Raa is on a roll: 2005 Owl Run

By Bill McGuire

Raa is on a roll! For the second straight year, Raa Middle School swept the boys’ and girls’ team titles at the Gretchen Everhart Owl Run. But while the boys had a bit of breathing room…18 points over Swift Creek…the girls prevailed in a nail-biter, eking out Deerlake by a mere two points, 37-39. Over 330 athletes participated in the meet, making this the largest Owl Run ever!

A spirited group of nearly 50 Everhart students kicked off the morning’s festivities, and inspired the crowd as they made their way around a nearly 1/2 mile loop of the school’s athletic field. Murice Shuler dominated the field, as he ran 2:35 to defend his 2004 title. Raymond Spicer (3:03) and Daniel Andrews (3:24) were 2nd and 3rd. The top girl, Classie Lewis, was also a repeat champion, finishing 7th overall, in 3:50. Abby Logan (4:39) and Erica Perry (4:46) were the next two girls across the line. Ian Haedicke forsook his last-place “winning” ways of the past two years, as he moved up to 37th out of 48 finishers.

Within minutes of the last Everhart finisher crossing the line, the middle schools girls’ race was underway. Deerlake’s Jana Stolting had already opened up some daylight on her pursuers by the time she exited the Everhart back field, and her lead only grew throughout the race. She crossed the finish line all alone in 13:26, a new meet record for the 2 mile course, and the first sub-14:00 performance in Owl Run history! Also breaking the 14 minute barrier was Raa’s Summer Shepherd, in second place. Shepherd’s teammate, Jodie Muguff, was third, in 14:26. Deerlake looked like a sure winner in the team race, taking 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th places. However, a team needs FIVE runners to score in cross-country, and Raa’s 5th girl, Julia Draper, finished in 12th place to clinch the team title for her school.

In the boys’ division, Kurt Dietrich of Swift Creek (12:07) unleashed a fearsome sprint around the final turn and down the homestretch to finally prevail over Raa’s Will Stanford (12:14). Their finish order was the reverse of last year’s outcome, when Stanford (then only a 6th grader!) finished 2nd to Dietrich’s 3rd. Griffin’s Tyrone Bynum looked like just another “flash in the pan” as he sprinted the first 1/4 mile with the race leaders. However, when the other “rabbits” faltered to the back of the pack, Bynum kept going. He led the race for a full mile and a half, and even then, Dietrich and Stanford needed a powerful surge to overtake him. He gamely hung on to finish 3rd, in 12:34.

One of the most impressive performances of the day was turned in by Lily Williams, a 6th grader at Deerlake. Williams, the daughter of elite athletes Chris and Sarah, ran an excellent 14:30 to finish 4th in the girls’ race. Taylor Buzzard of Deerlake was the fastest 6th grade boy, finishing 21st, in a time of 13:52.

So many people were responsible for the success of this event. From the runners’ point of view, probably nothing that happens at the race is as important as receiving an Owl Run t-shirt for their efforts. In most cases, it is the only tangible reward they will receive for a season of sweat and guts! Once again, Shannon Sullivan, now representing Sandal Beat, signed on as a major shirt sponsor, as did the Gulf Winds Track Club’s Chenoweth Committee. Please thank these folks when you see them, and support their organizations! Leon County Schools, specifically Ricky Bell (of the Student Activities Office), picked up some significant financial slack to assure that there would be enough shirts to go around the ever-increasing numbers of Owl Run participants.

Special mention goes to Pat Erwin of Balloons Unlimited for once again donating, arranging, and delivering the huge array of balloons that comprise the most festive finish line around! Ray Hanlon, Bill Lott, and Myron Herring worked from dawn until noon to make sure that every detail of that finish line…and surrounding area…looked great and worked smoothly. Julie Clark, Lisa Unger, and Jere Moore also represented GWTC admirably among the finish line crew.

Other folks from the track club stayed busy during the races, as well. Bonnie Wright and Jerri Hanna did an excellent job running the water table along the course. Bonnie and others had helped various Everhart students navigate through their race before taking on duties for the middle school runs.

Chris Sumner brought his Community Based Instruction class from Godby to work the water table near the finish line, and keep all those cups filled, as hot and thirsty runners streamed across the line. Thanks also to Godby for lending us all those flags to mark the Everhart field. GWTC member and Everhart parent Terry Massa also helped coordinate water at the finish line.

Lamons Warren and Marilynn Wills did their typically fast and efficient job tabulating finish times and places, and produced timely individual and team results. These two are definitely Owl Run all-stars.

Special thanks to GWTC and Everhart luminary Vicky Droze, who provided spontaneous and animated “play-by-play” announcing of the Everhart race.

Local high school runners also did their part for the cause. As he did last year, assistant Leon H.S. cross country coach Andrew Wills brought a contingent of volunteers from his team, and they did a fine job monitoring the course. Chris McGuire represented the Godby championship boys X-C team (winners of the Lincoln Invitational and Rams X-C Meet in Panama City), and put in a long day working not just for his “old man”, but filling in anywhere he was needed. By the time we returned the GWTC trailer to Joe Dexter’s place, he was thinking it hadn’t been such a great idea to take the day off from school, after all!

Just prior to the first race, Ray Hanlon and Bill Lott were presented plaques for their outstanding contributions to the Owl Run over the years. This acknowledgement was long overdue, and couldn’t begin to symbolize all that these two have done for our event. Many, many thanks, guys!!

And a hearty congratulations to all participants in the 2005 Owl Run – young men and women who represent the future of our sport…and the future of our track club!

Complete results.