published Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Geno Phillips, Renee Beasley FCA 10k winners

Call it Geno and Georgia for the top places in the Labor Day road races benefiting the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Red Bank Middle School teacher and coach Geno Phillips won the FCA's second annual 10-kilometer race handily Monday morning at Chattanooga State, and Ringgold resident and Chattooga County cross country coach Renee Beasley was the first female finisher.

The 5k remained the Chattanooga Track Club official points race in the 26th annual event, and Dean Thompson of Cohutta and Heritage High School runner Caitlin Craft were the overall winners in that 3.1-mile option that included 252 finishers.

Phillips, the 2005 winner of the 5k, finished second in the shorter race last year but ran the longer distance this time mainly "to help get some miles in" as he continues to get back in running shape from a layoff due to a hip injury.

The 43-year-old took the lead when the 10k course split off from the 5k and cruised from there -- as much as anyone could cruise in Monday's humidity. He finished in 35 minutes, 1 second.

"It got warm out there, but I got in a rhythm and stayed with it," said Phillips, who plans to run a 5k in Sweetwater on Saturday.

Andy Highlander was second in the 10k in 36:48 after being fifth in the 5k in 2013, and Jeremy Miller and Mark Malecky were third and fourth in 38:44 and 40:49. Beasley was 16th overall in 49:38, one spot ahead of Deirdre Williams at 50:02.

Beasley rarely does Chattanooga races but was the fourth-finishing woman in the inaugural 7 Bridges Marathon in 2011. She's planning to run the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in November. The Chattooga graduate has had her team in previous FCA 5ks.

"I felt great till about mile five," she said after Monday's race, "when it got really hot and the humidity kicked in."

Staying in the 5k, the 48-year-old Thompson turned his eighth consecutive FCA top-five finish into his first victory in the event. He had come in third three times in the last five years.

"This was my ninth race here in a row," he said, calling the 5k for FCA "kind of a tradition. I kind of gauge my fitness level each year in this race."

He particularly likes helping the FCA, he said, as he now works for the Run for God ministry based in the Dalton area. He authored much of Run for God's book "Devotions" that will be released the day after Thanksgiving. The 52-devotion book can be ordered at the organization's website.

Monday, Thompson was in first to stay by the 5k turnaround. Peyton Miller, a 24-year-old M.B.A. student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, finished second but knew going in that might be his best possibility.

Thompson also beat him in a 5k at a CTC summer track meet last week at Red Bank, "so I kind of knew where he was at in relation to me," Miller admitted Monday. "I tried to stay close to him and keep him in my sight, but I just wanted to run a slightly steady pace. I was very pleased. This was my first [road] race in a couple of months; I'm just getting into my season."

He was shooting for the "low 17s," he said after his 17:29.

Andrew Clark and Connor Dial also finished in less than 18 minutes.

The 17-year-old Craft was wanting a time in the low 20s in trying to progress to an under-20 5k at Heritage's next meet this Saturday. She was 20th overall in the 5k at 20:23, edging female runner-up Kathryn Vradenburgh, 13, by 12 seconds.

"This was the best race of my season so far," said Craft, who had a 19:43 last year at the Front Runner meet at Baylor.

Front Runner owner Chad Varga was the race director for the 14th time. His predecessor, Louis Priddy, started the event and was there again Monday. Area FCA director Jay Fowler publicly thanked them both.

"Our banquet and golf tournament are our two biggest fundraisers," Fowler said, "but this race raises awareness for us -- and funds at just the right time. As Chad says, it's a great community event for us."

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

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