Nick McCormick finished second in the state cross country meet last November in Nashville and his goal is to win in this his senior season at East Hamilton.
McCormick has been diligent with his training through the summer months and early race results show the fruits of his labor.
He further proved that his hard work is paying off on Monday morning as he beat more than 500 runners to the finish line in the FCA 5K at Chattanooga State.
The 17-year-old McCormick averaged 5:16 per mile as he posted a winning time of 16 minutes, 21 seconds.
Patrick Hall, who had finished as the runner-up to Joseph Goetz five years ago in this race, was second again as he just couldn't quite maintain pace in the final half-mile to cross in 16:26.
Dean Thompson, Jacob Bradley and Ryan Schumacher completed the top five with times of 16:53, 17:03 and 17:04, respectively.
Anneli Morrison was the runner-up in this race last year when a pouring rain turned the event into more of a swim than a run, but she was the women's winner on Labor Day with a time of 18 minutes, 38 seconds as she finished 14th overall in the field that included 502 finishers.
Morrison didn't have nearly as much competition as McCormick as runner-up Gloria Pascual was more than two minutes back as she claimed 50th overall in 20:41.
Perhaps the race for the runner-up spot among the ladies was where the competition was as Sarah Kate Gartman was third in 20:44. Kiersten Vradenburgh and Dianna Leun were fourth and fifth with times of 20:59 and 21:04, respectively.
Monday's race was heavy with humidity as it rained before the starting horn sounded, but the sun eventually broke through the clouds and an occasional breeze blowing off the Tennessee River made it much more comfortable than had been the case in years past.
McCormick and Hall were in the lead group of about six runners as they exited Chattanooga State and turned right onto Amnicola where they turned right into the Chattanooga Riverpark entrance.
By the time they had passed the first mile and the course shifted to the sidewalk for the next mile and a half, the first two were all alone as the others had faded in the distance.
McCormick and Hall stayed together for most of that section, but once they hit the parking lot at the north end of the park, McCormick shifted into another gear and Hall just couldn't match it.
"It was a fast race from start to finish," McCormick said shortly after his race had ended.
"There were about six of us together in the first mile, but it was just us two after that. We were back and forth in that final mile, but I took the lead for the last time as he ran through that parking lot.
"I was hoping that he wouldn't come back and I stopped hearing his footsteps as we made that last turn. My goal was to be in the low 16s and I was pretty close," McCormick added with a smile.
Hall had entered Monday's race with winning as his intent, but he had nothing but respect for his younger competitor who prevailed in this race.
"That Nick kid is tough. We went back and forth and I tried to stay with him at the end, but he was ready to go," Hall, who turned 28 on Friday, explained.
"I came out here wanting to win and I would have liked to have run a little faster, but it was a two-man race after the first mile. We both picked up the pace quite a bit after that. I'm looking forward to cooler weather," he continued, noting that he is currently logging about 60 miles per week with the possibility of running Huntsville's Rocket City Marathon in December.
Morrison was 25 seconds faster in last year's downpour, but that didn't seem to bother her on Monday.
"It's been a good summer, but I was hoping to run 18:30 or faster," the 25-year-old former UTC standout began.
"I really didn't know what to expect as I have never run this race before, but it was either running here today or running the UTC race at Moccasin Bend on Friday.
"I just went out there and did my best and tried to run hard the whole way. It was a much nicer day than last year when it rained so hard. And the breeze was nice," Morrison added.
The Zorca family was well represented as 20-year-old Tim led the way with a 13th-place time of 18:31. Both of his parents ran with Andy finishing in 23:20 and his mother Brenda crossing the line in 30:26.
Younger sister Holly, who was a standout basketball player last winter for Hamilton Heights, had a good run and finished in 24:38. Holly and her parents didn't have much time to waste when they finished as they were headed to Florida where 18-year-old Holly will be a freshman at Pensacola Christian College.
"They are supposed to be having orientation today with classes starting tomorrow, but we let them know we'd be a little bit late," Andy said while waiting for his wife to finish.
Jay Fowler is in his 10th year as the FCA Area Director. He was as happy as anyone that the weather was much better this year.
"We had a great turnout today. We had a lot of wonderful volunteers who make an event like this possible, but I was just hoping and praying we didn't have a repeat of last year's rain," Fowler said.
Chris Walker, who was a defensive end for the Tennessee Vols before graduating in 2010, is now the FCA leader at UTC and he said the pre-race prayer.
Paul Patterson and Lanni Marchant were defending champions in this race, but neither were present on Monday.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)