Runners Race Past Santas to Win Half-Marathon Hustle
On a crisp December morning, 1575 runners from across the country dressed in Santa hats, beards and customized t-shirts took over the streets of Sevierville, TN, for the inaugural Santa Hustle Smokies event. Three Berea College runners were among the field of participants that started from the Wilderness at the Smokies Hotel and Waterpark Resort this past Sunday.
Each of the three Mountaineers were running their first half marathon, yet entered the race prepared and confident. Junior Scott Kenney (Russellville, KY) said after the race, “It wasn’t as hard as I was afraid it might be. We were trained well and got a lot of good advice from some great runners that made our first half-marathon experience both fun and successful.”
The race was indeed successful for the trio. Junior Jeffrey Johnson (Austin, IN) won the event, finishing with a time of 1:14:21. In an interview with Blue Crew News after the race, Johnson had to this to say about the experience, “It was a fun race to see almost the entire field wearing their Santa beards, red Santa shirts and hats. We had to do an out and back loop. When I turned around at the half-way point, all I could see was a sea of red shirts and Santa Clauses coming my way. The participants were very encouraging as we ran back towards the finish.”
Kenney came in second place (1:14:51), followed by sophomore Tarrance O’Connor (Warsaw, KY), who finished fourth at 1:20:44. Despite cool temperatures in the 20’s, Johnson and Kenney hit the national qualifying mark, assuring they will represent Berea College at the NAIA Track and Field National Championships (Marion, IN) in May. This will be the second national championship appearance for both Johnson and Kenney this year, as both were also key members of the Mountaineer cross country team that competed in the NAIA Cross Country Championship last month in Vancouver, WA.
The Santa Hustle Smokies event, sponsored by Adrenaline Sports Management, featured two separate races, a 5K and a half marathon, benefitting the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee and Harvest Field Ministries. Race information, including photos and results, can be found on their website: Santa Hustle Smokies.