The Chattanooga Track Club

Promoting Running and Fitness in Chattanooga

Rodney Stoker Repeats As Turkey Trot Winner
By John Hunt
Posted: Saturday, November 24, 2018
Rodney Stoker Repeats As Turkey Trot Winner

By John Hunt

Runners love it when race day brings temperatures in the mid 30s with no wind. It’s a bit cool for the first five minutes or so, but once the body starts generating heat, conditions like that are almost perfect.

Such was the case at the Sports Barn East Thursday morning as more than a thousand running enthusiasts gathered for the annual Turkey Trot 8K, 5K walk and one-mile fun run.

Rodney Stoker was successful in defending his win from a year ago as he covered the challenging five-mile route in 26 minutes, 34 seconds as he averaged 5:21 per mile to hold off runner-up Kevin Huwe, who was running side-by-side with the McCallie coach in the final mile before falling back and finishing with an outstanding time of 26:42.

Former East Hamilton All-State star Nick McCormick was third in 27:38.

Jennifer Huwe, Kevin’s wife, was the women’s winner as she finished 25th overall with a time of 32:02 while runner-up Morgan Olson came across the finish line in 34:03 to finish 36th in the field that totaled 656 finishers for the main event.

Ashlyn Holliday was the third female and 51st overall in 35:19.

This race, which benefits the American Kidney Foundation, has become a Thanksgiving tradition for many runners as they come out and run a good race, support a good cause and then don’t feel the least bit guilty over eating the rest of the day.

Stoker is a former standout at UTC and has since had coaching stints at Bryan College and UT-Knoxville. He’s currently employed in the admissions department at McCallie and works closely with Mike Wood in the McCallie Summer Camp. He’s also an assistant coach for the Blue Tornado cross country team.

Stoker won last year’s race in 27:18 as he had to work hard to hold off women’s winner Dylan Hassett, but that wasn’t the case this year. Instead, he had to fend off the challenge of Huwe as the two ran together for the first four miles before Stoker took charge in the final stretch.

“Kevin and I ran together for most of the first four and a half miles, but I pressed down on that last hill by the turn off Lee Highway and he didn’t have much of a response. He just ran the Chicago Marathon a few weeks back and maybe he was still feeling that, but we had a really good run together.

“Running has been getting better and better for me in recent months as I think I’m getting smarter. I run between 55 and 65 miles a week and when I feel good, go a little further, but I don’t stress out over numbers like I used to and running is much more fun as a result.

“I felt like I was strong enough to break 27 today and was able to do that,” he added.

Huwe is a 31-year-old engineer who works for McKee Food. He had an outstanding race at Chicago with a time in the mid 2:30s, but he simply didn’t have the foot speed to match Stoker when the going got tough at the end.

“It was nice to have someone to run with for a change as this was my best 8K time since college. My goal was to win and run 26:30. I finished second and got pretty close with a 26:42, so I’m happy,” he said after catching his breath.

“We ran together most of the way and I took the lead briefly at the start of the final mile, but he gapped me at the end. The only way I was going to beat him was to pull away before the end, but that didn’t happen today. I had the lead in the last mile, but just couldn’t hold it,” he added.

McCormick was an outstanding miler in high school, but has been doing longer distances since graduating from college with a degree in finance. He averaged 5:34 per mile on Thursday, but still wasn’t really happy about it.

“It wasn’t my best race as I’m really not in shape for a race of this distance. I really didn’t know what to expect today, but I was much better prepared for the Chattanooga Chase and had a better time despite it being a tougher course,” he said, knowing that he finished fifth overall at the Chase on Memorial Day with a time of 27:23.

“Rodney and Kevin kept getting further and further away and I realized at the two-mile mark that I wasn’t going to be able to keep their pace,” the 23-year-old investment broker nodded.

Jennifer Huwe is a 29-year-old quality control specialist at McKee Foods who basically “taste test Little Debbie’s for a living.” Her goal was to get a personal record and she did so with plenty of time to spare. She also had a unique list of things she and her family were planning for the rest of the day.

“That’s a hilly course, but not too bad until the last mile and a half,” she expressed afterward.

“There were tons of people out on the course and that always makes it fun, but my goal was to get a PR and I did. I was also trying to keep up with a guy pushing a baby jogger. I finally passed him in the last mile, but today’s race was a good experience for me.

Among other things she was planning for later in the day was some 3-on-3 basketball, skeet shooting and “just a lot of fun running around and playing outside,” she concluded.

Olson is a 27-year-old fifth-grade teacher at Chattanooga Christian. It’s been several years since she took part in this event, but was pleasantly surprised at the final results.

“We had absolutely great weather today, but I just wanted to come out and have fun. It’s been a while since I did this race, but it was a good one,” she added. 

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