Old Centerville Road Lives up to Expectations Again

David Yon, January 18, 2022
The Retreat at Bradley’s Pond was the launch pad on January 15, 2022, for the GWTC 30K (18.6 miles) and 15K (9.3) races. With a starting temperature around 36 degrees on Saturday morning under clear skies, Old Centerville Road made its case again for being the best place in Tallahassee to race. Its “gently rolling hills” that seem to go on forever  and beautiful terrain is both challenging and rewarding.  My Garmin watch told me I ascended 983 feet during my 18.6-mile adventure.

An interesting twist to this race is the way the 15K has become the domain of the Leon Lions cross country teams. This year may have been the clearest example yet.

It started with an amazing performance by Patrick Koon. He obliterated the 15K course and race record. The Leon High School 10th grader (16 years old) finished in a time of 48:42, a 5:14 per mile pace. The 15K race has been run on the same course since its inception in 2006 and has been the battle scene for many really good runners.  One of those really good runners, Sukhi Khosla, another Leon runner, set the previous record of 50:11 in 2015.

Sukhi was the 2014 Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year in Florida. He won at least six high school titles and went on to a good career at Oklahoma State University. Patrick’s time lowered the record by 1:29 seconds. If he can continue to be patient and committed, he will be among, if not above, the best this area has produced.  He was running local races at the age of 6 (maybe younger) and has never stopped.

Seventeen-year-old, Lillee Tang, another Leon runner, ran a time of 53:14 to take the top spot for the women. Lily Moore, her teammate, took second in 64:35.  Of the top 21 spots, 14 were claimed by runners aged 17 or younger. You had to look down the list to number 7 to find the first runner over 17 years old.

The 30K, first run in 1978, has been the “marquee” event of this series. The 15K was an addon in 2006.  That year the 15K race had 59 finishers and the 30K had 69 finishers. Of recent times the 15K has been the bread winner. This year there were 117 runners in the 15K and 35 participants who went the distance and took on the mountains of Sunny Hill Road to complete the 30K.

Neither Chris O’Kelley nor Katie Sherron could control who runs which race other than themselves. But they choose the 30K and delivered really strong performances.  Chris took the overall title in a time of 1:53:03, one of only 14 runners who have broken the two-hour mark on the Old Centerville Course.   The course record belongs to Leon High School assistant cross country coach, Chris Haynes. He set the record when he ran 1:43:01in 2018. Charlie Johnson added to his sub 2:00 hour performances finishing in 1:57:07 for second overall. On the women’s side Katie Sherron delivered another victory speech for moms and masters running with an outstanding winning time of 2:05:54. Amy Hines refused to make it easy for Katie.  Also, a master and a mom, she ran a time of 2:06:08. In 2007, Sheryl Rosen raced Mike Martinez to the finish line where both were given a time of 2:04:21 which was  a course record for women that still stands. Mike got the lean to earn the higher finish place.

It was another good day for race directors Zach DeVeau and Jillian Heddaeus.  The 30K is now one of only two GWTC races that did not lose a year to COVID. The smaller number of participants and the remoteness of the course, along with the timing on the calendar made this possible.  It is a treasure of a race and hopefully we will see it growing again soon.

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