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Geay bests Mekonen for Crazy 8s title

Tanner Cook • Jul 15, 2018 at 1:32 AM

KINGSPORT — The 29th annual Ballad Health/Niswonger Children’s Hospital Crazy 8s 8K road race in downtown Kingsport was one for the ages.

In other words, Saturday night’s event was a war on the roads between two gentlemen who had already raced multiple times over the summer.

Gabriel Geay of Tanzania became the first runner from his native country to win the Crazy 8s 8K after finishing in 22:42. He took home the Teleperformance $5,000 “Dash for the Gold” by crossing the finish line first.

Geay outsprinted reigning champion Teshome Mekonen of Ethiopia over the final kilometer to claim the title. The two were shoulder to shoulder throughout the race until Geay finally broke Mekonen on the turn from Memorial Boulevard back onto Fort Henry Drive — going back toward the finish line inside J. Fred Johnson Stadium.

The first mile for a pack of about 10 runners was a blazing 4:22 and the halfway split was 11:08, just over course-record pace.

The two front-runners were well ahead of third place by 3 miles and it looked like it was going to be a sprint to the finish line.

Geay and Mekonen had already raced each other twice this year, competing at the B.A.A. 10K in Boston and the Boilermaker 15K in Utica, N.Y., last weekend.

Geay came out on top in all of their meetings.

“I felt good and I just went down the hill. My goal has been to come to the U.S. and win big races,” Geay said. “I’ve won some big races like Bolder Boulder, Bloomsday, Boston and Boilermaker. I want to win all the big prizes.

“My goal is to be one of the best in the world and be the best in Tanzania.”

Blowing Rock, N.C., resident Josh Izewski finished in fourth place, becoming the highest-placing American in the Crazy 8s 8K in the past 20 years. Izewski beat out teammate Matt McClintock’s fifth-place finish from last year, crossing the line in 23:30.

The female winner was Johnson City’s Jenna Hutchins, who won in 30:45.

Hutchins will be a freshman at Science Hill this fall after tearing up both the cross-country courses and tracks during her time at Liberty Bell Middle School.

The final registered number of participants for all the events associated with the Crazy 8s was 3,392.

This marked the final year running the current figure-8 course. Starting next year, the course will be brand new and have the infamous hill up Fort Henry Drive from halfway to 3½ miles.

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