through laps 5 and 4 respectively. Kay Lynn even walked away with the lap victory on lap 3. Laura Bauer showed the younger high school girls how to compete winning three laps of her own, showing some speed to avoid being eliminted, but going out in 4th place over all. She had a good portion of the crowd pulling for her and she didn't disappoint. In the end three HSers remained: Faith Kowalski, Emma Rohde, and Rita Schnacker. The last two laps were full of competition as they ran three wide on the back stretch during lap 11 only to finish less than one second apart. Schnacker and Kowalski got the better of Rohde but it was a hard call for the judges. The final lap was tactical. Kowalski and Schnacker went out easy, both apparently confident in their kick. Sure enough, coming down the home straight both kicked and raced shoulder to shoulder finishing within tenths of a second...with Schnacker taking the win!

The women put on a great show! Congratulations to Rita and thank you to all of the competitors who made this event happen!

MEN A: The setting sun cooled things off around the track but not on it. The pace was fast early aided in part by the level of the field. Filled with current college athletes, state placing HSers, and a few post collegiates (Top runners in their day and still putting it down with the youngsters) the first two laps finished with less than 2 seconds separating first and last place.

This race is about endurance, speed, and... race tactics. As one of the older racers, I (Michael Nikkila) knew I'd have to start my surge early and swing wide to avoid getting swallowed up and spit out the back. Unfortunately for one of our talented HSers  (Mason Ellis) that happend to him on lap 2, getting boxed in and unable to stay in front of any other runners.

The winning times weren't necessarily the fastest but the competitioin was hard. With only 15 laps available (only 16 competitors) the runners were fresher and the kicks were faster. Things really heated up at lap nine as the first sub-65 was run and the athletes were only spearated by 1.5 seconds...with my old legs losing out in a harsh kick. Of the remaining athletes, four were top finishers in Kearney's 2015 race (including the Eliminator, Jacob Olson) and one, the last post collegiate (Brandon Wissing), was a recent graduate and top competitor from UNK. The history of these runners proved true as laps 9, 10, 12, 13, and 14 all finished with a separation of 1.5sec or less. 

Our final three competitors included current Loper Cole Wellnitz, last year's 3rd place finisher Reno Law, and last year's Eliminator Jacob Olson. Lap 14 looked to be shaping up nicely for Law and Olson to coast in but Wellnitz put in a late surge hoping to surprise them and nip one at the line...but the other two men were alert and up to the task speeding up just enough to leave Wellnitz out in 3rd place. 

Last year Olson blazed the last lap in 56 sec...would he do the same this year? It was not to be as he only managed a 59 but it was enough to demoralize Law as Olson pulled away with 200m to go.

Congratulations to Jacob, our 2016 Men's Eliminator! And thanks to all the competitors making one of our most competitve Eliminators to date despite the intense heat of the Nebraska summer.

Fire Up!


Kid's 400


The Eliminator - Hillsdale: Home of the Original Eliminator

July 29, 2016

The day started off with thunderstorms and was forcasted to continue into the evening so we at the Eliminator were prepared for another indoor race. However, the Lord looked favorably upon us and not only held the lightening away but the rain as well. It turned out to be a beautiful evening to run.

WOMEN: We opened with the Women's race (12 laps) consisting of a wide range of athletes from our youngest, HS freshman Anna Richards, to our most experienced, Loretta Horn, who has recently begun to compete in ultra marathons (2nd in the 2016 Kal-Haven Trail Ultra). The field also included recently graduated Emily Oren who finished her career at Hillsdale College this spring with multiple NCAA Championships. Oren also competed at this year's US Olympic Trails (Steeplechase).
Despite the wide range of athletes the ladies put in some great racing but things really heated up on lap 9. On the previous lap, Horn, who claimed that ultra training had stripped her of speed, bowed out after putting in a great showing. With only five remaining athletes Oren and Amanda Reagle seemed to be cruising to a spot in our final four, but only 10-15m back the other three were fighting tooth and nail. HSer Megan Poole, MRun runner Alexandria Cell, and former HC graduate Allie (Burum) Shellhammer were cutting the gap to the other two runners at an amazing rate and with only a few meters remaining they caught the other two cruising to what they thought was safety. The five ladies finished within .3 seconds of each other and Reagle was the unlucky runner, getting nipped at the line.

