CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- The Chattanooga men edged Kennesaw State and the women placed second behind Southern Conference rival Stamford at the annual UTC Front Runner Invitational Saturday afternoon at the Moccasin Bend Race Course.
Under crystal clear blue skies and moderate temperatures, the conditions were ideal for the final home race for Chattanooga seniors Anneli Uys (Somerville, Australia) Shelley Taylor (Cohutta, Ga.) Emmanuel Kirwa (Kapsabet, Kenya) and David Moore (Sarnia, Ontario).
"Compared to the first race we had out here this year, this was beautiful, "Uys said. "Last year half the course was flooded so we had to change it. This was really a beautiful day."
In the men's race, the Mocs placed all five runners in the Top 15 to finish with a race-best team score of 36 just ahead of Kennesaw State's 38 points.
"We ran a good race today," UTC Head Coach Bill Gautier said. "Kennesaw State was seventh at Louisville so that's how we would have done if we'd have everyone healthy. I believe we've got the ability and the athletes to do really well the rest of the way."
Chattanooga's Kirwa finished second behind rival Festus Chemaoi of Middle Tennessee by a four second margin with junior Chris Berry (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) of the Mocs finishing third. Chemaoi completed the 5K in a time of 15:02 followed by Kirwa's 15:06. Berry was just behind with a time of 15:08.
"The second mile was probably the hardest," Kirwa said. "I ran hard and didn't have a big kick at the end to catch Festus."
Lucas Cotter (Collierville, Tenn.), running for the first time since sustaining an injury that knocked him out of the Greater Louisville Classic two weeks ago, was seventh overall with a time of 15:42. Moore was 10th for UTC with a time of 15:58 and junior Joshue Vasquez (Kingsport, Tenn.) was the final scoring runner for the Mocs with a 14th place overall finish at 16:08.
"Today was the first time two of our guys ran since the Louisville race," Gautier said. "Lucas ran awesome and Josh hung on for a good race. Dave ran a great end-of-career race here today. He tried to win."
Middle Tennessee was third with a team score of 58 followed by Samford's 95. West Georgia was fifth with 115 points, Tennessee State was sixth with 168 points and Trevecca was seventh with 194 team points.
In the women's race, SoCon foe Samford beat out the Lady Mocs for the race title with a team score of 34 and UTC was second with 46 points. The Bulldogs' Lauren D'Alessio was the overall winner in the 2-mile race with a time of 10:56 followed by Kennesaw State's McKenzie Howe (10:58) and Uys in third with a time of 11:04.
"The last time McKenzie came here, she went out really fast and I only stuck with her for a mile," Uys said. "I figured this time I'd go out fast and see how long I could run with her. On the back straight at about a mile-and-a-half I was still with her and decided I had a good shot at finishing ahead of her."
Junior Tara Gietema (Knoxville, Tenn.) was the second UTC finisher in sixth place with a time of 11:26. Sophomore Mary Cumbee (Brentwood, Tenn.) was 11th with a time of 11:40 followed immediately by teammate Taylor with a time of 11:41. Sophomore Kathryn Stuart (Brentwood, Tenn.) was the fifth Chattanooga runner to cross the line with a time of 11:42.
"We ran really well today, and still got beat," Gautier said. "We trained really hard this week and we're working to get ready for the conference meet. We could be first or fifth this year, that's how close these teams are."
The Running Mocs will take the next two weeks off as they prepare for the upcoming Southern Conference championships to be held in Boone, N.C., on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 10 a.m. Results will be available at GoMocs.com.
Gautier's thoughts on his four seniors:
"I never worry about Anneli. She's going to give us every last bit of what she has every time and then dig a deeper. She probably went out a little hard today, but if you don't try, you don't win. She tried and she tries every time. She will be very hard to replace. She's a quality athlete and a quality leader."
"Shelley's had many turns in her career. She's been an all-conference performer for us and part of our championship team. She's got to be a factor for us this year. She's had an emotional career, which many people do, but she hasn't given up. She's hung in there and I'm very proud of her."
"I've never counted Emmanuel out. Whenever he runs, there's always a chance that he can win. Today Festus (Chemaoi) beat him. They've been battling each other for many years."
I never coiunt Emmanuel out. Whenever he runs, there's always a chance he can win. Today Festus beat him and they've been battling each other for many years.
"Dave has been here for five years. We needed him to step up today and he did. He ran really hard today. He has some leg injuries that he's fighting through, but he's hanging in there and stepping up."
KIRWA AND CHEMAOI
Chattanooga's Emmanuel Kirwa of Kapsabet, Kenya and Festus Chemaoi of Ainobkoi, Kenya have battled it out on the race course for the last several years. While many would think this would build a bitter rivalry, the two don't see it that way. They speak together in their native Swahili language and discuss strategy.
"We talk about when to kick, when to drop everyone," Kirwa said.