FEBRUARY 9, 2002

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A picture perfect day greeted runners in the lovely East Tennessee hamlet of Strawberry Plains along the banks of the Holston River for the annual running of the Knoxville Track Club's Strawberry Plains Half Marathon.
Participants, supporters and volunteers gathered at the Rush Strong School on the Old Andrew Johnson Highway.
Before, during and after the race, volunteers extraordinaire Marge McLean and Kelly Arnold sliced fruit and set out bagels, donuts and other treats for the hungry runners who would descend after the races.
Sheriff's Deputy Jerry Bell drove the lead car and controlled traffic throughout the 13.1 mile race course.
Matthew Porterfield zipped off from the starting line in his racing wheelchair.
The half marathon and 10K started together and both groups burst out of the school parking lot onto the main road.
Nearly five hundred runners signed up for the two events and the throng streamed past for quite some time as the race began.
More and more racers curled out onto the race course.
Finally the teeming minions finished their initial sprint and settled into the pace of the day.
Meanwhile, out on the race course, a tall stand of maple, oak and sweetgum await on their hillside, oblivious to the impending struggles at the foot of the ridge.
Minutes later, young Todd Skelton rocketed by on his way to an overall second place finish in the 10K race, running a swift 35:20.
A short distance back, a tightly bunched threesome gave chase, including eventual female winners Patrice Carroll (36:24) and Erika Van Reenan, (36:32), along with Tomoaki Uchiki, who was third male, running 36:52.
Rainbow warrior John Plummer pieced together several six minute miles before falling off a bit at 37:42, ninth overall and third in the 35-39 age group.
Cruising the downhill, Kevin Carraher raced well to an age group award.  Skip ran 38:52 and won his age group.
These two men also ran well on the hilly 10K course, including number 307, Jeff Parmalee, whose 38:17 earned him fourth place in his age group.
David McNair ran alone for much of the race amidst the forested hills, winning the 15-19 age group in 38:57.
Though it warmed quickly in the sun, it was still frosty in the shaded valley, and Bruce Blankenship never did take off his gloves.  His 41:16 won the men's 40-44 age group.
Big Eric Tadlock showed good form cresting this hill on his way to a strong finish, winning the men's 30-34 category with a 41:32 time.
Though there were many downhill stretches, an out and back course makes you pay for each one.
Steve Ferguson sets those feet striding wide as he traverses the broken pavement past the four mile mark of the 10K.  Steve took overall grandmasters honors by covering the 6.2 miles in 42:42.
Speedy Ralph Collins shows that he's on the way back to racing form as he ambles down this hill.
Christine Hames has a smile for the camera as the downgrade carries her towards the final miles of the race.  Her 51:05 earned her second place in the women's 25-29 group.
Cole Stott chugs along in the Holston River Valley, with about two miles to go in the 10K.  He finished in 50:39.
The gorgeous scenery is one thing about which all runners sing praises at Strawberry Plains.  No foxes were seen this year, but there was no shortage of cows.
Meanwhile, out on the half marathon course, Chris Carr is having an excellent race, running 1:32:06 to win the men's 25-29 age group.
Mike Kelley has a fluid and economical style, and it suits him well on this long and hilly course.  He went on to log a 1:31:40 and finish 4th in the men's 45-49 group.
Daniel Julian (401) and Suhmer Smith ran together the entire race, each helping the other to a strong performance.  Daniel ran 1:29:46 to finish 2nd in the men's 20-24, while Smith was clocked in 1:29:49, and was fourth in men's 15-19, a tough division on this day.
The musical marathoner, Gary Sperl, fought off a stubborn cold and a number of competitors to finish well.  He ran 1:32:46 to win the men's 50-54 category
Butch Bleeker had a real good race, here stretching a lead on a long downhill grade.  He ran 1:31:46 and was fourth in the men's 40-44 group.
Even without his stars'n'stripes T-shirt, Joe Leahy ran very well, finishing 3rd in 35-39 with a 1:34:29.
Another accomplished marathoner, Mike Marchant, had little trouble with the shorter race, easily winning the men's 55-59 group in 1:33:39.
Zach Whalen ate up ground with his powerful stride and had a successful race, taking fourth in the men's 25-29 with 1:36:23.
The only one who could keep pace with ultimate champion Bill Kabasenche was his shadow.  Bill ran a smooth 1:11 to finish more than four minutes ahead of runner-up Jon Lawler.