Lap 10 was only slightly less exciting as Cell bowed out but only late down the homestretch making the other three ladies work hard to the end. Thus, leaving our final three ladies: Poole, Oren, and Shellhammer. Despite Oren's close call on lap 9 she looked to be the class of the field leaving Shellhammer and Poole to fight for 2nd. Both had raced well and finished strong so the race looked to be a good one. However, Shellhammer took the penultimate lap out hard hoping to strip Poole of her kick early. The strategy worked as Poole broke early worn out from the tight racing on lap 9 and 10.
The final lap, then, came down to two former Chargers in Oren and Shellhammer. Though the elder runner fought hard in running a 71 to close her first Eliminator, she couldn't contend with Oren who cruised to victory closing in our fastest lap of the day and the fastest lap in Women's Eliminator history... a 65.0.

What a night! Congratulations to our 2016 Hillsdale Eliminator, Emily Oren! And to top off her first Eliminator Championship she also re-wrote much of our record book. Besides the aforementioned fastest lap, she won 6 laps in total (most ever in a single event), 4 of which were lap records.

Thanks to all the ladies for making a great 2016 Hillsdale Eliminator!

MEN: On to the Men's race. What a field we ended up with. 26 runners consisting of two former Eliminator Champions (Mitchell Klingler-'15 and Michael Nikkila-'12,'13), a good number of recently awarded MHSAA All-State high schoolers, a fair amount of accomplished collegians, and a few other post-collegiates with strong resumes of their own.

The first few laps were tight, as always, but things really heated up once the double elimination laps began. Laps 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 required double elimination and though one runner generally lagged behind the second elimination position was greatly contested and two or three of these laps required our FAT camera to distinguish the eventual loser. The runners initially relaxed after the final double elimination but the intense racing was to continue. Lap 10 looked to be more relaxed as three or four runners lagged behind the group glad to have a relaxed finish. However, with 80m to go the four in the back began to shift gears and raced all the way to the line catching the group unawares right at the line. The aforementioned champions Klingler and Nikkila were nearly caught out finishing just .2 seconds from the last finisher...9 of the remaining 12 finished within .3s of losing. 

At this point Klingler put himself out of harms way winning the next five laps while the rest of the field remained fighting hard for survival. Though the rest of the laps were never as close as 10 they remained a battle until the final straight before single competitors began dropping off unable to muster any last efforts to challenge the group. On lap 15, former HC runner Alex Ralston gave the remaining athletes a welcome breather as he had to step off halfway through due to a nagging injury. Lap 16 ramped it up again with loser Riley Horn making it hard on the other five by running 67.7.
Our final five competitors consisted of Klingler, Nikkila, current HC athlete and sub-9min steeplechaser Joe Newcomb, current HC athlete and sub-9min 3k guy Luke Daigneault, and Hanover-Horton Junior Landon Melling. Daigneault bowed out first with Klingler coming next after a night of 11 victories and an Eliminater best average finishing time of 67.6 seconds. Leaving Melling to battle with two Hillsdale College steeplechasers...both with PR's under 9 minutes.
Lap 18 went out hard but Melling found the pace too hard early so Newcomb and Nikkila "cruised" in together around 71 seconds leaving an intriguing matchup between the two Chargers.
The final lap started hard with Nikkila on the inside and Newcomb fighting to get around him. They ran shoulder to shoulder down the backstraight with Nikkila beating Newcomb to the turn. As the runners disappeared behind the stands at the far end of the track it was still anyone's race...until Nikkila emerged with a 15m lead. Nikkila continued to open the gap down the homestretch finishing in a fastest lap of 58.9 (only sub-60 of the night).

Congratulations to Nikkila on his 3rd Eliminator title! 

