ATLANTIC BEACH — Two hundred and twenty-nine runners braved a humid, breezeless Saturday morning to compete in the 31st annual N.C. Seafood Festival Twin Bridges 8K Road Race.
The popular race saw an uptick in numbers after the 2016 and 2015 events were burdened with inclement weather.
“Everything went great,” race director Craig Lands said. “It was a warm, high-humidity day, but as far as the race goes, everything went well. It’s a fun event that lots of folks enjoy. We had a good turnout too. Our numbers were down for the last two years because of weather.”
The race, which began at 8 a.m., was a point-to-point course starting at the base of the Grayden Paul Bridge in Beaufort, traveling over the high-rise bridge adjacent to Radio Island and down Arendell Street through Morehead City and eventually ending at the southern end of the Atlantic Beach causeway bridge.
Participants enjoyed a little air movement at the crest of two bridges but otherwise trudged through temperatures in the mid-80s with nearly 100 percent humidity.
That didn’t slow down 19-year-old Joseph Mooneyham from Pikeville. The newcomer broke 29 minutes for the first time in five years with a time of 28 minutes, 38 seconds. His was the best time since Chris Menjares of Havelock clocked a 28:16 in 2012.
Even with the impressive time, Mooneyham was hoping for a faster finish.
“This is my first time running this race,” Mooneyham said. “I’m happy I went for the win, but the time is actually nothing to brag about. I went in hoping to get a sub-26 (minute) time, but I felt terrible from the start. I don’t know what was going on. I kept looking over my shoulder and thought, ‘I might as well grit my teeth and go for the win.’”
Mooneyham has run other races in the county, but this was his first one that included bridges.
“That second bridge was tough,” Mooneyham said. “I wasn’t really paying attention to the view. I just kept reminding myself that every length I went up that bridge, I got to go down it. For as bad as I felt, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but it was no joke. One bridge at the start and one at the end, that’s tough.”
The next two runners to cross the finish line were Beaufort natives Tyler Pake and Katherine Price, last year’s overall winners. Pake, 34, clocked a 30:00 to finish second overall, while Price, 37, finished in 31:10 to place third overall and win the female division. The pair tied for first last year with a time of 30:46.
Pake last won in 2013 with a time of 29:26. It was his first victory after 14 consecutive tries.
“I’ll take this result,” said Pake who now lives in Cary. “I was trying to run in the low 29s, but really, I just love doing this race. It’s my favorite in the county. I always come back to town for this one.”
Price, who was gunning for a sub-30-minute time, claimed her third division victory in four years. She finished second to friend and training partner Heidi Tucker in 2015.
“I love this race,” Price said. “I love seeing everybody, and it’s a beautiful view. I feel grateful and blessed to be out here, and I love seeing the young ones coming up and doing their stuff.”
Like many of the runners, Price crossed the finish line flushed from the heat of the morning.
“It was just hot,” Price said. “Hot and humid. I started feeling it in my legs at mile 3, so it was more just, ‘Let’s get to discomfort and hang there.’”
Newport’s Kristi Gloe, 29, finished second in the female division and sixth overall with a time of 33:24, while Heather Judy, 34, of Morehead City clocked a 37:38 to place third in the division and 15th overall.
Rounding out the rest of the male division was Brather Cline, 25, who finished fourth overall in 31:23.
Paul Kelly, 61, of Beaufort clocked a 41:13 as the event’s lone hand-crank wheelchair participant. Kelly, a paraplegic who often competes in county races, also commented on the particularly warm weather.
“It was a like a pressure cooker,” Kelly said. “It was hot. The sun was behind us, fortunately, but so was the win. There was no breeze. It was just hot and muggy. But it’s always a fun race, even in the worst conditions. I’m just glad to be able to be out and do things like this.”
Lands, who is also director of the Morehead City Parks and Recreation Department, commented on the number of county residents, as well as out-of-towners, who participated in the race.
“It’s always a fun event, one that a lot of locals run every year,” Lands said. “It’s a lot of people’s favorite race of the year. Some folks we don’t see but once a year because they enjoy coming out for this particular race.”
After the race, runners were treated to fruit and water donated by Food Lion of Atlantic Beach and Lowe’s Food of Morehead City. Pepsi also donated Gatorade and water.
The course was lined with Morehead City and Atlantic Beach police officers and at the bottom of the second bridge, a crew of safety and rescue personnel from Atlantic Beach waited in case they were needed. The event also got help from the Sheriff’s Department and Gramercy Christian School, which provided bus transportation, as well as registration and water station volunteers.