Many groups of runners packed together to duel it out in the rural splendor.
Scott McKinney has no trouble grinning for the photo op as he tried to keep up with Ann Felknor at around the seven mile mark.  Ann, fifth overall female, won the women's 35-39 age group in 1:37:44, while Scott finished in 1:38:12 for sixth in men's 35-39.
Betty Schohl is very relaxed as she runs strongly in the mid-morning sunshine, winning female masters in 1:41:57.  She won't be quite so relaxed in two weeks as she and husband Jerry direct the Whitestone 30K, a new KTC race on Watts Bar Lake near Kingston TN.
Another big pack gives chase with still almost six miles to go.
More runners head off to the east on the winding two lane blacktop.
The pride of Halls, David Smith, ran very well en route to an overall third place finish, running an excellent 1:20:12.
Melissa Madgett of Oliver Springs and the Nike/Runners Market racing team, speeds smoothly through the Jefferson County countryside.  She ran 1:49:33 for fifth in the women's 35-39 category.
Triathlete Laura Kile harassed the photographer about never getting her picture on the web, so here she is, running well with Bill Osborne and David Winstead.  Laura clocked 1:51:44 for sixth in 35-39.
As the slower runners continue to run single file to the east, the leaders were doubling back toward the finish line. Here Dan Bird, eventual male masters winner, follows the European tradition and drives on the left hand side.
Some years this race has been held in wintry conditions, but this year's event allowed Steve Zimo and his partner to hand out the water and Powerade in relative comfort.
The early February sun angled down low in the sky, casting shadows and glares all over the race course.  Casting shadows here are Chris O'Rourke, Melanie Cox and John Iskra (left-right).  Chris passed both to finish in 1:30:24, third in men's 45-49, Melanie was second overall female in 1:30:39, and John was first in men's 35-39 in 1:30:33.
Eddie Reymond ran a fine race, despite appearing to bite his fingernails in nervousness as he passes the ten-mile water stop.  He finished in 1:33:16, third in the men's 30-34 age group.
Tommy Seymore (2nd men's 50-54 - 1:33:47) of Abingdon VA dressed for the sunshine which warmed the second half of the race.
Strawberry Plains is rightly called "the Loveliest Half Marathon in the east."
Dale Lawson and Rick Gray run together, still looking sprightly after ten miles.
Grandmasters stalwart Royce Sayer had another great performance, running 1:35:05 to dominate the sixty-plus guys.
With only a half mile to go, Jimmie Holland of Athens TN looks ready to take it to the house.  He ran 1:25:57 to finish eighth overall, second in the men's 15-19 category. 
A faster fortyplus guy, Jay Bachmann emerges from the tunnel ready to kick in the last segment of the race.  He was timed in 1:25:44, winning the 40-44 age group.
It's always amazing to see someone with even a semblance of a smile this late in a race, let alone grinning like Alvaro Ayo.  He was eleventh overall, 1:27:40, and first in his age group.
Lanky Jim Whitaker comes out of the tunnel looking ready for another 20K.  He ran 1:27:57, second in the men's 45-49.
It's a skinny little one-lane tunnel, but every racer is glad to pop out the other side, knowing there's but a half mile to go in the half marathon, and Scott Blackman is no exception.  His 1:28:13 earned second place in men's 30-34.
Jeff Broome (1:28:23 - 2nd men's 15-19) is looking forward to a bagel and a cup of joe awaiting him at Rush Strong School.
Chicago Al Gassell has a lot of spring in his step as he approaches the finish chute.  His 1:41:13 was good for sixth in men's 50-54.
John Fox always looks smooth, even after running a half marathon.  He cruised in at 1:41:21 today.
Jerry Sutton raises his hands in satisfaction as he completes the half marathon.
Erika Van Reenan was second overall female in the 10K.  Her 36:32 was fourth overall, beating all but two of the men.
Making the four hour drive down from Cincinnati was no problem for these members of the West Side Running Team.  Both took fourth overall, Dan Bird claiming the men's masters crown, running 1:21:43 and his traveling companion, Suzanne Lewis ran a terrific 1:36:15.
With its stunning scenery and professional organization, the Strawberry Plains Half Marathon has always been a favorite of runners in East Tennessee and the region.  The addition of the 10K has made the race an even grander success, with almost 500 participants this year.  We hope everyone makes it back next year!

photos by Michael deLisle