published Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Phillips and Harvey win Chickamauga Chase

The biggest Chickamauga Chase ever became a Geno Phillips runaway Saturday morning.

The 40-year-old Brown Middle School teacher and coach completed the 15-kilometer main race through the national battlefield park in 51 minutes, 1 second. Runner-up Andy Highlander finished 50 seconds later. He's 24. Isaac Pacheco, 17, and Jacob Bradley, 21, were third and fourth in 52:07 and 52:20.

Phillips, who also won the Chase 15k in 2009, was breezing at the end.

The 15k had 574 finishers, and the accompanying 5k had 627. Total registration was capped at 1,700 by the National Park Service.

"It was about 10k where I caught everybody," Phillips said. "Andy, Isaac, Jake and another guy probably had about a 10-15-second lead on me earlier. I knew at 10k that the hills were coming, and I thought if I could keep pushing the pace -- like 5:25 [per mile] -- I might could drop them.

"In a shorter race I'm not going to get them."

Phillips said he ran a half marathon two weeks earlier in Lynchburg, Tenn., "faster than I've done a half in 10 years," so he's doing pretty well with masters age status.

Aimee Harvey of Chattanooga was the female winner and 16th overall in 1:02:39 in her first Chickamauga Chase in years.

"I haven't done a lot of road races. I've been focusing on triathlons," she said. "But I felt good. It was a good day -- good conditions."

She trailed Laura Henry much of the race and never really felt free of her. Henry finished 20 seconds behind and 17th overall.

"She was strong. She pushed me," Harvey said.

As in the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon last November, nearby resident Tim Phillips -- no relaton to Geno -- was the actual first 15k finisher. That was in his wheelchair in 47:35. He was a world-class cyclist when struck by a car in Indiana a quarter century ago.

Two Canton, Ga., residents -- Scott Lowe (fifth overall at 52:24) and Teresa Kirkman (1:05:24) -- were the masters winners, and another, Jim Norton, was a grand masters winner along with Kathi Wagner of Chattanooga.

The 5k overall winners both have had remarkable comebacks in recent months. Becky Withrow, 21, of Cleveland now has won three 5ks since giving birth last July, starting with her first race back in October. And 38-year-old Jason Alford of Dalton has run "probably 10" races of 5k or comparable distance and won seven of them since returning to competitive running 10 months ago.

He had reached 210 pounds and was unhappy with that size, he said. Now he's at 148 and set a state age-group record for four miles at Eton, Ga., in his third comeback race.

He finished in 16:56 Saturday but has run as fast as a 16:08.

"I was a little slower today, maybe because of the humidity. It definitely wasn't the course," Alford said.

"I last ran this race when I was 12, but I really wanted to run here this year. They always have an awesome event. The course is well-marked and the race is well-managed -- just a pleasant place to run."

Jack McFarland of Decatur, Ga., has run in the Chase all 44 years. He's 77 now and did the 5k Saturday in 53:06.

George Skonberg has directed the Chase 17 times.

"George puts on a good race. It's a lot of fun," Harvey said.

Chuck Woodring of Ellijay made Saturday's 15k a 50th-birthday present to himself and finished fourth in his new age group, 60th overall.

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