By Chris Bateman

For the Union Democrat

THEY CAME, they saw, they conquered.

Then Don Moses and Laurie Crisp left town, and never appeared again at Columbia’s Old Mill Run. And to most local runners, they remain a mystery.

But, set in 1984 and ’86, their 10,000-meter records still stand. In fact no runner has come close to breaking those marks. They seem to be in same unassailed stratosphere as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak with the 1941 Yankees or the ’73 Miami Dolphins’ undefeated run to the Super Bowl championship.

Those Old Mill marks – 32:12 for Moses and 35:15 for Crisp (now Laurie Clare) – have each stood for more than three decades. They’re not only the fastest Old Mill times, but the best times ever for a Tuolumne County 10K.

And, at 60 and 58, both Moses and Clare are still running.

“My speeds are ‘slow’ and ‘slower’,” says Moses, living in Castaic and retired after 30 years as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. “Maybe nine minutes miles.”

“My pace? I don’t know and I don’t want to know,” laughs Clare, now a college chemistry instructor and lecturer in San Diego County.

“RECORDS TAKE a beating in Old Mill,” read The Union Democrat’s 1984 headline. The accompanying story pointed out that the two winners – Southern Californian Moses and women’s champ Sharlet Gilbert of Richmond – came from afar.

“I’d like to run against Don again,” said previous Old Mill record holder Bradley Brown of Stockton, who pulled in nine seconds behind Moses in ’84.

“I couldn’t shake Brad,” the winner remembers. “But I did manage to hold him off.”

“Crisp shatters women’s record,” was the headline, over a story detailing Laurie’s ’86 triumph over multiple Old Mill winner Gilbert.

“She was strong and quick, and ran a good race,” said the runner-up, who hit the finish line 36 seconds behind Crisp.

“ I remember a lot of poppies out on that course,” remembers Clare, who grew up in Modesto and was a track and cross-country standout at Downey High School. “I was training for the Osaka Marathon at the time and doing hilly 10Ks was part of it.”

BACK THEN records were falling regularly at the Old Mill, and future duels between Brown and Moses, and between Crisp and Gilbert seemed likely. Or maybe more star runners from beyond the county line would line up opposite the Fallon Hotel to take their own crack at the records

But none of this happened. Neither Moses nor Crisp ever returned.

“I got a deputy’s job with the LA County Sheriff’s Office soon after the ’84 race,” Moses recounts. “That made it harder to travel up there.”

Crisp kept on running, but her focus was the marathon. She ran Osaka, New York, and twice competed in the women’s U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, setting a PR of 2:35.10 with an 11 th place finish in the ’88 trials in Pittsburgh.

And, at New York in ’87, she did battle Sharlet Gilbert again, beating her by five minutes.

Crisp didn’t do badly financially. Among the American marathon elite, she won more than $14,000 in race prize money during her three-year stint as a full-time runner. Plus, she enjoyed sponsorships from Adidas and Reebok.

Which might explain why she never returned to the Old Mill, which offered only gold-pan trophies and glory to its champs.

LAURIE CRISP grew up in Modesto and began her track career as a 5-foot-1 would-be point guard with the Downey High girls’ basketball team. “The coach had us run to keep in shape, and I soon found out that I liked the training a lot more than the game,” she remembers.

So she quit hoops and became a star with school’s cross-country and track teams, specializing in the mile- and two-mile, winning medals, setting records (her mile mark still stands at Downey) and regularly competing at the State Meet. Crisp then moved onto San Diego State, running on a track scholarship.

“But I stopped going to classes and flunked out in ’86,” she said. “I decided to run for money instead.”

So, yes, a college dropout did set the Old Mill women’s record.

But a college dropout no long holds it: Crisp returned to San Diego State after her stellar running career, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. Laurie Clare is now an instructor and lecturer in the field.

DON MOSES had a similar rise.

“The coach at my junior high school in Glendale told me I was going out for track,” remembers Moses. “I didn’t want to, but he gave me no choice.”

Then he found out he was pretty good at it and by the time he enrolled at Crescenta Valley High School, he was literally off to the races. Competing at the height of the U.S. running boom in the 1970s, Moses vied in epic mile- and two-mile races against the area’s top schoolboy runners. His 4:08 mile mark, set in 1976, stood for 25 years as the Southern California high school record.

The young star then went on to run 5 and 10Ks on scholarship at UC Irvine and UCLA, posting a 10,000-meter PR of 29:28 on the track at the Mt. SAC Invitational.

During that period he ran cross-country against Olympian Craig Virgin and and All-American Rudy Chapa. He also joined the Sub 4 Track club, whose singlet he wore when he won the ’84 Old Mill. Among his Sub 4 and UC Irvine teammates: legendary miler and two-time Olympian Steve Scott, who in a long career ran 136 sub-4-minute miles.

As time went on, Moses set his sights on the marathon, posting a personal best of 2:26 and several sub-2:30 times in the early 1980s.

“I was looking for sponsors to get into the ’84 Olympic Trials marathon, but came up short,” he said. So real life and that LA Sheriff’s Office job intruded.

BOTH RECORD holders are now married and have families. At 60, Moses and his wife, Danene, have two grandchildren and he has taken them to Columbia State Park.

“The Mother Lode is like a second home to me,” said Moses, whose father and two sisters live in the area. “And right now I’m planning to be back for the 40 th Old Mill,” he says.

Clare married her husband, Dave, in 1988 and their two daughters are now grown. Her mom still lives in Modesto, so she also visits the area. But, Clare conceded, it is unlikely she’ll make it here this April because of a busy schedule.

Both are surprised their records still stand after more than three decades. “I thought I heard somewhere mine had been broken,” said Moses.

“But once you put up some money, those records will fall,” assured Clare. “People will find out, start training, and break them.”

Meanwhile, both Old Mill champs keep on running.

CLARE RAN 50 miles on her 50 th birthday and just might run 60 on her 60 th . “I’m thinking about it,” she says, as the landmark closes within two years. “It’s iffy. I’ll have to be careful and cautious out there, but I could do it.”

That she’s still 5-foot-1 and just 110 pounds and has so far kept her knees and hips in good shape helps. “I’ve been running for 44 years,” Clare says. “I’ll keep going as long as I can. I just dread the day when I can’t run any more.”

“It becomes part of you,” agrees Moses. “Running is a way to de-stress. A chance to be alone. Out there, you forget the phones, the music, the clutter of life. Running is the antithesis of all that.”

Words to live by from the Old Mill’s best ever.