Newcomers break through for OTRR win; Cheney dominates racewalk|[10/09/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 10, 2005

The 2005 Over the River Run brought a pair of breakthrough victories for two runners. For the race walkers, it was just more of the same.

Rob Oates, a 26-year-old from Jackson, and 27-year-old Vicksburg resident Kristi Hall each won their first OTRR titles Saturday after finishing second a year ago.

Oates, who also won the Run Thru History in 2004, crossed the finish line in 29 minutes, 41 seconds, 50 seconds ahead of Tony Mutsume of Jackson. Mutsume finished in 30:31, with third-place finisher Dale Griffin of Pearl another 16 seconds behind.

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&#8221That was my only reason for running today,“ Oates said of winning. &#8221Vicksburg has a lot of history, and it says a lot to win a race with four or five hundred people in it.“

In the 5-mile race walk, Vicksburg’s Debbie Cheney continued her reign as the state’s best walker by winning her fifth straight OTRR women’s title and fourth consecutive overall crown.

Cheney finished with a time of 46:45, almost three minutes faster than runner-up Kirby Hendrix. Hendrix, a Rayville, La., resident, won his fourth straight OTRR men’s title by finishing in 49:29. Jackson’s Bennett Randman was third overall, in 52:49.

&#8221It’s so much fun to win your hometown race. It doesn’t get old at all. I’m really enjoying myself,“ Cheney said.

As usual, Cheney pulled away from the pack at the start and was never really challenged. There were no walkers near her when she crossed the finish line, although she did pick up an escort for the final leg.

Jessie Ann Arnold, the daughter of one of Cheney’s co-workers, was working a water stop on the bridge when she saw Cheney approaching. Arnold jogged the last half mile with Cheney, giving her a needed lift.

&#8221I was tiring a half-mile from the line, but (Arnold) ran with me. That helped,“ Cheney said. &#8221She was working a water stop and saw me. I guess she figured I needed some support.“

Hall – who changed her last name from Walski after getting married two weeks ago – also had a cheering section as she ran to victory. Race volunteers and other competitors hooted and hollered as she passed by, Hall said, making the hometown win even sweeter.

&#8221This is super special. It’s your home. It’s fun to be a winner in your home. You can go to places like Greenwood or Natchez and win, but it’s not the same. In Vicksburg, it counts,“ said Hall, who was second in the women’s division of the OTRR last year and at the Run Thru History in March. &#8221The whole way out and back, people were cheering me on. The guy running next to me said, ‘You have quite a fan club.’ It was great.“

Hall was even with the second- and third-place finishers, Heidi Melia and Yolanda Brown, for the first half of the race. At the turnaround, however, Hall said she saw the two challengers and picked up the pace for the second half of the race.

Hall ended up crossing the line in 33:51. Melia finished more than 90 seconds behind Hall, with a time of 35:36, just seven seconds ahead of Brown.

&#8221I got in front of (Melia) at first and just stayed in front of her,“ Hall said. &#8221I know she wasn’t very far behind. I could feel her back there.“

Like Hall, Oates also pulled away around the halfway point.

Mutsume got off to a small lead in the first mile, but Oates stayed with him and moved ahead just before the 2-mile mark of the 5-mile race. Oates was not challenged on the return trip across the Old Mississippi River Bridge.

&#8221I was pleased,“ Oates said. &#8221It was by far not my best, but it got the job done.“

William Kazery, a 13-year-old Jackson resident, won the one-mile fun run with a time of 6:16. It was the second straight year that Kazery has won the one-miler.

About 650 people signed up for the run, walk and fun run, and a little over 500 actually competed. An early-morning wreck on I-20 between Vicksburg and Jackson kept some runners and walkers from showing up on time, race chairman Ginny Miller said.

&#8221We had a number of people who showed up well after it started, and all we could do was give them their packets,“ Miller said. &#8221It was still a great race.“