Change is good, said the runners and walkers participating in Saturday morning’s 300 Oaks Road Race.
The 39th annual event featured new race routes and venue and earlier start times.
“It went very well,” said Beth Stevens, executive director of the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event each year.
The turnout for the event’s four races — a 10K run, a 5K run, a 5K walk and a one-mile fun run — included 508 participants, topping last year’s turnout by an additional two runners.
Stevens said she’s received feedback from numerous 300 Oaks participants about the changes in this year’s race routes, with most commenting positively about the course featuring a more shaded path.
“Shaded the entire way,” was how Bettie Ray, assistant to Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams, put it. She participated in the 5K walk.
“It was a much better route,” said Ray. “The weather was perfect.”
The 10K run and 5K run and walk all started at the boat landing near the city arboretum between the Veterans and Keesler bridges. The post-race party was also held at the boat landing.
The 10K run was rerouted to go through various points in downtown Greenwood as well as the Rail Spike Park Trail, a first for the annual road race’s longest run.
“I liked running on the Rail Spike Trail, and I really liked running downtown,” said Mischa McCray, 33, who participated in the 10K race. He placed second in the 30-39 age group and sixth overall.
Belzoni resident Armando Marquez also enjoyed the new route. The 60-year-old ran the 10K race several years ago and noticed the change in the route this year.
“It’s nice,” said Marquez, who placed third overall in the men’s 10K with a time of 39 minutes, 41.97 seconds. His average pace of 6 minutes, 24 seconds a mile also earned him the accolade of being the 10K male master.
This year’s overall male winner of the 10K race was Caleb Hammons, 37, of Flowood. His finishing time of 36 minutes, 32.92 seconds, with a pace of 5 minutes, 53 seconds per mile, was the fastest men’s 10K time for the 300 Oaks Road Race since 2015, which was when Joseph Chebet of Itta Bena finished with a time of 31 minutes, 56 seconds.
The overall winner for the women’s 10K race was Akemi Abe, 61, of Oxford. Her race time was 49 minutes, 30.41 seconds, with an average pace of 7 minutes, 58 seconds per mile.
“Just gorgeous,” Abe said of the new 10K route. “I really liked this course. It’s very flat.”
Abe said she enjoyed the cooler weather, with temperatures in the 70s during the new earlier start times of the races.
She had participated in the 300 Oaks’ 10K two years ago, finishing with a time of 52 minutes, 28.44 seconds.
Abe wasn’t the only runner to best their race times from previous years.
Mikeldrick Burch, a 16-year-old sophomore at Greenwood High School, ran his fastest 5K race yet with a time of 18 minutes, 52 seconds.
Placewise, Burch slipped down to second overall for the men’s 5K, unlike last year when he was first place overall. Still, he was happy about his time.
“This is my fastest time of the year,” said Burch, who also added that he enjoyed the new 5K route since it had less turns compared to last year’s route.
The overall winner for the male 5K run was Danny Vargas of Greenwood. The 14-year-old finished with a time of 18 minutes, 9.90 seconds.
The overall winner for the female 5K run was Skyler Philipps of Greenwood. The 12-year-old finished with a time of 24 minutes, 42.37 seconds.
The overall female master of the 10K run was Shannon Steele of Pearl. The 50-year-old finished with a time of 50 minutes, 15.99 seconds.
The overall winner of the one-mile fun run, in which young runners douse themselves in colorful powder prior to the race, was 10-year-old Greenwood resident Tripp Smith, who finished with a time of 6 minutes, 52.03 seconds.
The one-mile fun run still started at the northern end of the Keesler Bridge but was rerouted this year to finish at the boat landing.
The fastest 10K team, which takes the average of the top five finishers on a team, was Westminster Presbyterian Church with an average time of 47 minutes, 31.92 seconds.
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