MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

April 13, 2014

Good strategy to start: Tahlequah’s Wickliffe uses fast beginning to repeat as Muskogee Run 15K men’s winner

Muskogee’s version of Heartbreak Hill made its impression upon the field of 15K runners Saturday in the Muskogee Run, starting with repeat champion Travis Wickliffe.

Chicken Wing Hill, a winding incline 221 meters high on North 64th Street, was the signature hurdle on a warm, windy morning. By the time the 25-year-old Tahlequah runner hit it at the 5K mark, he was glad he had the race strategy he did.

“I wanted to get out decently and try to stay ahead of everybody a little bit and try to increase it throughout,” he said, moments after crossing the start-finish line in Honor Heights Park. “I took off a little too fast. It was really hot and by the end of the first K I was already sweating.

“Going up that hill there’s a strong wind in your face. It really slowed me down a lot. I think my fast start helped me to keep going.”

Up a good two minutes at the top of the hill, Wickliffe went on to win with a time of 56 minutes, 13.3 seconds.

“Really tough conditions today,” he said, noting his winning time a year ago was 54:31. “I had a cold this week but that really didn’t bother me. The heat and the wind did.”

The course left Honor Heights Park crossing North 48th Street along West Shawnee, proceeded north on North 54th, east on Fern Mountain Road, south on North 64th Street to West Shawnee Street, north on North 74th Street West then returning via Fern Mountain Road, 54th Street and West Shawnee to the park.

“Fifty meters from the top of hill my whole body started feeling heavy, the wind was pulling me back and where the last 5K turnaround is (on Fern Mountain Road), that whole last stretch the wind is pretty hard,” he said. “You want to push it pretty hard to the finish but the wind is holding you back the whole time.”

Brian Hoffert of Muskogee was second in 1:03:50.7. It was his first 15K. He said his running has consisted of three-lap workouts around Love-Hatbox Sports Complex.

“It wasn’t too bad untiI I hit that hill. I was ready to start walking at the top,” he said.

The next two finishers were 1-2 in the women’s division. Jamie Cousatte, 40, of Adair was first in 1:05:45.9. Tammy West of Tahlequah, a previous winner of the race when it was known as the Flower Power 5K, was behind her in 1:07:39.3.

Cousatte said Chicken Wing Hill caught her off guard.

“I had read about it but it’s something. Everybody should experience that at least once,” she said.

She recently ran a half-marathon in Houston.

“I did well in that. It actually felt easier than this because of the difference in the course and the weather today,” she said. “This one is tough. It’s challenging.

“I just run. If I win that’s fantastic. If I don’t that’s OK too. I usually place toward the top no matter what race it is so I’m happy with that.”

West ran the first 15K when it moved to the downtown area going west toward Love-Hatbox. She ran at Claremore this time a year ago.

“They’re really different courses,” she said of the two here. “That one hill slows you down a bit and you have to push your speed to get your time back up.”

Last year’s female champion, Pauline Marks of Wagoner, was fourth among women in 1:18:41.6, just behind Vanessa Young of Hulbert (1:16:46.9).

Michael Smith of Muskogee was third among males and fifth overall. The 58-year-old ran a 1:10:04.9. Behind him in overall order were three Muskogeeans, Kerry Riley (1:10:33.9), Robert Perkins (1:12:38.1) and 14-year-old Jesus Arteaga (1:15:13.5). Young and Marks rounded out the top 10.

The 5K winners were Cole Barnes of Sapulpa in 18:32.3 and Kayla Bell of Muskogee (20:41.8).

Fifty-six runners competed in the 15K and 132 ran the 5K.

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