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Thompson, Mason Win Chickamauga Chase 15K Titles
By John Hunt
Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2017
Thompson, Mason Win Chickamauga Chase 15K Titles

By JOHN HUNT



Nobody would have blamed Christian Thompson if he had decided to take it easy Saturday morning and simply enjoy running the 49th annual Chickamauga Chase

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After all, the 28-year-old Fleet Feet sales associate averaged 5:29 per mile in finishing 29th overall in the Boston Marathon just five days ago

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Admitting that his legs were just a little bit sore after Monday’s outstanding performance, it didn’t seem to have any adverse effect on Saturday’s race as he won that challenging 9.3-mile event in 50 minutes, 54 seconds

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Knoxville’s Jason Altman, himself a veteran marathoner who is the defending champ for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon and the only four-time winner of the popular November race, was the runner-up Saturday as he was a distant second in 52:41 while Geno Phillips, a three-time Chase winner, was third overall and a minute behind Altman

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Chad Dean and Rodney Stoker were fourth and fifth with times of 54:44 and 54:57, respectively. Dean was the runner-up last year in 53:13

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There were 10 men who broke an hour for this race after only five did so a year ago

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Hixson’s Rachel Mason, who was the female runner-up last year in the 15K, was the women’s winner this time as she averaged 6:44 in posting a time of 1:02:40

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Andy Gean and Dianna Leun were next as they finished 14th and 15th overall with times of 1:04:22 and 1:04:33 while Sara Gibson and Juanita Chalmers completed the top five women with times of 1:05:30 and 1:07:51, respectively

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In addition to the signature 15K event, there was a 5K road race and an eight-mile trail run

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Derek Gallardo, a 17-year-old junior at Dalton High School was the class of the 5K as he won with a time of 16:59 while Renee Jackson was ninth overall and the first woman in 20:20

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Michael Conkel, a 21-year-old junior at Covenant College, was easily the trail winner as his time of 53:19 was more than two minutes ahead of runner-up Chris Jackson, who crossed the finish line next to Wilder Tower in 55:25

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Kiersten Boyd was the first female in the trail run as she finished 13th in 1:06:45

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The weather was just a bit warmer than normal, but skies were overcast and there was very little wind. Many runners responded with personal records

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Thompson didn’t come anywhere close to his 15K PR of 46:12, but he was more than fast enough to win his second race in the Chattanooga area in the past month. He had also prevailed in the Chattanooga Marathon on March 5 with a nice time of 2:29:31

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He’s originally from New York, but moved here last June from Winston-Salem, N.C. He’s fast becoming known as the guy to beat in local road races

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“It was fun and I felt pretty good most of the way,” Thompson said after helping some of his co-workers take down their Fleet Feet awning before heading to work for the rest of the afternoon

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“I was a little bit sore after Monday’s race and I didn’t sign up for today’s race until Thursday. My quads are really sore, so I really didn’t want to push it too much. I think there were a couple of 5K guys with me for the first mile or so, but
I was pretty much by myself after that, although I never turned around to look

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“My main goal was to win today, but you just never know who will show up. I just want to keep improving,” he added with a smile

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Mason was all smiles as well after crossing the finish line and being able to slow down just a bit for the first time in over an hour

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“It was a great one as I was more than five minutes faster than last year,” the 31-year-old Hixson resident explained

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“I’m almost completely recovered from a Sciatic nerve problem and had a really good run today. I was hoping to be around 6:45 per mile and I think I was pretty close. I did a lot better than I was hoping to do and it was nice to have a pacer on the bike leading the way

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“The conditions were great and it was just a fun atmosphere,” she added

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The 38-year-old Altman, who is the Executive Director for the Covenant Knoxville Marathon, was another who ran his personal best for the 9.3-mile distance as his time of 52:41 was some 13 seconds better than his previous best at this distance

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“My goal was to just run 5:40s (which he averaged exactly), but Christian was up front from the starting gun. I was pretty consistent with my splits as this was my fastest 15K ever.

"It’s a lot easier when we’re running marathon pace as I don’t have to go as fast, but there’s something to be said for only doing this loop once instead of twice,” he concluded with a laugh

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Phillips too has been trying to recover from some nagging injuries as he finished a minute behind Altman

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“I had a good run as I’m glad to be back and about 90 percent recovered from my injury,” the 45-year-old Red Bank Middle School teacher suggested

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“My goal was to break 54 minutes and I was able to do that, but this is my slowest time ever on this course. I’ll be ready to go in the fall, but it’s just a matter of getting back in shape,” he said

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Gallardo improved his 5K personal best time by some 53 seconds, but the Dalton High School junior could have gone much faster

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“I really didn’t know where to go and had to stop to ask directions, so I lost about 15 or 20 seconds. I really wasn’t expecting to win this race as I thought there would be some faster people here, but I’m happy,” he said

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Conkel is a 21-year-old junior from Macon, Ga. who is majoring in sports administration at Covenant. He threw in a surge just past the halfway point, but really didn’t need to after beating runner-up Chris Jackson by more than two minutes

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“It came down to a kick in the last three miles, but I threw in a surge and put a couple of minutes on the guy in second. It seemed like I was alone the whole way, but there were a bunch of switchbacks on the course so I could glance back to see if anyone was gaining

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“I just wanted to do the best I could and it was an awesome experience. I was hoping to break the course record, but it was too muddy and that didn’t happen. But I think I ran well and I’m happy with it,” he concluded

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There were 714 total participants in the three races, including 354 in the 5K, 261 in the 15K and another 99 in the trail run

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Jack McFarland was again present to take part in the 5K with his daughter Gayle, who is from Murfreesboro. There time was 56:55 for the 3.1-mile distance as they walked together

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McFarland has been a finisher at all 49 Chickamauga Chases and the 82-year-old from Georgia has specific goals for next year’s 50th event

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“I want to do 50 minutes in the 50th Chickamauga Chase, but I’ll have to start doing a little training,” he said before the event began

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Paul Stuart won last year in 49:46 while Lizzie Royer was the women’s winner in 1:02:29. Neither were present to defend their titles no were the defending winners in the 5K or the trail run

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(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@gmail.com)


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