Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Devil couldn't catch Clay Milford

Earlier this year I was reading Bill Kenley’s novel about cross-country running, High School Runner: Freshman. If I remember one thing about the book, it’s that early in the story the Pennsgap High cross-country team does a workout that includes a Devil-take-the-Hindmost run.

Clay Milford
Clay Milford

We have one of those in Tallahassee, and last Saturday, July 28, Chile High senior Clay Milford won Tallahassee’s Devil-take-the-Hindmost race, the sole survivor of a field of 21 runners.


In Kenley’s book, one of his character describes how the run works. “So you can’t be last in Devil, that’s the main rule. If you’re last at the finish line, the Devil gets you. Since there are six of you guys, that means the winner and the second place finisher will run five laps each.”

2018 Devil-take-the-Hindmost
The Devil leads

The Tallahassee race wasn’t limited to just one small cross-country squad, so with 21 runners lining up on the track at 7:00 PM, the winner would have to go twenty laps. The rest would be removed one at a time, one at the end of each 400-meter lap, by the Devil.


Kat Sack was this year’s Devil, and led the runners on their first lap around the track. This was a parade lap, a free lap where no runner would be removed. After that, the Devil stepped off the track and waited for the end of the second lap to start her harvest.

2018 Devil-take-the-Hindmost Race
The surge at the end of lap nine

Zachary Bridges and Anna Bridges ended the second lap with an Alphonse-and-Gaston routine. “I’ll be last.” “No, I’ll be last.” Tiring off their antics, the Devil took both athletes off the track.


Eight-year-old Chloe Molen left the track after the third lap, and Jennie Merchant after four laps. The remaining runners started their second mile.

Rory Claussen
Rory Claussen

Master runner Stuart Poage bowed out on lap five. The Devil nabbed Panama City master runner Neil Claussen on lap six, and Spencer Claussen after lap seven. The second mile ended with Ryan Poage going to the Devil on lap eight.


After leading most of the way, master runner Paul Guyas was taken by the Devil after nine laps. Eric Godin left the track on the tenth lap. Thirteen-year-old Rory Claussen of Panama City was the last female runner left on the track, but the Devil got her after eleven laps. Master runner Brian Molen couldn’t escape the Devil on the twelfth lap, leaving just two other master runners on the track--Duane Evans and Philip Sura. The Devil took Evans on the thirteenth lap, and Sura on the fourteenth. Only seven runners were left.

Vince Molosky
Vince Molosky

Vince Molosky was the first of the seven, leaving the track after a hard-fought fifteenth lap. That lap exhausted Matt McCurdy, the 2017 Devil-take-the-Hindmost winner, and he jogged the sixteenth lap, his run over after four miles.


“It took a year, but I got you!” chortled the Devil.

2018 Devil-take-the-Hindmost Race
Lap 17

Ryan “Weather Tiger” Truchelut went out at the end of the seventeenth lap. On the eighteenth lap the Devil snatched Jake Mazziotta, a second-year runner on the Virginia Military Institute cross-country team. Three runners were left, none of whom wanted to yield an inch. Trying to lean ahead of Bryce Cole and Clay Milford at the line, Chris O'Kelley stumbled and fell. When he looked up, the Devil was directing him off the track. The nineteenth lap was over, and so was O’Kelley’s race.


The battle on the nineteenth lap had exhausted Cole; the Embry-Riddle cross-country runner could only trot around the track on the twentieth lap while Milford galloped away from him. After five miles, the Devil got Cole, and Milford got the win.

Chris O'Kelley, Clay Milford, Bryce Cole
Chris O'Kelley, Clay Milford, Bryce Cole

“This is one that Jake and I have wanted to do for a lot of years,” said Milford.


The race has been going on for a lot of years. Tallahassee’s Devil-take-the-Hindmost was first run back in the 1970s. It has been almost annual since then; there have been more summers with a Devil-take-the-Hindmost than without one. It’s an unusual event, but the novelty is a welcome break from the endless summer miles. And of course there’s no more appropriate time to run with the Devil than midsummer in Tallahassee, when it’s as hot as...you know.


Devil Take The Hindmost Race
Mike Long Track, Tallahassee, Florida
Saturday, 28 July 2018 @ 7:00 PM ET
PlaceFirst NameLast NameM/FAgeHometownLaps
1.  ClayMilfordM18Tallahassee, FL21
2.  BryceColeM20Wakulla, FL20
3.  ChrisO'KelleyM25Tallahassee, FL19
4.  JakeMazziottaM20Tallahassee, FL18
5.  RyanTruchelutM32Tallahassee, FL17
6.  MattMcCurdyM25Tallahassee, FL16
7.  VinceMoloskyM39Tallahassee, FL15
8.  PhilipSuraM48Tallahassee, FL14
9.  DuaneEvansM51Tallahassee, FL13
10.  BrianMolenM42Tallahassee, FL12
11.  RoryClaussenF13Panama City, FL11
12.  EricGodinM34Tallahassee, FL10
13.  PaulGuyasM40Tallahassee, FL9
14.  RyanPoageM12Tallahassee, FL8
15.  SpencerClaussenM13Panama City, FL7
16.  NeilClaussenM44Panama City, FL6
17.  StuartPoageM43Tallahassee, FL5
18.  JennieMerchantF26Tallahassee, FL4
19.  ChloeMolenF8Tallahassee, FL3
20.  AnnaBridgesF21Tallahassee, FL2
ZacharyBridgesM25Tallahassee, FL2


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