The Chattanooga Track Club

Promoting Running and Fitness in Chattanooga

Chickamauga Chase
Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Phillips, Harvey Win Chickamauga Chase 15K Titles Saturday

By John Hunt

If you don’t think that older folks can run fast, then maybe you should have been at Chickamauga Battlefield Saturday morning for the 44th running of the Chickamauga Chase.


Geno Phillips, a fast 40-year-old geography teacher at Brown Middle School, waited until the final three miles to make his move, but when he did, nobody was able to challenge him as he was first overall in the challenging and scenic 9.3-mile race in 51 minutes, one second.


Andy Highlander, who is 16 years younger than Phillips, hung on to finish second in 51:51 while 17-year-old Isaac Pacheco was third in 52:07.


Jacob Bradley and Scott Lowe completed the top five males with times of 52:20 and 52:24, respectively.


The older generation dominated the women’s division as well as 36-year-old Aimee Harvey averaged 6:44 per mile in posting a winning time of 1:02:38, which was 16th overall.


Laura Henry was the second female as she finished right behind Harvey in 17th place with a time of 1:02:59.


Teresa Kirkman was the third female the Female Masters winner in 1:05:24 while 39-year-old Kari Bradley and 40-year-old Dianna Leun completed the top five ladies with outstanding times of 1:07:22 and 1:07:36, respectively.


Rain had been predicted for the entire area on Saturday morning, but the wet stuff stayed away for the duration of Saturday’s event, which also included a 5K, a 2.5-mile fitness walk and a one-kilometer Kiddie K for the youngest participants.


There were 612 finishers in the 3.1-mile race while 573 crossed the finish line by Wilder Tower in the 9.3-mile test.


Phillips has now run the Chickamauga Chase four times and has been victorious twice.  He posted a time of 1:13:18 at the Oak Barrel Half-Marathon in Lynchburg, Va. Two weeks ago and that gave him the confidence that he was ready for another test in Saturday’s Chase.


“It felt good.  I was just hoping to get under 52 minutes and I think I got 51:01,” he said minutes after finishing.


“I’m still a minute off my PR, but I ran from behind for the first 10K.  I knew the final three miles had the most hills, but that turned out to be the fastest segment for me today.  I figured that youth would win out today, but I was wrong,” Phillips added with a smile.


Harvey is the Director of Human Resources for Medical Management Professionals who was looking more for a good speed workout than anything else.  She is currently training for Ironman Arizona in November, so taking the overall female winner’s award was just icing on the cake for the petite 95-pounder.


“I just came out for a good hard run and was just hoping to get under 65 minutes,” she began.


“I’ve never run this course before and it was tough.  It wasn’t as bad as I had heard, but it was still challenging.  It was a little humid, but otherwise a nice day to be running.  And it’s always fun to win,” the GPS and Ole Miss graduate added.


While Phillips and Harvey were the quickest finishers in the 15K,  38-year-old Jason Alford was the 5K winner in 16:55.


Alford was a standout runner at Northwest Whitfield back in the early 90s, but had gotten caught up in the business world and basically took the last 21 years off from running.  After reaching 210 pounds with higher-than-normal blood pressure, he decided to make a change.


Now some 10 months later, he’s fit at 148 pounds and appears to still have the fleet feet he possessed in high school when he ran for coach Stacey Hill, who is now the athletic director and coach at GPS.


“My time today was a little slower than I wanted, but I’ve been doing some volunteer coaching at Murray County High School and haven’t had as much time to do speedwork as I need,” Alford explained after a post-race cool-down run.


“I’m pleased with the win, but not with my time.  I’ve been eating a lot less carbs and a lot less portions and doing a lot of hard miles in the last 10 months.  Today I just tried to run against the clock with the intent on getting a decent time,” Alford added, noting that his 5K personal best is 16:08.


William Estes was the youngest runner who finished the 15K.  The 13-year-old student at Cleveland Middle finished 217th overall in 1:20:57.  It was also the first time he had run that far in his life.


Estes, the son of 65 Roses 5K director Bill Estes, is a straight-A student and an outstanding soccer player.  Based on Saturday’s time, he appears to have potential as a distance runner as well.


“It was a pretty course.  I did my first six-mile run last Saturday and I’m already signed up for Peachtree on July 4.  I had fun today,” young William explained.


Kathi Wagner is another runner who had a great day on Saturday.  She has never won this race, although she has been the female winner in the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon three or four times. 


The 57-year-old Wagner finished 219th overall in a time of 1:21:40, which was first place among the Grand Masters Women.


“This has always been my favorite course in Chattanooga.  I’m still running one or two days a week, but I started back last year when my daughter Laura decided to run her first marathon.  Today’s race brought back a lot of memories,” the Bright School Pre-K teacher nodded with a smile.


Debbie Gates posted a time of 57:15 back in 1984 when she was dominating Chattanooga Track Club races and that time still stands as the course record for females.  She was a little bit slower on Saturday as she finished 243rd overall in 1:23:20, but that was good enough for first place in the women’s 55-59 age group.


“I think I suffered enough today,” she began with a laugh.


“I can’t complain.  I’m just happy to be healthy and running injury-free these days,” Bo Watson’s older sister added.


Dave Scholes ran his final race in Chattanooga on Saturday and the retired 66-year-old was all smiles afterward.


“This is my last race as the moving van is coming on Monday,” he said, noting that he and his wife are moving to Austin, Texas.


“This is the first race I ever ran when we moved here from Houston four years ago.  I never thought I’d be doing stuff like this when I was 66.  Just to finish and not end up in an ambulance was a positive thing for me,” he said after finishing 310th in 1:28:48.


Jack McFarland is a 77-year-old gentleman from Decatur, Ga., who is the only person to have participated in all 44 Chickamauga Chases.


He had triple-bypass surgery on his heart in August 2010 and now is the proud owner of a pacemaker, but he was all smiles after walking the 5K.


“Where’s Doug Hawley?” he asked of his buddy and long-time competitor from Dalton.


“I’m still vertical and feel pretty good these days, but I can’t go further than a 5K.  I came here in 2010 and did the 15K before finding out how much blockage I had in my heart.  How I completed that race with nothing working right is still a mystery to me,” McFarland said as he relaxed with Alma, his lovely wife of 48 years.


Phillips and Harvey were the overall winners in the 15K while Phillips and Kirkman were the Masters Winners.  Wagner and Jim Norton of Canton, Georgia were the Grand Masters winners.


George Skonberg, spelled S-K-O-N-B-E-R-G, has been the race director for the Chickamauga Chase for the past 17 years.


He has put more time, effort and money into this event and turned it into a really classy race.  Saturday’s event attracted almost 1,700 participants, which is the largest ever.


“I’m overwhelmed and thrilled with the response we got this year.  It just makes me want to come back next year and try to do a little better.  And I’m so thankful that the rain held off,” the UBS Financial Advisor nodded.


(Email John Hunt at


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