By David Yon
Year in and year out the Palace Saloon seems to attract more fast runners than any other GWTC race. This year is a good example as Lee Willis won in a time of 16:06 to lead seven runners under 17:00 minutes. It was the fastest winning time since 2000 when Paul Spangler ran 15:39. Keith Batten grabbed second in 16:13, which was also a masters’ win for the FSU coach. 2005 Grand Prix leader Art Remillard kept his string of strong performances going with a fifth place finish in 16:35.
The top seven included two very fast women as Breeda Willis defended her title by edging Vicky Gill, 16:31 to 16:53. Breeda’s time was not only good enough for her to defend her title, but it also appears to be a course record. Kristy McDermott ran 16:34 in the 1985 to set the existing record as best I can tell. Darien Andreu ran 16:38 in 1984 to give this race three women who have won in under 16:45. I don’t have a time for the winner of the women’s race in 1977 or 1982 though, so I can not say for sure.
Lee Willis was a long way off the men’s record. In 1976 eight men ran faster than 16:00 with George West winning in a time of 14:37. George won in 1977, but I don’t have a time and then he won in 1978 in a time of 14:30, for what appears to be the men’s record.
The turnout for this year’s race was great with a big turnout (318 finishers) causing a slight delay at the start. The race also had a unique twist as Jackson Bluff road was undergoing a repaving project. Runners had their choice for a half mile or more of running on pavement (by moving to their left) or cross country (by staying on the traditional course). With the course narrowed to one lane, the construction crew saved the day by stopping rerouting the traffic around the construction area making it a very safe place to run.
Congratulations again to Herb Wills and Reid Vannoy for an event well done.