A day after finishing a three-day camp beside the Ocoee River with his college cross country team, Tennessee Wesleyan assistant coach Thomas Barker had something left Saturday morning on Missionary Ridge.
The 25-year-old former Red Bank High School and TWC runner won the annual 4.7-mile Missionary Ridge Road Race in 25 minutes, 43 seconds. Red Bank Middle School teacher and coach Geno Phillips was the runner-up and masters winner in 25:54, and Jessica Marlier was eighth overall and the first female in 27:56.
Marlier has won a number of area races the last couple of years but had not done the ridge run before Saturday.
That was one reason she ran the 41st version.
"And I thought it would be a fun race to kick off the fall racing season and shake off the rust a little bit," she said. "It was my first race since July 4. I've been pace building."
She plans to run the Columbus (Ohio) Marathon in mid-October.
Marlier's time Saturday was "about what I expected," she said. "I knew it would be rough in my first race back, especially with these hills, and it's super humid. I've trained on this course a lot, but it's always a little different when you're in a race."
Barker had run the ridge race twice before, most recently in 2007, when John Bruner collapsed near the end and died, leading to the event being also a memorial to the Dalton teenager.
"That was right before I started my freshman year in college, and we were always getting into cross country season," Barker said. "The season is about to start again, and I didn't know when I'd get another chance to race. Those kids wore me out the last few days, but I felt pretty good. I'm definitely a better distance runner than the last time I was here."
He said he had no expectations of winning or even of finishing in a certain time.
"I just wanted to see what I could do, so I was pleasantly surprised," Barker said. "I'm still preparing for club cross country."
He and Andy Highlander, who was fifth Saturday in 27:25, competed in the cross country nationals last December in Oregon.
"I really thought Geno was going to kill me on these hills," Barker said.
Phillips, 43, did run with him for a while but "had nothing" when Barker pulled away after three and a half miles.
"I need a little more time back," Phillips said. "I had a hip injury and was out from the middle of February to the first of May. I ran my first race [since then] last weekend in Kennesaw, Georgia. It was a 5k.
"I had no pain today. I've just got to get miles in and get back in shape."
Dean Thompson, 48, was third in 26:27, and 20-year-old Matt Jenkins was fourth. Between Highlander and Marlier, Tim Ensign and Hugh Enicks dueled for grand masters honors. Ensign, 51, finished sixth in 27:42; Enicks, 54, was six ticks back.
Laura Gearhiser, 51, was the second woman finisher and the female masters winner. Out of 219 total finishers, she was 38th overall in 34:09. Sharon Goforth got the grand masters prize. John Crawley and Kathi Wagner were the senior grand masters victors.
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.