It’s unusual on a summer morning for a street in Athens to be populated wall-to-wall with people. Saturday was an unusual day.
A group of 45 runners and walkers lined up across Vermillion Street for the second running of the Athens Mile, a footrace benefiting the Princeton Church of God Running Club.
Only 5:13 after the race began — with a rifle shot provided by legendary Athens runner Mike Cox — the first result was recorded. Concord University alumnus Nick Lucento was quickest to the finish line at the university’s football stadium.
Top female finisher, in a time of 6:07, was Amanda Lollar Nichols, who provided an inspiring testimony to the crowd after all the competition was completed.
Lucento, a Shady Spring native, said, “I ran with Lance (McDaniel, the race’s organizer) here at Concord, and he’s a teammate. I can’t let a teammate down. It was his event, so I had to come do it for him.”
“Most of the time, I run for fun now,” he said. “A mile race is a good race. It really shows you how tough you are. ... I wanted, basically, just to see what I could do. Everybody out here is great people, great runners. You’ll find they’re all friendly. It’s a great sport.”
Nichols, who won the female division last year as well, said, “I’m a distance runner, so I never do speed work. I honestly hate fast runs. I like a long, slower run. So I don’t, I guess, train for this, I just kind of get out and do it.”
“It was pretty nice,” she said about the weather for the race. “Part of it was in the shade, and then downhill, and you could feel a breeze. So it really wasn’t too bad. The sunniest part was right here on the track (at the football stadium), and by then you’re almost done, so, no problem.”
Deegan Mutterback of Princeton sprinted to the top finish in the Kid’s Quarter Mile for the second straight year.
Kristy Bailey of Princeton said she and her son Owen, 8, signed up “because it’s a great run. Athens is a great little community. We enjoy running. He gets mad when he can’t go with me.”
Erica Morgan escorted the youngest participant — her 6-week-old son who she pushed in a stroller.
This year’s edition of the race included a Clydesdale Division for male racers weighing 200 pounds or more. The top finisher in the new division was Stark Coleman in a time of 5:59.
McDaniel said, “There’s other races that have that, and we thought it’d be a fun thing to do ... for those runners that are a little bit heavier, but they still want to be able to compete.”
He said the race had 60 finishers last year. The proceeds help the running club when it travels as a group to enter other races. But that’s not the whole reason he started it.
“As a church organization, our mission is to spread the Good News,” McDaniel said. “So this is one way to gather people, have a fun event in the community, and share a little bit of our faith in the process. ... That’s the main reason that we do it.”
Nichols said about the purpose of the race, “I think it’s awesome, and it just shows that we’re all united. For a lot of us, it’s our love for running, but a lot of it is, it’s also a love for God. A lot of these people don’t run, too, and they come. It’s just good to get a group of believers together that share a common interest.”
Lucento said that when he was a Concord freshman, he was in the running club when it started. “I really enjoy what they do,” he said.
Nichols said, “We run on Thursdays at 6, starting at Athens Park. We get together and have a devotion, take prayer requests and pray, and then we run together. There’s a lot of people that are passing by, and see us, and look. That draws attention.”
“There’s so much bad out in the community, I think it’s our part to get out there and to do something good. For people to drive by and to see us praying in the park, (they) see that there are good things going on, too.”
One of the pastors at the church, J.B. Hurt, said, “It’s just an opportunity for people to connect with other people of like mind and faith. It’s a place where we can grow, hopefully, a little bit, spiritually. We share a short devotion before we run.”
He said about the Athens Mile, “We really like to do this to honor God as well, and we’re really proud of the people who have put this together.
“Give a lot of credit to Lance McDaniel. He organized it, got everything set up, recruited volunteers, and just did a tremendous amount of work to put it on.”
He said the four-plus years that the running club has been in existence adds up to “a great feeling. We started it with a lot of Concord students, and a lot of those guys have moved on when they graduated, but we still connect with them.
“I’m just proud of what’s going on here.”
Lucento said about Hurt, “He’s a fantastic guy. He really backs everybody, around here.”
— Contact Tom Bone at email@example.com
ATHENS — Results from the second Athens Mile race held Saturday morning:
Female Top Finishers
Overall — Amanda Nichols 6:07, Brandi Wiley 6:29, Erin O’Sullivan 6:37. Age 18-24 — Jessica Dixon 10:41. 25-29 — Erica Morgan 7:11, Heather Wilson 8:14, Meredith Carter 8:24. 30-39 — Kristy Bailey 7:13, Angela Neal 7:33, K.D. Coleman 7:35. 40-49 — Dena Wiley 8:32, Laura Anderson 10:02, Beverly Lytton 14:31. 50-59 — Crisandra Honaker 8:59.
Male Top Finishers
Overall — Nick Lucento 5:13, Fred Jones 5:27, Joe Bisaha 5:36. Age 13 and under — Owen Bailey 8:22, Deegan Mutterback 10:05, Nate Cook 10:12. 14-17 — Richard Wheeler 9:14. 18-24 — Robbie Ortiz 6:11. 30-39 — Sean O’Sullivan 6:02. 40-49 — Paul Pennington 5:53, Mike Adkins 7:52, Tim Anderson 8:07. 50-59 — Tom Kaylor 6:09, Oliver Terry 6:28, Marshall Campbell 6:34. 60 and over — Tom Davis 8:11.
Clydesdale Division Top Finishers
Stark Coleman 5:59, Shane Ellison 6:16, Richard Mutterback 6:42.