As has become the norm for area races, the Greenville-based Run the East chip-timing company once again served as the official time recorder for the event.
After the race, the Morehead City Parks and Recreation Department presented trophies to the top male and female runners. Medals were also awarded to the top three places in each age group, as well as the stand-alone, hand-crank division.
The construction of the new Gallants Channel high-rise bridge has thrown future races into some uncertainty with logistical concerns, as well as suggestions of elongating the 4.97-mile course.
“With the new bridge, we’ll have to look at the possibilities and possible changes next year,” Lands said. “Some things we’ll have to take a look at because I expect some of the logistics to change with that new on-ramp. Some people have also asked about a three bridges race, but I don’t know about that. We’ll have to take a look at everything. I know in a few years down the road, the Morehead City-Beaufort high-rise is scheduled to be worked on as well, so that will probably change some things too going forward.”
Here are results of the top three finishers in all divisions:
2017 Twin Bridges Race
Overall: 1, Katherine Price, 31:10; 2, Kristi Gloe, 33:24; 3, Heather Judy, 37:38.
13-and-under: 1, Olivia Stocks, 38:43; 2, Amelia Peck, 44:45; 3, Evelyn Peck, 46:01.
14-19: 1, Haley Stocks, 39:32; 2, Anna Loynes, 41:53; 3, Lylia Lo Piccolo, 50:51.
20-24: 1, Gabrielle Frost, 41:55; 2, Meg Gravley, 42:29; 3, Hannah Cook, 42:48.
25-29: 1, Grace Graves, 44:00; 2, Kelsey Cozart, 46:21; 3, Allison Hinnant, 46:31.
30-34: 1, Heather Judy, 37:38; 2, Erica Willis, 38:12; 3, Summer Ricketts, 41:25.
35-39: 1, Danielle Meriweather, 37:57; 2, Pauline Juhl, 39:19; 3, June Dickinson, 40:47.
40-44: 1, Rachel Lo Piccolo, 44:43; 2, Karen Yaeck, 44:46; 3, Kathryn Rowe, 46:36.
45-49: 1, Karen Graham, 44:15; 2, Kimberly Kennedy, 44:40; Leah Wolfe, 49:20.
50-54: 1, Karen Brown, 45:31; 2, Evelyn Register, 46:05; 3, Annita Best, 47:51.
55-59: 1, Kim Sparks, 43:01; 22, Deborah Wright, 46:34; 3, Kathleen Campbell, 50:58.
60-64: 1, Sandra Lucas, 50:49; 2, Susan Comoglio, 52:40; 3, Theresa Cantrell, 54:49.
65-69: 1, Barbara Quantrille, 1:02:17.
Overall: 1, Joseph Mooneyham, 28:38; 2, Tyler Pake, 30:00; 3, Brather Cline, 31:23.
13-and-under: 1, Zachary Graham, 39:44; 2, Griffin Brantley, 41:59; 3, J.T. Lawrence, 47:49.
14-19: 1, Brendon Hodge, 33:10; 2, Wilson Holcombe, 38:37; 3, Kyle Graham, 39:15.
20-24: 1, Joshua Ervin, 1:08:46.
25-29: 1, Brather Cline, 31:23; 2, Jodson Graves, 44:00; 3, Edward Frost, 49:57.
30-34: 1, Joseph Brock, 37:24; 2, Jeremiah Belokur, 37:50; 3, David Walker, 37:53.
35-39: 1, David Garrison, 33:52; 2, Michael Gay, 34:34; 3, Robert Oakes III, 36:10.
40-44: 1, Denny Lawrence, 37:28; 2, David Callehan, 39:05; 3, David Motley, 40:57.
45-49: 1, David Wallis, 35:01; 2, Chris Baxter, 37:20; 3, Johnnie Johnson, 39:23.
50-54: 1, Steven Tulevech, 36:55; 2, David Ballenger, 38:13; 3, Joe Green, 42:02.
55-59: 1, Thomas S. Ishee, 39:34; 2, Bert Pearce, 39:47; 3, Mike Peebles, 41:38.
60-64: 1, Ken Christeson, 40:42; 2, Ted Rust, 42:01; 3, Brian King, 48:41.
65-69: 1, Robert Cummins, 43:16; 2, Ted Bales, 43:52; 3, Ronald Boyce, 48:41.
70-and-over: 1, Tom McDowell, 47:04; 2, Charles Graham, 55:45; 3, Davis Cook, 58:29.
Overall: 1, Paul Kelly, 41:13.