The Chattanooga Track Club

Promoting Running and Fitness in Chattanooga

Stoker, Gautier Romp to Ridge titles
By John Hunt
Posted: Monday, August 15, 2005

Rodney Stoker and Jan Gautier are no strangers to excellent performances when it comes to winning road races in the Chattanooga area. Both were overall winners at the 32nd annual Missionary Ridge Road Race on August 6 and neither were seriously challenged.

Both have run much faster in the past, but the important thing is that they ran fast enough to win on a rolling, out-and-back course measuring 4.7 miles that finishes on the upper side of Bragg Reservation.

Stoker is now a two-time Ridge winner after posting a time of 25:06. Gautier, on the other hand, has now claimed the first-place trophy for women eight times after crossing the finish line in 29:59, which just happens to be her slowest winning time yet.

She posted the course record with a time of 27:05 when she won in 1992 while Adam Pinkston's time of 23:07 set in 1986 is still the measuring stick for the men.

The 29-year-old Stoker, who was a standout for coach Bill Gautier's UTC Mocs in the mid 90s, is now the head cross country coach at Bryan College. He doesn't have the time to train like he once did, but he's been working hard in recent weeks and he's fast getting back into pretty good race shape.

He didn't seem to have any problems on this day as he broke from the starting line in a hurry. By the time he circled the turn-around point and headed back to the start, nobody was anywhere close. He slowed some in the last two miles, but runner-up Geno Phillips still finished some 39 seconds later.

42-year-old Tim Ensign, another former winner (1999) who once ran for the Mocs, was third in 26:22. Patrick Hall and Ryan Heming completed the top five with times of 26:55 and 27:17, respectively.

Gautier ran her first race after celebrating her 40th birthday on July 23. She's battled some nagging injuries for the last couple of years, but she appears to be on the comeback trail.

She was the only female to break 30 minutes as she finished 22nd overall in the field that included 287 finishers. Runner-up Cindy Lewis, a 24-year-old speedster from Toronto, challenged Gautier in the middle miles, but couldn't maintain the fast pace and slowed to a 31:18, which was 34th overall.

Jennifer Croft and 2004 winner Suzanne Walker followed in 31:24 and 31:27, respectively, while Traci McAmis was the fifth female and 43rd overall in 32:09.

Stoker felt like his fast start made the difference on a warm, muggy morning.

"I was aggressive early, but then I started feeling not so great. I'm trying to get back in shape, so I just wanted to test myself today. I hope to be ready to run really fast in about eight weeks. The intensity will be going up and so will my mileage, but racing again also helps. It's been a long time since I've been competitive," Stoker said, noting that his current mileage is about 60 per week but will soon be between 80 and 85.

Phillips has run this race three times. He ran a 24:50 in 2002 when he finished third and he had a 25:01 last year when he was the overall champ. He was hoping to be closer to last year's winning time, but it just didn't work out for the 34-year-old social studies teacher at Brown Middle School.

"I was slower than last year. I wanted to be in the low 25s, but considering the conditions, I guess it was okay. Rodney had at least a minute lead on me by two miles. I cut into it a little, but there wasn't much I could do. I was gaining on him in the second half, but the damage had been done," Phillips said as he was nearing the end of his warmdown routine.

Ensign was another who was wanting to run a lot faster.

"I was hoping to break Eric Putnam's masters record of 25:14, but I didn't come close. I was in third place after 50 yards and stayed there. I was a lot faster last year. I love this race. I ran it for the first time when I was 13 or 14 and Hal Smith brought me up here. That was one of the first races I ever ran. And I appreciate the work that Dan (Bailey) has done to revitalize this event," Ensign said.

Gautier had spent the week before the Ridge race at camp with the Baylor girls' cross country team. She may have been a bit tired at the start of the race, but that fatigue seemed to wear off as the race progressed. One thing about Jan is she's a competitor. She likes to win as much as anyone and you've got to be in top form to beat her.

"I was really pleased with my performance as I actually raced," she said while the awards were being presented.

"I worked hard all week at cross country camp, but I went out fairly quick in this race. Cindy (Lewis) wasn't far back when we turned around, but on that first hill coming back, I put my head down and tried to put some distance on her. I used the downhills when I could, but I'm pumped. This was my first race in the Masters division," she added with a smile.

Dan Bailey served as race director again and did an outstanding job. He saw a few spots where improvements can be made, but overall, he was pleased with the final product.

"For the most part, I thought it went really well. All of the volunteers were prepared and in place. I know that we need more porta potties next year as too many people were standing in line when it was time to start the race. But I haven't heard many complaints.

"Jed Mescon and Steve Brown (local TV and radio personalities) make a living talking and they both did a great job with the awards and the door prizes. I always worry about having enough water and PowerAde for the slower runners as it's hot this time of year, but that's just something you have to expect in August," Bailey concluded.

Proceeds from this year's race benefitted the American Red Cross. Members and former members of the United States Armed Forces were recognized with honorariums that included a white bag with a small American flag attached. Names of each honoree were printed on individual bags and they lined the circle at Bragg Reservation.


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