KINGSPORT — You’d expect Bays Mountain to be a shiver-inducing place on the first morning of December. And it was.
As it turns out, people running a half-marathon have no difficulty keeping warm.
Adventuresome runners from near and far converged on Bays Mountain Park on Saturday for the XTERRA Rocky Top Half Marathon and 10K trail races, presented by Fleet Feet Sports in Kingsport.
A pair of Mars Hill cross country runners topped the half-marathon field, completing the roughly 13.2-mile circuit in just a little over an hour and a half.
Alex Griggs was tops overall in the half-marathon, coming in at 1:31:12 with teammate Brad Adcock close on his heels at 1:31:19.
“There were two or three guys that came out front, but they just fell back and we just took over,” said Griggs, a freshman from Taylorsville, N.C., who competed in the NCAA Division II cross country championship for the Lions on Nov. 17. “I just ran it like a cross country race. That’s what I really did.”
The XTERRA trail series event probably turned out to be a little more full contact than cross country in the South Atlantic Conference. While both harriers put the field behind them relatively early in the race, both were literally bleeding when they crossed the finish line.
Late in the race Griggs tripped on a root and took a spill that left a big bruise and strawberry abrasion on his thigh. Adcock’s knee was bleeding from a gash he sustained when he tripped and fell off one of the footbridges on the race course.
Gate City graduate Garrett Watts came in third in the half-marathon in 1:35:19. Brandon Lancaster was fourth (1:35:50), Mars Hill’s Derek Gibson was fifth (1:40:40) and the mysterious “V” was sixth (1:47:20). Top male master Allan Couch was seventh overall (1:48:59), followed by Brad Tongco (1:48:16), Rob Wesley (1:48:28) and Carl Epley (1:49:03).
The top two women runners in the half-marathon were a couple of crossover athletes from UNC-Asheville. Zoe Hamel, a junior on the Bulldogs women’s tennis squad, was the top female finisher. She was 16th overall and clocked a 1:57:28. Erin Ryan, a junior on the UNC-Asheville women’s soccer team, came in second at 1:57:53.
“I started running one month ago with Erin to prepare for this race,” said Hamel, who is from Paris, France. “Otherwise, I don’t really have time. I usually practice two or three hours, so this was a really good cardio workout.”
Josh Fischer, an Appalachian State student and member of the Boone Trailblazer Club, won the 10K race with a 47.40. Because of the topography of the course, the 10K race was actually 6.7 miles as opposed to the usual 6.2 miles.
Matt Claybaugh was runner-up (50:14), followed by Mason Caperton (52:14), Bobby Willix (53:01), Karl Thiessen (54:25), Sean Davenport (55:13), Freddie Moore (56:52) and Jeremy Keller (57:10).
“(Fischer) got out front and I never could catch him,” said Claybaugh, a 1994 graduate of Gate City High School. “I’m more of a 5K guy. This was really pushing it for me.
Kathy Bronstetter of Gray was the top female overall in the 10K in 58:32, followed by Kit Hayes (1:01.25).
“I’ve done half-marathons but I haven’t done a trail run before. So my friends and I decided to try the trail run as a 10K,” Bronstetter said. “It was hard.”
Race director Phil Horner said over 200 runners pre-registered for Saturday’s races, most opting for the half-marathon. Saturday’s races marked the start of the 2013 XTERRA Tennessee trail run series. Fleet Feet Sports will run another XTERRA half-marathon at Bays Mountain Park in April. The 2013 series will include a grueling 50K trail race.