Davis takes Run Thru History crown

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 7, 2010

For the second consecutive year, a runner one year removed from competing in the collegiate ranks won the Run Thru History.

Nathan Davis, a 23-year-old former Louisiana Tech track star, crossed the finish line seven seconds ahead of Kevin Phillips to win the overall championship in the 10-kilometer run at Saturday’s 31st annual Run Thru History in the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Davis, a Slidell, La., native, recently moved to Vicksburg to take a job as a mechanical engineer at Applied Resources. Last year at Louisiana Tech, he finished seventh in the Western Athletic Conference in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 10th in the 5,000-meter run. He’s continued his success in Vicksburg. He also won the Chill in the Hills 5K run in January, giving him two victories in two races in the city.

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This time wasn’t easy, though. He had to hold off Phillips over the last two kilometers. Davis crossed the finish line in 34 minutes, 43 seconds, while Phillips finished in 34:50. Dwaine McDuffie of West Monroe, La., was third in 36.24.

“He (Phillips) ran a smart race. With about two miles to go, I moved up on him. Then when we got to the entrance to the park, I wanted to make him work a little bit harder up that last incline,” Davis said.

For Phillips, it was another close call. It was his second consecutive runner-up finish, and third overall. Last year the 38-year-old Phillips was behind former University of Iowa track star Jeff Kent.

“This is the sixth time I’ve run it and the third time I’ve been second, including last year. I keep catching these college ringers. I can’t catch a break,” Phillips said. “I ran with him for 4 1/2 miles, but he’s got 15 years on me.”

Puerto Rico native Coral Cruz won the women’s 10K title in 41:29 and David Smalley won his fourth straight 5K racewalk title. Laura Whitten of Clinton won for the first time in the women’s 5K walk.

For Cruz, this was her second local title in the past year. She was the female champion at October’s Over the River Run. Poplarville High School senior Stacey Hagenson was second in 42:21 and Vicksburg’s Kristi Hall was third.

“You suffer a good bit on that first mile, but I enjoyed the race,” Cruz said.

Hall was glad to see her co-worker and friend win, but disappointed to finish third in the women’s division yet again. Hall has three second- and two third-place finishes in the RTH since 2004.

“I think I’m trying to set the record for most second and third place finishes,” Hall said. “At least one of my best friends won the race. She is such a strong runner.”

Smalley, 54, continued his dominance in the 5K walk. He clocked a time of 28:56.

“I’m 4-for-4. I credit it to being lucky. I am extremely happy with the race today. The weather was beautiful. Even though it gets tougher every year, I have to credit Lance Cooper for keeping me on track,” Smalley said.

After 30 years, a new committee helped organize this year’s race. Casey Custer, one of 10 new committee members, was pleased with the turnout. About 800 runners and walkers registered for the race, and 750 completed it.

For the first time, instead of a starter’s gun, the nearly 900 runners and walkers took off after hearing the loud boom of one of the park’s cannons.

“The park fired a 12-pound Napoleon cannon,” Custer said. “We put in a request and the National Parks Service granted us the request.”

The RTH also used for the first time a computer chip to track the participants’ time.

The 1-mile fun run was won by Justin McDaniel in 6:29 while Sara McDaniel won the girls race.

Billie Huff, a 61-year-old Tyler, Texas, resident, and 33-year-old Clinton resident Mary Douglas came across the line as the last-place finishers in the 10K. They finished in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 38 seconds.

Contact Jeff Byrd at jbyrd@vicksburgpost.com