‘Spring’ not about wins, race

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 6, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; George Michael Marshall VI sat Indian-style on the north side of St. Mary Basilica, between the legs of his facing father, George V, oblivious to the world around him.

Fourteen-month-old George VI, sitting in the pool of bottled water he had tipped over on the sidewalk, was too engrossed with the freshly squeezed Florida orange he smeared across his clothes and pinchable cheeks to know his dad had just won the fourth annual 5K Junior Auxiliary &uot;Spring Into Action-Run for the Kids&uot; race Saturday.

Marshall, who grew up in Natchez but now resides in Portland, Ore., comfortably won the overall title with a time of 18:19.

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&uot;We always come home around Pilgrimage time and I’ve been in (the race) for the last few,&uot; said Marshall, 42. &uot;It’s not an easy course. I wouldn’t want to be out there when the sun was peeking out.&uot;

Official statistics were not in, but JA President Shannon Burts said participation was down marginally compared to the 266 that entered last year’s race, which donates all proceeds to help the community’s children.

Burts said part of the reason for the iffy turnout could be chalked up to Jackson’s &uot;Race for the Cure,&uot; another 3.2-mile event which raised money for breast cancer awareness.

&uot;We still had several out-of-state people run and I’m very pleased with the support,&uot; Burts said. &uot;I cannot say enough about our members. We’re only 26 active (members), but they all are phenomenal.

&uot;I use that word because it truly does encompass everything they do.&uot;

Marshall defeated state Rep. Andrew Ketchings, R-Natchez, for the overall title despite Ketchings, 40, turning in another sub-19 minute race at 18:53.

Natchez’s Lena Yarbrough, 30, won the female division in a time of 21:53.

&uot;I wasn’t out to win as much as I wanted to beat my personal best of 22:27,&uot; she said. &uot;The hills really killed me and made it tough out there. I kept motivated by the guys who were in front of me.&uot;

That number dwindled throughout the race, though, as Yarbrough’s time was sixth-best overall.

Yarbrough’s 2-year-old son Sterling squeezed at the air afterward, begging for his mother to pick him up as she occupied her time with cooling down.

&uot;(Sterling) rooted me on at the three-quarter mile mark,&uot; Yarbrough said. &uot;It helps me to know that both of my sons will have athletics in their lives or be fit.&uot;

There were plenty of youngsters participating in the one-mile fun run that followed the 5K, which brought a bright smile to Burts’ face.

Chas Moroney, 11, won the overall title in 6:49, as Carolyn Ketchings, 12, captured the female side with a 7:28 time.

&uot;I know it’s hard to find kids who want to volunteer their time on a Saturday morning,&uot; Burts said. &uot;So from all who raced to the Future Educators of America that came from Robert Lewis Middle School and the junior high cheerleaders from Trinity and Cathedral they all deserve a big, ‘Thank You.’&uot;

Burts showed up at around 6:30 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Park for the finishing touches and was ushered in with raindrops.

Thankfully &045; with the aid of a Burts’ prayer &045; the precipitation subsided before many participants arrived for the 7:30 registration and was nowhere to be found by race time an hour later.

&uot;What else is nice is that this is a community race. I’ve been in races before where I didn’t know anybody,&uot; Marshall said. &uot;This is a nice outing, and a good reason for everybody to come out. Plus you don’t have to exercise the rest of the day.&uot;

Marshall said 5Ks aren’t, in fact, the race where he excels the most because it requires runners to explode from the gates and maintain a swift pace.

He turned to Ketchings after both were neck-and-neck at the end of the first mile and said they were both crazy for running a 5:50, although the pace did not drag much afterward.

&uot;That was George’s fault,&uot; Ketchings joked. &uot;He told me he was going to try and run it under 19 minutes and I thought I’d be able to do that. I had not done that in a while.&uot;

Burts, who also poured praises of Jackson’s Mississippi Track Club for setting up the finish line and clock along with tabulating and announcing the results, hopes the meaning of Saturday’s race was not lost on the kids.

&uot;I want to try to instill in the kids that are out here you can’t get from your community until you give back. There are some kids who are always, ‘Gimme, gimme,’ but the large majority wants to help out. And if our kids can see us adults doing what we do and loving it, it’ll rub off.