Andy Highlander takes Chattanooga Chase 8k; Anneli Morrison wins twice

Andy Highlander takes Chattanooga Chase 8k; Anneli Morrison wins twice

May 29th, 2012 by Ron Bush in Sportlocal

Anneli Morrison was the women's winner of the Chattanooga Chase.

Photo by Ron Bush/Times Free Press.

Andy Highlander was the men's winner of the Chattanooga Chase.

Photo by Ron Bush/Times Free Press.

Two 24-year-old former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga runners relegated last year's overall winners to second place Monday morning in the Chattanooga Chase 8-kilometer race from Riverview Park.

One of the 8k winners, Anneli Morrison, then also was the first female in the 1-mile run and was among the sizable group hanging around to cheer on the day's last finisher to a state record for an 84-year-old.

That was Jane Ensign, taking part in a sports competition for the first time in her life.

The day's first finisher was Andy Highlander, who finished second to Patrick Hall in the 2010 Chattanooga Chase but slept through the 2011 race when Alan Outlaw won in 27 minutes even. Outlaw, 34, was close to that in 27:08 Monday, but that was 18 seconds behind Highlander.

Troy Maddux, 44, was third in 27:14, followed by Caleb Morgan in 27:36, James Teroilligo in 27:51 and Dean Thompson in 27:56.

Morrison was 11th overall in 30:44 despite taking a wrong turn and having to cover an extra half-mile. Sarah Woerner, the 2011 women's winner in 31:39, beat that by 23 seconds and was 13th overall.

Woerner also was second to Morrison in the mile, where they were sixth and 10th overall in 5:34 and 5:57 with Catherine Greenwell 12th in 6:12. Erin Rayburn was the third woman in the 8k at 34:08.

"Any time Anneli's running, she's got me on the road stuff," said Woerner, a distance trail specialist who just finished her own UTC eligibility. "I need to work more on my speed stuff and shorter road races. My time at UTC definitely helped with that."

She said her legs were hurting by the end of the 8k, but she went on with the mile nearly two hours later.

"The first half mile was OK. The last half was just hard," said Morrison, who had never entered a mile race on pavement but did run the 800 and the 1600 for UTC.

She had "run through the neighborhood" but never did the 8k course before Monday.

"This neighborhood had some hills I didn't know were there," Morrison said. "But I felt good the whole way -- till I realized I was going the wrong way. That was right before I hit the 4-mile mark. Ryan [Shrum] yelled at me, but I didn't hear him."

She had taken eight weeks off because of a stress fracture and has been back running only two and a half months, she said. She won the Cornbread Festival and Outrun the Police 5k races but said the Chase was her "push to serious workouts again."

Highlander recently won the Lookout Mountain 4-miler and the "completely flat" Strawberry Festival 10k in in Dayton. The Chattanooga Chase, he said, requires even more strategy than the Lookout race, he said, with its sequence of hills featuring the grueling Minnekahda grade.

"I wanted to do the first mile in 5:20, and I did it in 5:21 or :22, but the third mile was like 6:20," Highlander said. "Alan Outlaw was matching my pace pretty good up the hills.

"I took the first mile, but Alan and Caleb led miles two and three. I took it over at the top of Minnekahda, and mile four to the end was nerve-racking. You're afraid you're going to get chased down -- you wonder if you went too early."

Outlaw said later he thought he would be able to close the gap.

"Andy just had too much, and I didn't have anything," he said.

Joe Goetz won the Chase's first competitive mile race since 1986 in 4:51, seven seconds ahead of Morgan. Goetz said he was setting the pace for Tim Ensign to set a state record for a 49-year-old male. Ensign needed to beat 4:54 but finished third in 5:02.

His mother, however, was in an age group with no existing record, and she walked the course near her home in 27:18, accompanied by her young granddaughters.

"I wanted to break 30 minutes and I did. These girls helped a lot," Jane Ensign said, noting that she had been walking for exercise and increased that after Tim signed her up.

"I couldn't let the Ensign name down," she added with a smile. "I feel like I have accomplished something, and I hope this encourages other people to do things they never thought they could do. I feel like the most unathletic person in the world. Even when I was young, I never wanted to play games."

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