JACKSONVILLE - On a nearly flawless running day; cool morning, little wind, the Gate River Run 15K American championship road race featured a lightning fast finish with the top three finishes pushing a four minute final mile down the infamous Hart Bridge, Keystone Heights High's most prolific runner, 33 year old Enoch Nadler, put together an eighth place finish in his return to the annual sojourn around Jacksonville on Saturday.
"I remember as a sophomore at Keystone Heights when I last ran this race, I walked up the the Green Monster, the Hart Bridge," said Nadler, in a post-game interview on USATF TV. "To come back and represent and get a top 10 finish felt pretty good."
Nadler, now the coach of the Florida Track Club's Elite Racing team, and also preparing for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta in 2020, plus the April Boston Marathon, stuck with the Olympic calibre front pack for as long as he could as the top four racers all broke 44 minutes. Winner Shadrack Kipchirchir, 30, a Kenyan now in the United States and a 19th place finisher in the RIO Olympics 10,000 meters, switched to overdrive with his two chasers; Stanley Kebenei, 29, and the 2016 River Run 15K champion, and Leonard Korir, 32, also Kenyans, about a foot off his shoulder as Kipchirchir ran an astouding sub-four minute final mile. The other two could only muster 4:01 finishing miles; Kebenei second, Korir third. Korir finished 14th in the RIO Olympics 10,000 meters.
For Nadler, who ran 44:48 for eighth place overall, the finish was nearly 10 minutes faster than his 2002 finish as a high school sophomore.
For the women, Erika Kemp, 24, won in 50:54.
"I was pretty confident I would run faster this time," said Nadler.
Also in the top finishers from Clay County was former Ridgeview High standout trackster Andrew Smith, who had a superb career at Flagler College as an indoor miler and as a cross country ace. Smith delivered a 51:24 time to earn 37th place overall.
Nearly 12,000 plus runners finished the event sponsored by 1st Place Sports of Jacksonville.
Other notable finishes came from Matthew Stratton, 14, a freshman state cross country medalist at St. Johns Country Day School, who finished 67th with a 55:19 effort. Fleming Island High track ace John Brinkman, 16, grabbed 94th place at 57:44.
Orange Park dentist Gary Myers, 46, topped the top 100 with an 82nd place 56:54 while Orange Park speedster Josue Velazquez, 28, got 99th in 58:01.
Green Cove Springs veteran Jason Arnold, 44, grabbed the iconic 100th finisher with a 58:09 time.
In the top 100 female finishers from Clay County, another Ridgeview High standout, Alexandra Midgett, 24, and an FSU assistant coach, finished 54th in 1:01:14.
Orange Park's Belissa Del Valle, 31, finished with a 64th place in 1:02:59.
Local Spartan racer Sharon Hawley, 32, took 72nd in 1:04:12.
The 100th place female was in at 1:07:29.