published Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Nick McCormick, Anneli Morrison win 5k for FCA

Nick McCormick wasn't being disrespectful. The East Hamilton High School senior was running to win the 5k for FCA race Monday morning at Chattanooga State; he just didn't happen to know the competition.

The 17-year-old McCormick actually ran a 5k plus a step -- to adhere to TSSAA in-season regulations, all the high school competitors had to back up slightly from the starting line so they weren't running their usual official distance -- and he did it in 16 minutes, 21 seconds.

Patrick Hall, a 28-year-old who has won numerous local races, including last month's Missionary Ridge event, finished in 16:26. McCormick didn't know who he was, just that he gave him a good battle.

"The first mile there was a group of about six people or so. By the second mile it was just me and the guy who placed second," McCormick said. "I don't really know what happened to the other people."

McCormick said the top two were "back and forth" early in the last mile. The teenager took the lead to stay with just undera half-mile to go.

Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout Anneli Morrison is this year's local queen of the holidays. She added the Labor Day women's victory in 18:38 to her two wins in the Chattanooga Chase on Memorial Day.

"That's the only time I don't have to work," the 25-year-old said with a laugh, adding that she competed only in the Market Street Mile and the Sports Barn sprint triathlon in the interim, along with going to South Africa to get married.

Actually, the former Anneli Uys already was married, and the groom remained the same. It was a follow-up ceremony in her native country to their American wedding.

She had finished second to another ex-Lady Moc, Lanni Marchant, in the FCA race the last two years but took advantage of Marchant's absence and the cooperative weather. Rain did hit later in the day but did not inundate the roughly 650 participants in Monday's races, unlike last year.

"I really didn't know what to expect. Last year we had to swim, it was raining so hard," Morrison said. "I wanted definitely to finish in 18:30 or less, and I was close. I was happy with it."

As a UTC assistant coach, she will be working at the Mocs' cross country meet Friday at Moccasin Bend, so she was glad to get a chance to run for herself. She runs about 50-55 miles a week, she said.

Dean Thompson was third overall in 16:53, and he and Dianna Leun were the masters winners. Jacob Bradley and Ryan Schumacher were fourth and fifth in 17:03 and 17:04.

Being a Fellowship of Christian Athletes race, it began with a prayer from the organization's UTC chaplain, former University of Tennessee football standout Chris Walker. He's been with the southeastern Tennessee group since last Dec. 1.

"We're thrilled to have Chris on our team. He's a difference maker," area FCA director Jay Fowler said. "In a very short time he's built a great rapport with athletes in all the sports at UTC, but especially the football team.

"We've had our eye on Chris for years," added Fowler, citing recommendations from former UTC FCA rep Roger Woods, now serving at UT.

The opening came up, Fowler said, with the decision to let staffer Zach Ferrell focus on inner-city ministry after having combined it with UTC work.

Walker went to UT from Memphis, but his mother lived in Chattanooga for nearly two years during his time with the Volunteers, so he had become familiar with the city.

"I knew I wanted to be in ministry. I just didn't know it would be this soon," he said, noting his call from Fowler after his release from the Baltimore Ravens following his UT career.

"We provide team Bible studies and coaches' studies for all the ones who want it," Walker said, "and we have a weekly huddle group for all the athletes and any other students who want to be part of it. We also do one-on-one discipleship and community work -- things like that.

"I think it's a good time to be in Chattanooga, especially with FCA," added the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Walker. "All the coaches are very supportive of it."

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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