By Doug Hawley
Calhoun’s Grady Silver, who at 83 was the oldest runner in the 11th annual Silver Bell Sprint foot race, seemed to express the spirit of some 400 rain-drenched participants Friday night in the downtown Dalton area.
“It really was a lot of fun,” Silver said. “I don’t mind running in the rain, though it gave me a slower time.
“I really enjoy this race. I’ve run it several times.”
In the feature 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) race, Silver clocked a time of 35 minutes and 45 seconds to win the 75-and-older division.
A pair of former area prep standouts who are now competing for Dalton State College’s cross country program — Isaac Pacheco and Nayeli Jacobo — were the overall male and female winners.
As for Silver, he hopes to be back for the holiday run next year.
“I’ll continue to do this as long as I can,” he said. “I run maybe five or six races a year. This is the only night race that I’ve run this year.”
Silver’s distance running career goes back almost 40 years.
“I started running at age 44. Within a year, I ran a marathon at 6:30 pace,” said Silver, who finished the Atlanta Marathon in 2 hours and 47 minutes. “I obviously had a lot of ability. I was proud to run the 100th Boston Marathon.”
Silver was one of some 300 5K finishers. About 100 completed a preliminary one-mile fun run.
Pacheco, a North Murray High School graduate, claimed the overall title for the third straight time. He won in 16:38, a pace of 5:22 per mile, although his first mile was actually completed in 4:50.
“This always has been one of my favorite races,” said Pacheco, who won in 16:14 in 2012. “I’ve run this for as long as I can remember. My time was a little bit off from last year. It was a little slick due to the rain. I think almost everybody’s time was off some.”
Dean Thompson, a 48-year-old Cohutta resident and regular contender at area road races, was the runner-up, eight seconds behind Pacheco.
Jacobo, a Murray County High School graduate who like Pacheco is a freshman at Dalton State, paced the females in 20:12.
“This is my favorite road race,” Jacobo said. “I never miss this race. I just love the Christmas feeling and jolly feeling. I really was not bothered by the rain.”
Isabel Salinas, a Southeast Whitfield High sophomore, claimed the second female spot in 20:20 to edge Shelley Taylor Rickett, the former Northwest Whitfield High School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout — she now coaches at Northwest — by a fraction of a second.
In the fun run, two 10-year-old City Park Elementary School fifth graders prevailed as winners. Whitley Wingfield led the girls in 5:34, while Victor Soria paced the boys in 6:02.
“The rain cut our participation a lot,” said Staci Halyak, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sis-ters of Northwest Georgia Moun-tains, which sponsors and benefits from the event. “However, it went well otherwise,”
A record turnout of almost 800 participants took part in 2012.
Full results will be available at the coordinating Carpet Capital Running Club of Dalton’s website, carpetcapitalrunningclub.com.