500 Parade to the Palace

By David Yon, April 15, 2007

They are an unlikely pair even though they share a talent and love for the sport. One seems to have safely locked his competitive days behind him, while the other will run his own race for the grand prix points. One is a math teacher and tutor with a penchant for historical accuracy and the other is a guru at reorganizing systems and not sure who won this race the next morning. But when it comes to running, one is a member of the FSU and GWTC Halls of Fame and a former FSU record holder, the other has been GWTC Runner of the Year and the winner of the GWTC Grand Prix circuit. And they both are committed to making the Palace Saloon special. Herb Wills and Reid Vannoy have come together to breathe great life into one of GWTC’s “founding” races. Together they have built something special –so special that they were named the 2006 GWTC Race Directors of the Year. But that wasn’t good enough and they went out and built on the previous years to make this year even bigger and better as GWTC’s oldest 5K busted through the 500 mark in 2007 with 537 finishers. There was a much smoother registration process, great traffic control (with cones lining Jackson Bluff Road) and plenty of beer and fun at the end. There were still a few growing pains as finish line volunteers found just how difficult it is to process 537 5K runners, but the parking lot of the Palace Saloon was filled with smiling faces.

J.P. Cook crested the “Call your bluff” hill on Jackson Bluff Road at two and half miles all alone in first place and went on to take the 2007 title with a time of 16:12. Not far behind, Tripp Southerland finished in 16:39 and was one of six runners to break the 17:00 barrier. He finished in second place in 16:39. Breeda Willis, the probable race record holder (16:31), won the women’s race in 17:14. Lara Shaw was next at 17:55. A total of 48 runners broke the 20 minute barrier proving that this is a race that more fleet feet run then any other, despite the half mile long hill.

Jay Wallace continued his streak of improvement by capturing the masters title in 16:55. Julie Clark hit the 21:00 mark dead on to win the women’s title for masters. The WYSWIG team (Mike Lilly, Jay Wallace, Kyle Larson, Bill McCord, Tim Unger, Reid Vannoy and Zach Galloway) edged out the Miletich Brothers Band (J. P. Cook, Alex Miletich, David Altmaier, Bryan Miletich, and Eric Critzer) for the team title for men. Breeda Willis, Lara Shaw, Lisa Johnson, Jana Stolting and Loranne Ausley took the title the team for women. Second place went to Tri-Stables (Julie Clark, Elizabeth Kelsey, Deborah Ansley, Perha Varley and Linda Renner).

Of course, as experienced race directors know, things that seem to run well on the surface have all sorts of problems the untrained eye doesn’t see. And this one had its own story. On Thursday before the race, I received a call from the race director asking if I could pick up the awards on Friday afternoon. Despite having ordered the awards in February, every day’s call to the trophy shop was met with the same response – “they will be here any day, but they are not here yet. We won’t let you down.” “Sure, I will pick them up,” I said. The distressed follow-up call came a couple hours later – “Save your time, they are still not here.” But there was still hope – the trophy shop promised they were going to be at the Tallahassee airport at 7:00 a.m. race morning. They even promised to pick them up. Of course after six weeks of empty promises, you can’t blame the race director for being skeptical. And when I crossed the finish line and tried telling Reid what a great job he had done, his only response was “there are no trophies – I am leaving.” If you were there you may have noticed it took a long time to get to the awards this year. But finally Reid summoned up the courage to address the crowd (Herb was in the bathroom at the time, I think) and took the microphone to make the announcement. But this race is blessed these days and just before his voice boomed out over the system, a car filled with trophies screeched up to the Palace Saloon parking lot just in time to save the day. So, with my brand new Palace Saloon glass filled with a Rogue, it is time to raise a toast to the Palace Saloon 5K, 2007!

Complete results