Sunday, March 20, 2016

Taylor and Churchill make the grade in the Education For Life 5K

Saturday, 19 March 2016, in Tallahassee, Florida started with one of those damp and dreary mornings that inspire most people to sleep in. That wasn't the case, though, for 223 athletes who headed to the Florida State University campus to race the seventh annual Education For Life 5K. The stay-in-bed plan applied least of all to Antony Taylor, a Florida State graduate student in sports sciences who won the 3.1-mile run in an event-record 16:28. Nor was it the philosophy of Alyson Churchill, who finished first in the women's standings and sixteenth overall in 19:38.

Antony Taylor

The 5K started in front of the FSU College of Medicine on West Call Street at 8:00 AM. Even with daylight savings time in effect it was about twenty minutes after sunrise, but overcast skies from a passing storm kept things quite dark. As the runners headed east into the gloom Antony Taylor surged to the front of the field. Nate Kaiser gave chase, but steadily lost ground to Taylor. Both runners were faster than Zach DeVeau's 2015 event record of 17:01, but Taylor had the winning 16:28 while Kaiser ran 16:59, good only for second place. 2015 champ DeVeau was third in 18:01. The Education For Life 5K founder and 2014 winner, Southern Scholarship Foundation president Mickey Moore, was the top master in the race, sixth overall in 18:23.

Taylor appeared to be running well within himself during the whole race, always seeming to have quite a bit of gas left in the tank. That's to be expected, though, with Taylor's background.

"I ran for FSU last year," said Taylor. "Before that I ran for the University of Massachusetts."

Nate Kaiser

During those years of NCAA division 1 competition, Taylor posted a 5,000-meter best of 14:37.87. 16:28 is a stepping stone on the way back to that old form.

"This is actually the first race I've run since last spring. I'll be getting in some track races, and I'm going to try to run in the British Olympic Trials later this year. The steeplechase."

Alyson Churchill, an eighth-grader on the Swift Creek Middle School cross country team, took an early lead over the rest of the women's field, getting as much as half a minute ahead of her nearest competitor. That competitor happened to be Madison Harris, a middle distance specialist on the Florida State University track team.

Alyson Churchill

"My coach had me taking it easy," explained Harris. "There's the home meet next week. 'You can run it but don't race it!'"

Maybe it was Harris' pacing. Maybe it's futile to tell an athlete at that level not to compete. Whatever the reason, Harris started to narrow the gap on Churchill. Did Churchill know Harris was back there?

"I had no idea!" said Churchill.

In the end, though, Harris got within eight seconds, but no closer to the leader. After finishing runner-up in 2015, Churchill took the women's title. Harris was second on the women's side, Eighteenth overall in 19:46. Brittney Barnes was third for the women, 22nd overall in 20:23. Katie Clark was the top woman master and sixth female finisher, 41st overall in 22:39.

Madison Taylor

Madison Harris, by the way, is a resident of Polk House, one of 27 scholarship houses maintained by the Southern Scholarship Foundation, the organizer and beneficiary of the Education For Life 5K. Many other scholarship house residents were out on the course, cheering for the athletes and staffing water tables. I won't say that you'll never find a better supported race, but you may have to go the Boston Marathon to find it.

Top Ten Men, 2016 Education For Life 5K
  1. 16:28 ~ Antony Taylor (M, 23)
  2. 16:59 ~ Nate Kaiser (M, 36)
  3. 18:01 ~ Zach DeVeau (M, 28)
  4. 18:15 ~ Grady Smith (M, 39)
  5. 18:20 ~ Ryan Truchelut (M, 30)
  6. 18:23 ~ Mickey Moore (M, 46)
  7. 18:23 ~ Alex McDonald (M, 19)
  8. 18:40 ~ Paul Guyas (M, 38)
  9. 18:46 ~ James Harrison (M, 20)
  10. 18:54 ~ Geb Kiros (M, 49)

Top Ten Women, 2016 Education For Life 5K
  1. 19:38 ~ Alyson Churchill (F, 13)
  2. 19:46 ~ Madison Harris (F, 20)
  3. 20:23 ~ Brittney Barnes (F, 28)
  4. 22:14 ~ Katie Sack (F, 24)
  5. 22:25 ~ Megan Churchill (F, 13)
  6. 22:39 ~ Katie Clark (F, 41)
  7. 23:07 ~ Laura Reina (F, 51)
  8. 23:13 ~ Katie Sherron (F, 34)
  9. 23:13 ~ Kristin Halley (F, 34)
  10. 23:30 ~ Tsige Tadesse (F, 43)

Education For Life 5K champions, 2010 - 2016
24 April 201018:18, Brian Corbin21:01, Maegan McCarthy203
10 April 201119:17, Ben Wenger21:57, Allison Williams122
21 April 201218:05, Aaron DeSena21:32, Sarah Collie180
23 March 201317:16, Tim Wenger21:46, Andrea Psimer175
22 March 201418:12, Mickey Moore19:26, Lisa Johnson161
21 March 201517:01, Zach DeVeau19:25, Katie Sherron168
19 March 201616:28, Antony Taylor19:38, Alyson Churchill223