Thanks to all of the men for their competitive spirit and putting on a good show for everyone in Hillsdale.

Fire Up!

the Eliminator


Kid's 400


Open Mile



The Eliminator - Hillsdale: Home of the Original Eliminator

July 28, 2017

We had a full crew this year... exactly 21 athletes. The perfect Eliminator.
The weather was beautiful with a few clouds and fairly cool temps. It actually got a bit chilly by the end of the night.

We started off with a group of 13 running our open mile. Two youngsters, Jay Jenkins and Alex Richards, kicked down former Charger great, Lisa Roberts, for the top two spots. Richards beat out Jenkins by 3 hundredths to win in a time of 6:33.9.

The kids fun run  was packed featuring 17 youngsters (Elementary age and younger). It was another fierce battle with Caroline Roberts edging out Reece Poole by 1 tenth of a second to win in a time of 1:21.9.

This year's Eliminator had a solid crew of athletes up front. Featured runners included: Michael Nikkila (3 time Eliminator Champion), Kyle Smith (Linden Eliminator Champ, 6th at the 2016 Saline Eliminator), Mitchell Klingler (2nd 2016 Saline Eliminator, record holder of most laps won in a single event with 11 @ 2016 Hillsdale Eliminator), Landon Melling (3rd 2016 Hillsdale Eliminator), Robert Murhpy (former IUPUI athlete and 8:44 Steeplechaser), Jesse Anderson (sub-2:30 marathoner), William Byrd (aka Alex Ralston) (former Hillsdale College varsity Track and CC athlete), and Noah Heckenlively (multiple time MHSAA All-State CC and Track athlete).

The race for most of the lap wins only lasted 100-150m before one athlete was well away from the group. This caused some problems for the group as the average lap win was 62.5 seconds while the average lap time was only 76.8 seconds... meaning most laps the 90sec of rest was cut down to 70-80 for the majority of the remaining runners.
The first lap was as intense as ever with 17 of the 21 runners within a second of losing. Anson Alvares was boxed out and caught behind the line of chargering runners to be the first one out. Many of the following laps were more tame with only a few runners fighting for survival.

Lap 10 brought a significant change to the strategy of the racers. This was the first lap since lap 1 that all of the field was fighting for survival (save the lap winner). At this point we saw the racers think twice about taking lap wins as the likely hood of surviving after a win was slim.
Lap 14 brought another tight finish where 7 of the remaining 8 finished within 0.8 seconds of the loser (Nikkila). 
The final five athletes consisted of Anderson, Klingler, Melling, Murphy, and Smith. Melling was the first to fall (Lap 17) after barely surviving after a lap 15 win of 61.8 seconds. Smith went out on Lap 18 after spending his remaining energy to take the lap 16 and 17 wins at 63.5 and 61.0. With four wins on the night, Mitchell Klingler was the next to fall to finish 3rd in this year's Eliminator. Seems he couldn't handle the torrid pace set by Anderson and Murphy as they blazed a 60 and 61 to leave Klingler behind.

The final lap featured, by strange coincidence, a long awaited rematch as Anderson and Murphy faced off a few years ago in a Junior College CC Regional where the two athletes were shoulder to shoulder coming to the finish when Murphy, the leader, took a wrong turn with only a couple hundred meters to go. Anderson yelled out but it was too late in the race for Murphy to recover... could this be redemption for the steeplechaser?
With 200m to go Murphy had a slight lead but Anderson was only a few meters behind. As the two came around the final corner, onto the homestretch, Anderson made a move to the outside lanes to draw even with his opponent. At 60m to go he took the lead. Murphy fought hard to stay tight on Anderson but he didn't have the legs to respond to the move.

Anderson took the win again but, this time, there is no question about the victor. Congratulations to Jesse and Robert for a great finish! Congratulations to Jesse Anderson, the 2017 Eliminator!

