By Doug Hawley
Two well-known local runners emerged with top honors Thursday night in The 26th Running of the First (and Maybe the Only) Dalton St. Patrick’s Day 2-mile Road Race.
Isaac Pacheco, a North Murray High School senior stalwart — he has won several area road races at various distances and is headed for Dalton State College on a cross country scholarship — repeated as the overall champion. He covered the rolling course, which started and ended at ChristChurch Presbyterian, in 10 minutes and 26 seconds.
Dalton High School graduate Carina Nieto, a sophomore distance runner at University of West Georgia, led the females to the tape in 12:17.
Pacheco said the race is a warmup for Saturday’s Rotary Club of Dalton McClurg Invitational at Dalton High School, where he’ll compete in both the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs.
“I felt strong the whole way” Pacheco said. “I went through the first mile in 4:46.”
It was Nieto’s first time competing in the race, but she has enjoyed success in other area road races as well.
“I was proud of my pacing,” Nieto said. “I’m redshirting this season in track at West Georgia. I’m still recovering from a stress fracture, and I didn’t want to waste a season. However, I was thinking in the race about what a great cause the race represents.”
For the second consecutive year, proceeds aided the local chapter of Special Olympics. About $2,000 was raised for that charity.
The race’s 230 participants marked the second largest turnout in the event’s history, trailing only last year’s 293.
“I really expected 300 people,” race director David Sanders said. “We had more advanced registration than last year.”
Lisa Hughey, Special Olympics coordinator for the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department, chimed in, “I was sort of worried because the weather has been so up and down. It was especially cold this morning. On a cool night, we appreciated the outstanding turnout.”
Dalton’s Manuel Ferrer, a past winner of the event, finished second overall in 11:08.
“Isaac was just too strong,” the 41-year-old Ferrer said. “However, I expected that. I’m only running about 20 miles a week.”
Calhoun’s Micah Scott, 16, took the female runner-up spot in 13:59.
“This was my first time here,” said Scott, who is a student at Georgia Cumberland Academy. “I really like the course. There is a contrast between flat and hilly. I run every day, about 30 miles a week.”
Although 30-year-old Alma Godoy of Dalton won her age group in 16:54, she was most pleased with her family’s involvement. Daughter Natalie, 14, and son Ethan, 8, both completed the race.
“I’m just trying to get my kids involved in running,” Godoy said. “We’re all members of (the Carpet Capital Running Club). They seemed to really enjoy the event.”