By Rick Sheek
Josey Weaver’s second trip to the Covered Bridge 5K was even better.
The rising Western Carolina senior runner successfully defended his title on Saturday morning, covering the 3.1-mile course in 15:43.96. That bettered his effort of a year ago by 11 seconds.
“The course is still great,” Weaver, 21, said. “It was a little warmer out there this year, but it was still a good race. It looked like they had a couple of more elite runners come out, at the starting line I saw — but overall a real good race.”
Gray’s Brinson Milhorn, 30, crossed second in 16:41.03.
“I’ve run with him before, and he’s always had the upper advantage by where he’s been running in college,” Milhorn said. “He’s a very nice man, and I just worked hard. I’ve just got to keep working hard, and get up there.”
Weaver’s margin of victory wasn’t as large this summer, but clocking a sub-five minute first mile certainly helped.
“I was out by myself again,” Weaver said. “I saw some guys about the mile and a half mark, probably, 50-75 yards back. I don’t know if they tried to go out or not, but I went through the first mile in like the 4:58 range.
“Which I was OK with that. I was hoping to be a little bit quicker, but I tried to make up some the last mile. It was definitely a challenge, especially the first race back It was a good tune-up for sure.”
Aside from his upcoming road race schedule, which includes a major event in the Asheville area which features traveling money ringers, Weaver is also focused on the college ranks this fall as the Catamounts’ No. 1 racer and lone senior in the Southern Conference.
“That makes you feel better, especially when last year at this time is when I got hurt and couldn’t run for two months,” Weaver said. “At least I know I’m ahead of where I was, and I’ve got two months to work with. Hopefully we’ll stay healthy, and training will stay up to par.”
Milhorn just recorded a personal half-marathon record (1:12) a week ago, and noticed he was a step slow.
“I still ran good,” Milhorn said. “I’m happy to be here. The Covered Bridge is nice.
“I came out here to run good. My legs are worn down a little bit. It kind of took a lot out of me.
“It kind of burned me out, on this quick, faster race. You had to be ready for it, but 16:41 — I’m pretty happy with it.”
Milhorn broke the tape at a 5K in Bristol last month.
“I went faster today than I did then,” Milhorn said. “I’m improving, and just got to get somebody to chase and go after. I’ll get there.
“It’s just you’ve got to concentrate on one thing. I like to be well-rounded, do a little bit of both. People who just do 5Ks are about a minute faster. I enjoy running, fell in love with it when I was at Boone (1998 state cross country champions), and it’s just a good thing to do.”
Weaver’s mother is from Hampton.
“The big thing I’m doing with training, though, I think that’s keeping me a lot more healthy is actually I’m down here every weekend,” Weaver said. “I go to the Watauga Lake and get on a paddle board, and then just work on my core. That’s really the key as far as running fast.
“A lot of people think you just put miles in, but if you don’t have a strong core your body can’t support anything. I really feel like that has helped my training, as far as the being healthy aspect. Hopefully I can find something towards Western and keep that going, maybe get my coach and team to jump on that a little bit.”
The women’s winner was Ashley Dulgar, 25, of Piney Flats in 21:08.
“I loved it,” Dulgar said. “I hadn’t really been training for it, but I heard it was a good one. It was nice and quiet, and I had a great time.”
She defeated road partner Brittany Levenbarger (21:14), also 25. A year ago, Elaine Hitch prevailed in 21:26.
“Brittany and I worked together for most of it, and we just pushed each other to the end,” Dulgar said. “We train together, and that helps when you need someone to work with.”
Dulgar is a marathon runner, finishing her last 26.2-mile un in April (3:43) in Nashville.
“I mostly train for marathons, but I like to do 5Ks,” Dulgar said. “It wasn’t my PR, but I was happy for it — because I haven’t ran a 5K in over a year.”