Fire Up!

the Eliminator



Kid's 400


The Eliminator - Hillsdale

August 2, 2018

This year's race ran as two races in one. With only 16 men competing we added the 8 ladies to fill out the field, but though they would be eliminated per the standard rules the best lady each lap received a prize and the top lady received one of our "top finisher" Eliminator pint glasses. And though you might think that the women belong in the men's race... well, Megan Poole (Hillsdale College athlete) finished 10th! Not only that but she went down with a fight, losing by only 0.4 sec. Way to race, Megan!

The early laps were fairly normal though mostly seeing the ladies sort themselves out. However, our first male fatality was Ian Calvert. A 4x800m state champion last spring, Ian won the first lap in a record 54.5 seconds! Seems that was a bit too much for him to recover from as he was eliminated on lap 4, our second of 3 double elimination laps.

As the race progressed we slowly lost our ladies with Poole going out on lap 12. Our last high school athlete, Dillon Donihue, put in a good performance but he was eliminated on lap 15. Immediately following Donihue, our last post-grad / old man was Eliminated with Michael Nikkila (former Eliminator Champion and 36 years strong) being eliminated on lap 16. This left 5 college athletes to duke it out for glory. I (Michael Nikkila) was slightly disappointed with the next two laps as I fought tooth and nail to lose on lap 16 by a mear 0.2 seconds with a finishing time of 64.0 while the next two laps were won near 70.0 seconds. That's why we fight to the bitter end. You never know how bad those ahead of you are really feeling. (sigh) In any case, as three of our Albion College athletes (Chase Baumgardner, Liam Walits, Kody DeHaan) were eliminated over the next three laps (with DeHaan finishing third) we were left with two top notch athletes in Keihl Smith (Albion College) and Joey Humes (Hillsdale College). Both having good running resumes. And while the previous three laps left them fairly relaxed at the finish, the final 400m would be anything but relaxed.

They got out hard with Humes on the inside and Smith on his outside shoulder and would run like this for 300m. Coming down the homestretch there was some stumbling and the left shoe of Joey Humes flew high in the air! At that moment Humes actually found himself with a small gap on Smith and he would use that to put a 1.5 sec gap on Smith at the line. His final time was an astonishing 54.4! The fastest 20th lap in the history of the Eliminator AND the fast lap of Eliminator history by 0.4 sec!

Congratulations to Joey Humes! Fastest Lap Record Holder! 2018 Eliminator!

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the Eliminator


Kid's 400


The Eliminator - Hillsdale: 2nd Ever Women's 15 Lapper!

July 31, 2019

Well, the way the women's race began we weren't sure what to expect. Quite possibly the slowest first lap in women's race history (12 or 15 lap). 1:45 average finish time. It was more than pedestrian during the first 200m, but Anna Roberts broke the deadlock and took a comfortable lap win. Which she backed up on lap 2! Seems, though, 2 was enough for Roberts as she bowed out immediately after.

The rest of the race was clearly dominated by Erin Webster. Webster took the most lap victories of the night, winning 1/3 of the laps available. The rest of the wins were fairly well scattered save the three taken by Hillsdale College athlete Megan Poole. Poole and Webster were clearly the class of the field, however, high school freshman Megan Roberts showed some class throughout. Despite a fairly conservative strategy, Roberts never looked tested in the early laps. And as it turns out, Roberts, Poole, and Webster were the final three!

I would be remiss to not mention the women's 4th place finisher. 8th grader Angela Alvarez only took one lap win and played the safe game throughout the race, but when the pace started to take off on lap 12 she was surprisingly capable. Well done Miss Alvarez!

Webster had looked quite good through lap 13. So with two laps to go and three ladies remaining many looked for the two Megans to battle for the chance to race Webster on the end. However, young Megan Roberts didn't want to fight it out at the end... she took out like a shot and quickly gapped the two older runners. With 200m remaining it was hard to tell if she had the gas to survive, but as the race played out Poole begin to gap Webster and the final lap was set. Megan vs Megan.

Erin was impressive in her lap victories but it seems it took its toll. Well done, Erin Webster, and we hope you return next year!

