By Doug Hawley
Not even the rain could keep some 300 people from participating Saturday morning in the sixth-annual Run for John, which started and ended at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Rafael Pacheco, a 22-year-old Crandall resident who attends Dalton State College, repeated as overall winner and improved his time in the process. His latest title run on the hilly 5-kilometer race was 17 minutes and 22 seconds — 27 seconds better than 2012.
“I’m in better shape than last year,” Pacheco said of his 5:36 pace over the 3.1 miles. “Last year, I was doing about three miles daily. This year, I’m doing about six to eight miles. I’m doing an average of 42 miles a week.”
He led 200 runners, most running in no worse than a misty rain, to the finish line. Approximately 100 went in the preliminary 1-miler.
Both Pacheco and his younger brother, Isaac Pacheco, have signed scholarships for Dalton State’s first cross country program next fall.
“We should have a healty competition,” the older brother said with a smile. “He’s better than I am right now.”
Isaac Pacheco competed Saturday for North Murray High School in the Class 3A Sectional A meet at Atlanta’s Lakewood Stadium.
Nayeli Jacobo, an 18-year-old Murray County High School senior, emerged as the overall female champion in 22:07 — a 7:08 rate per mile.
“This was my third time to run the race but my first time to win it,” Jacobo said. “I felt good, but the hills are very challenging. There are a bunch of them.”
Those hills came along Haig Mill Road on an out-and-back route from the church.
“I’m going to Young Harris College this fall,” Jacobo said. “I hope to run cross country there."
Jacobo was a member of The Daily Citizen All-Area Cross Country team last fall. Rafael Pacheco, also a Murray High graduate, had the same honor in 2009.
Dalton’s Mike Sweeney, 47, who recently competed in the bomb-plagued Boston Marathon, won the male masters in 19:37.
Belinda Young, a 44-year-old Chatsworth resident, led the female masters in 22:43. She finished second overall for the females behind Jacobo.
Warren Sams, a 17-year-old Atlanta resident, claimed male runner-up honors in 17:57. He was followed by three area residents: Dalton’s Trey Hurt, 18, 18:45; Chatsworth’s Jesus Cruz, 17, 18:52; and 13-year-old Dalton resident Jessie Martinez, 18:59.
Proceeds netted some $11,000 for college scholarships in memory of John Bruner, a Dalton High and Georgia College runner.
Bruner’s parents, Margie and Greg Bruner, as has been their custom, ran the course together. The former, who will coach the Dalton State cross country runners with Andy Meyer, won the 50-54 division in 24:52. The latter was second in the 55-59 category at 24:51.
“It has all been about a celebration of John’s life and all of the things that he loved,” Greg said. “The real runners run in the rain so it all worked out.”
Continuing the Dalton State connection to the race, athletic director Derek Waugh and golf coach Ben Rickett both participated in the race.
“This is my first road race since Peachtree (July 4th race in Atlanta) in 1997,” Waugh said. “I lift weights and do some other working out. I just wanted to support Margie and Greg.”
In the 1-miler, Jairo Lopez of Blue Ridge led the boys with a 6:34 time. He was followed by Victor Soria (6:37) and Kale Davis (7:06).
Ruby Gonzalez and Bridgette Hinujosa, both from Dalton, shared the girls’ honors in 8:31. Patricia Hawkins (8:56) was next.
“Although it was not the nicest day, we had a great turnout,” said Joe Gleaton who has been the event’s only director. “I’m really heartened that the community still supports in a big way.”
Carpet Capital Running Club coordinated logistics for the race and full results will be posted later this week on carpetcapitalrunningclub.com.