The Chattanooga Track Club

Promoting Running and Fitness in Chattanooga

Phillips, Gautier top FCA 5K field
Posted: Monday, September 26, 2005

While millions of Americans decided to rest and relax on Labor Day 2005, more than 400 others gathered at Chattanooga State for the 17th Annual 5K for FCA.  (see pictures here!)

Geno Phillips and Jan Gautier led a spirited group of runners in the race that started and finished by the tennis courts and included 3.1 of the flattest and fastest miles on any race course in the Chattanooga area.

Phillips was the overall winner in 16:34 while Gautier was the class of the women's division, claiming the 13th overall spot with a time of 18:57.

It has been extremely hot for this race in years past, but the latest version wasn't quite as bad. With an 8 o'clock start, the race was over before the heat and humidity really became a factor.

While the 34-year-old Phillips dominated at the front, 44-year-old Joe Johnson was the second finisher in 17:12. Mike Wagner proved that he can still record a fast time as the 49-year-old was third in 17:25.

Caleb Morgan and Joe Sneed rounded out the top five with times of 17:37 and 17:43, respectively.

While Phillips was alone as he crossed the finish line, that wasn't the case for Gautier. Runner-up Jennifer Croft was next in line and just four seconds back with her 19:01 while the next three ladies were relatively close together as 16-year-old Brittany Evans took third in 20:31, Nancy Divasto fourth in 20:36 and Emily Cleveland fifth in 20:40. They were 47th, 50th and 54th overall, respectively.

It was a competitive race for many people while others enjoyed the experience for the first time. Such was the case for 36-year-old Ryan Taylor, who ran his first road race after starting his running career in July. Taylor finished about middle of the pack as he was the 204th finisher out of 412 with a respectable time of 25:28.

"I just wanted to finish this race today. I've only been running since July, so this was a chance to guage myself. My legs were strong and my lungs were weak, but it was a lot of fun," Taylor expressed afterward.

Gautier and Croft have been intense competitors with each other as long as they've been close friends. Croft was an outstanding member of UTC's cross country team in the mid 90s, running for Jan's husband Bill, who is the UTC coach.

Croft had the lead for most of the course, but Gautier made her move with less than a half-mile to go and Croft didn't have an answer.

"What a great race," the Baylor sixth-grade teacher said while trying to catch her breath.

"That was the most painful race I've run in a while as I caught Jennifer right before we turned back onto the Chattanooga State campus.  I knew I didn't want it to come down to a sprint, but I just kept her as close as I could until that point. I had to work the whole way, but it's always great to win. I really wasn't expecting it today, but I did this for my middle school cross country team. I'm doing all I can to motivate them. Maybe they will see that if I can do it, they can too," Gautier concluded.

Croft is an x-ray technician at Erlanger North Park and had worked the 12-hour shift prior to this race. No doubt she slept well once her head finally hit the pillow.

"She got me with about 800 meters to go, but that's the way it goes. I'm tired and ready to go to bed, but I'm pleased that I made myself come out and run this race. Once she passed me, I went with her as long as I could. We were running stride for stride, but my legs were dead at the end," Croft concluded.

Johnson and Gautier were the Masters' overall champions while John Walker and Paula Cooper were winners in the Grand Masters division. Walker was 17th overall in 19:19 while Cooper finished in 23:23, which was 141st overall.

Proceeds from this popular race benefit the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Chattanooga-area schools and help fund a scholarship for a deserving high school graduate. The 2005 honoree is Hixson's Lee Vandergriff, who is attending Covenant College. An outstanding wrestler and golfer for the Wildcats, he is  currently the number one man on the Scot's golf team.


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