Megan Roberts is quite fast, boasting a 59s 400m and a 2:23 800m. However, instead of relying on her kick she took the final lap from the gun hoping to run the legs off of Poole. The college athlete was un-phased. Poole ran down the speedy youngster and opened a size-able gap at the end for the victory! Congrats to the two Megans for making the final lap one to remember! Congratulations to Megan Poole... Our 2019 Eliminator!

This year the men's field was quite deep. There were very few laps the men felt at ease with 100m to the finish. 6 laps were decided by 0.5s or less. The top group also showed a lot of parity. Laps 14, 15, 18, and 19 were decided in the final 30m with lap 18 by 0.2s!

Dillon Donihue was our best High School finisher. Being Eliminated on lap 13. Two years in a row Donihue has found himself in that position. Certainly one for him to be proud of.

I want to throw a shout out to Dr. Larry Dasch! Our oldest athlete! He was eliminated on lap two but for both of those laps he brushed elbows and held his own with the youngsters. Great to have you this year Larry!

Michael Nikkila, 3x Eliminator Champ, was eliminated this year on lap 16. Equal to his performance from last year. The veteran Eliminator is the only athlete to have competed in ever Eliminator competition here in Hillsdale. At 37, his speed just can't keep up with young legs.

Alex Ralston showed the group how to win without winning. Being Eliminated on lap 17, Ralston took away 5 lap victories including a free night's stay at Hillsdale College's Rockwell Lake Lodge! $160 value! He was the big money winner this year. The legs looked good throughout the efforts to grab the lap prizes was too much for him. Well done this year, Alex!


The final 4 put on quite a show for us. Reigning Eliminator, Joey Humes, reigning runner-up, Kiehl Smith, Hillsdale College athlete, Alex Oquist, and many time Eliminator competitor, Nathan Nohr, came to us in good shape and showed that throughout the competition. All four guys were generally conservative staying in the front group but seldom putting in the extra effort to win a lap prize (combined winning only 2 of the previous 16 laps).

Lap 17 was a gut check as the four athletes came down the final straight spread out in a line covering four lanes. With many changes of last place during the last 50m it was Oquist who was eliminated.

Humes and Smith showed their class on the next lap, and though Nohr gave a great effort to try and nab one of them at the end, he would come up short creating a rematch of the 2018 final lap where Humes beat out Smith in the final meters... without one of his shoes!


As expected, the race was tight through 150m. Humes had a narrow lead but Smith's long strides were keeping the race close. Unfortunately for the spectators... and Smith, the race was decided early this year. With just under 200m to go, Smith clearly had seen the writing on the wall and Humes pulled further and further away. Running the second fastest time of the night with a 56.7, Humes took back-to-back Eliminator Championships! Great competition for both Smith and Humes! Thanks for making the race exciting. Congratulations to Joey Humes, our 2019 Eliminator Champion! 

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the Eliminator



Kid's 400


The Eliminator - Hillsdale: Almost in a Downpour
July 16, 2021

It was raining buckets until 6:30pm... then it stopped. Completely stopped. It was a good thing we decided to race at 7pm.

The ladies raced first with a packed field and 12 laps to determine the 2021 Eliminator. Mostly comprised of Hillsdale Academy athletes, Danielle Salisbury, current Hillsdale HS coach and former collegiate athlete, looked to break up the Colt dominance.
Initially the laps were run at comfortable paces making the courageous athlete willing to push to win a lap prize... less courageous as they weren't in too much trouble of getting left behind immediately after a win. After Anna Roberts took the first three lap victories things started to vary a bit. Whitney Wilkinson looked strong winning a couple of laps in the middle of the race, while Salisbury and 2019 runner-up Megan Roberts were clearly favorites looking comfortable in the front of the pack every lap. The suprise of the night,  however, was 8th grader Ruth Brownlee who looked in trouble on lap 6 but managed to pull through to lap 9. On one occasion,  her late push to survive caught the comfortable front group unawares and sadly left Wilkinson to be eliminated at the line. She was clearly expecting to challenge for the top 3 but had to bow out in 6th. The entire field finished within 0.2s.
In the end it came down to the strength of the older Salisbury and the young upstart, Megan Roberts, to determine the victor. Ella Walton put in a good showing to finish 3rd but couldn't handle the experience and speed of the other two. Unwilling to gamble with a tight finish, Roberts bolted from the start line on the last lap opening up a sizeable gap in the first 150m. Salisbury couldn't recover and watched the win run away to a 65.2s final lap, the fastest of the night. With that final push Roberts missed out on the fastest lap ever run by a woman in a 12 lap eliminator by only 0.2s (Emily Oren - 2016). Congratulations to our 2021 Women's Eliminator, Megan Roberts!

The men's race started with 20 runners consisting mostly of high school athletes. Aside from a handful of top D3 and D4 runners from Michigan we also had some soccer players and wrestlers give it a go. I always enjoy the wrestlers, in particular. They have a great, no-quit attitude which is perfect for the Eliminator. There were two collegiate athletes in the mix, including MSU runner Brendan Favazzo who finished 15th at the Big 10 CC championships and boasts PR's of 13:50 (5k), 8:07 (3k), and 3:49 (1500). Favazzo was the class of the field and he showed it winning 14 laps (of the 20) and taking the last 13 essentially uncontested. It is unfortunate he didn't have more competition, but it was also fun to watch an athlete cruise through an event while the rest of the field struggled. Humbling to the rest of us, but beautiful to watch none-the-less.
With event co-founder, Michael Nikkila, bowing out on lap 14 this year the race was left to Favazzo, Mark Sprague (Hillsdale College), and a handful of local high school athletes. Things got particularly heated on lap 16 with field finishing within a second of each other, John Aerts (Coldwater HS) getting the boot. Youngster Rogan Melling (Hanover-Horton) couldn't hold on after the tight finish on 16 and fell off fairly early to be eliminated on lap 17. His brother, Garrett (Davenport University) lost in another tight finish on lap 18. This left Lumen Christi athlete, Matt Hoop, to fight out Sprague for the runner-up position. Though Hoop looked strong all day (19 laps being an impressive task for HS athletes in this event), the college strength and experience took Sprague to the final lap.
It was a joy to watch the young athletes compete for that second place just as much as it was a joy to watch Favazzo make running fast look so easy and effortless. Congratulations to Brendan Favazzo, our 2021 Eliminator!

It was a wonderful day for a race! Thank you to the racers and the spectators for making the event a success.
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the Eliminator


Kid's 400


The Eliminator - Hillsdale: A 10th Aniversary
July 29, 2022

It's our 10th anniversary and though we would have enjoyed having multiple races of various ability levels we ended up with two competitive races. And that's what this race is about, the competition so we'll take quality over quantity... and quality doesn't always mean fast.

Our ladies race was populated with some strong D3 and D4 Michigan HS runners including Emmry Ross from Onsted who last year, as a freshman, finished top 50 in cross country, ran 27.1 for 200m, 57.9 for 400m, and 2:24 for 800m. Certainly the most decorated resume in the field but Whitney Wilkinson from Hillsdale Academy had little respect for those marks. Wilkinson had a disappointing finish in '21 after going out early due to some unlucky positioning. With something to prove, Wilkinson continually placed herself in good position and began pushing the pace over the final 5 laps.
The women's race has historically gone out at comfortable paces averaging high 90's or even 100's for the first few laps. Not this year. Ross and Wilkinson both made sure of that. Ross made her intentions clear from the first "go" running nearly 10 sec faster than the field on the first lap. This continued with a lone challenger through the first 6 laps. Whether it was an excited newbie like 6th grader Heather Morris, a veteran of the race like Hillsdale College runner Anna Roberts, or Wilkinson, the first half of the race was Ross and someone else. Come lap 7 things started to get more difficult. The average pace dropped a few seconds and the finishes got tighter. Wilkinson grabbed some lap victories as Ross seemed to let off the gas. Ella Walton took 6th as the speed down the homestretch was a bit too much... not to mention the fact that Ross nipped her at the line for a lap win just two laps before. Abby Brownlee was next to go as she clearly expended her last bit of energy to survive the previous lap. Clair Walton, a veteran of the race and Aquinas distance runner, finished 4th, again a victim of speedy legs. Caroline Roberts, Wilkinson, and Ross were the final three. Wilkinson a strong distance runner pitted against two speedy middle distance girls. Roberts took third as the steady hard pace set by Ross and Wilkinson over the last few laps took its toll. With one lap to go Ross took it out fast and despite Wilkinson's strength the Onsted Sophomore got the win with the 2nd fastest lap of the day (70.7). Congratulations to Whitney Wilkinson for a superb and entertaining effort! Congratulations to Emmry Ross for being our 2022 Women's Eliminator!

After a truly dominating perforance from Brendan Favazza in 2021 this year's race was wonderfully balanced. Entering the race the field consisted of a couple of top D4 high school boys, some recently graduated MI distance stars, a few NCAA runners/athletes, and one recently graduated NCAA distance runner... not to mention 2x Eliminator Michael Nikkila... who is now 40 yrs old and lacks the speed to compete down the homestretch :)
Looking at the stats this year's race wasn't quite as fast as the recent past but the parity and competitiveness was... and that's what the Eliminator is about. Compete!
The first half of the race was filled with tactical pacing and many looks backwards as runners managed their efforts and fought to stay clear of any tight finishes the first of which happened in lap 9 as Nikkila took a comfortable win of 3 seconds while the remaining 13 runners finished within 1.2 sec of each other. Yikes. The next lap saw the remaining middle schooler, Timothy Gaebler, bow out. An impressive performance from the young man. From that moment on the race got much more serious. 1.5sec separated the remaining 11 men on lap 11. 1.8sec separated the entire field on lap 12. After pushing hard from victory the lap before Charles Holbrook gave the field a breather on lap 13 only to see it tight down to the last 50m on lap 14. Lap 15 was more of the same with the field passing Gabe Gadwood unexpectedly with less than 50m to go to see him bow out. Our resident 400m specialist Aidan Flannery couldn't survive the next but keeping the race tight again to the final 50-100m. Lap 17 was the fastest lap of the day as 40 year old Nikkila not only ran the fastest lap of the day (63.6) but the fastest lap average (64.4) to barely survive one of his CC athletes as young Thomas Holm couldn't manage the effort this late. Nikkila was empty and gave Hillsdale College's Donny McArdle and Caleb Oser and former Luman Christi man Matthew Hoop a brief reprieve before the final fight. Oser took lap 18 out quick but couldn't hold it as Hoop and McArdle crept away from him to leave him satisfied with 3rd. Hoop and McArdle had looked comfortable all day showing both strength and speed, no one could know who would win the final lap. The two ran shoulder to shoulder through 200m after which McArdle took a small lead. Hoop came off the final turn moving up onto McArdle's shoulder once again. The HC Charger changed gears one last time with 70m to go and though Hoop fought to do the same he couldn't match McArdle. Congratulations to Hoop for putting together a strong and entertaining race for the fans. Well run. Congratulations to Donny McArdle... 2022 Men's Eliminator!
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the Eliminator


Kid's 400


The Eliminator - Hillsdale
July 21, 2023

Onsted high school athlete, Emmry Ross, came back to defend her Eliminator title. With more competitors and an average lap time nearly 6.0s faster than last year, Ross had work to do to beat this year's field.
Challenging Ross this year were a number of Hillsdale Chargers and Colts. Newly minted Charger Whitney Wilkinson looked strong all day taking two well earned lap victories while HC Sophomore Anna Roberts looked a very different athlete this year looking dialed in. Rather than taking an early lap win and bowing out, like last year, Roberts was well placed in the field for every lap, steady and controlled.
A handful of other ladies look good throughout the early and middle laps but couldn't handle the strength of these three ladies. The Walton sisters (Claire and Ella) went out together in lap 7 with the younger Ella struggling to hang on after a good lap 6 win with Ross on her tail. Young runner, Abby Brownlee, came off a strong track season to do well but couldn't quite muster a lap victory and tailed off on lap 8. Caroline Roberts used her speed to survive to lap 9 and finish in the top 5 while Ruth Brownlee did well to come back from an injury to take the 4th spot exiting after lap 10. 
With three left, Ross, Wilkinson, and Anna Roberts it was the new college freshman who went out first. Wilkinson had the second best lap average of the field but that may have been her undoing at the end. This left Roberts and Ross to battle it out for the Eliminator title. Roberts had a strong first year with the Chargers and looked to be giving Ross a challenge over the first 150m. At that point Ross's class showed through. Despite Roberts running one of the faster laps of the evening she couldn't keep pace with Ross as she completed her title defense with a blazing 63.0! The Fastest Lap in Women's Eliminator History! The previous record was held by NCAA National Champ Emily Oren with a time of 65.0.
Well done, ladies. A fantastic race to watch. Congratulations to our 2023 Eliminator, her second in a row, Emmry Ross!

The men's field was young this year but heavy with collegiate runners. With last year's champ out with an injury there wasn't a clear favorite. There were at least 5 men who could give a real run at the title and a handful more that would make that run difficult if they weren't paying attention.
The youngest competitor this year was
7th grader Stephen Holm. The little Holm did well finishing 9 laps. Many of the older competitors noted his quality after the race. The oldest competitor was 41 year old Michael Nikkila, one of the race's founders. Competing in his 11th Eliminator the speed just isn't there like it was in the past. However, he finished a respectable 6th place completing 16 laps. His exit was controversial and he appealed the officials feeling that he was illegally cut off by another athlete but his appeal was rejected so had to settle for finishing outside the top 5.
Like the girls, the 2023 edition of the men averaged laps 5.0s faster than the 2022 edition. Each lap got off to a quick start with a number of runners interested in walking away with some lap wins and prizes. It made for interesting running but in the end it is likely these fast starts cost some athletes a chance at the title. One notable example was MHSAA State D4 800m Champion Tyler Bays who ran a lap record 59.6 to win lap 12 (and it's subsequent prize). Likely the athlete with the most speed, Bays was left wanting in the tight kick to the finish on lap 13, exiting the competition by a slim margin of 0.5s.
After Nikkila exited 2022 runner-up, Matt Hoop, Hillsdale Academy senior Thomas Holm, two brothers from Hanover Horton (both now Davenport University runners), Garrett (the older brother) and Rogan Melling (the younger), and recently graduated Hillsdale College athlete, Mark Sprague, were left to fight for the title.
Hoop found himself wanting after narrowly surviving Nikkila's kick on lap 16. He would finish 5th this year. With the more competitive race this year, a respectable finish. Holm, though a much improved runner, couldn't compete with the experience and speed of the other three. However, he would beat his coach (Nikkila) and finish as the top HS runner, both nice honors to leave with. Garrett Melling looked the freshest throughout the competition, winning the most laps (5), but it seems his early victories cost him as he would bow out on lap 18, finishing 3rd. This left the younger Melling, Rogan, coming off a fine senior track season, against the more experienced Sprague, coming off a fine season of his own and a recent big win at a world championship event held in Chicago. Sprague saved his best for last. Running the 2nd best time of the night to win lap 19 (61.0) you might have thought he didn't save anything for the final lap against Rogan. You'd be wrong. He finished with a very similar 61.3 that Melling couldn't quite handle.
Well done men and Congratulations to the 2023 Eliminator, Mark Sprague!

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the Eliminator



Updated 07/22/23

Eliminator Records

Don't think you'll ever win an Eliminator event? Never make it past the 3rd lap? Have no fear, your name can still live forever in the book of Eliminator lore. If that 2nd lap is run faster than any athlete in Eliminator history you'll win a prize and take your rightful spot in the book of Eliminator records.


Our book of records contain:

1) the fastest time ever run for each individual lap

2) the most consecutive laps won during a single event

3) the most total laps won during a single event

4) the most total laps won throughout history (over multiple events).

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