in a class of his own
Cory Keehn easily outdistances the rest of the field in winning the 10k division in the Walk-Run-Roll held at Lake Scott State Park on Saturday morning.
By Rod Haxton, editoro
U.S. Olympic hopeful finds gold at Lake Scott
Earlier this year, Cory Keehn was dreaming of the opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games.
During last Saturday’s Walk-Run-Roll at Lake Scott State Park, he wasn’t running for national pride.
“The life of a distance runner isn’t very glamorous, so I was running for bread and milk,” he said with a laugh.
He can buy plenty of both after winning $1,000 in cash as the winner in the men’s 10k division.
A December graduate of Fort Hays State University, Keehn has been a middle- and long-distance runner since his arrival from Soldier, Ks.
“I ran everything from the mile to the 10k, but cross-country is my favorite,” he says.
He qualified for the Olympic Trials with a half-marathon (13.1 miles) time of 64:26. However, he had to withdraw from the Olympic Trials which were held in February.
“My wife and I had already committed to attend a marriage conference,” he says. “I wanted her to know that she is more important than my sport.”
Keehn has continued training with the KC Smoke Elite racing team and learned of the Lake Scott run and prize money from FHSU teammate a former Scott Community High School standout Brett Meyer.
He hadn’t seen the state park before, so was surprised at the layout which “wasn’t as flat as I was expecting.” However, that wasn’t the biggest challenge.
“It’s beautiful out here. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself to race and not be gawking at the scenery,” he said.
Keehn, 24, didn’t spend too much time gawking, sprinting out to a sizeable lead after the first 1-1/2 miles in the 6.2 mile race. He posted a winning time of 32:53, well ahead of former SCHS distance runners Cosme Chavez (40.25) and Kale Graham (43:14).
Winning the $1,000 prize in the women’s division was former Wichita County High School runner Paige Wells (43:36), who is currently running for Wichita State University. She was followed by Bridget (Kuntzsch) Brown (45:30), formerly of Scott City.
While he won’t be competing in the 2016 Olympics, running will still be a part of his life and perhaps he’ll get another chance to qualify for the Olympics in 2020.
He and his wife will soon be moving to North Carolina where he will serve as a domestic missionary. He will continue training while fulfilling his mission work.
While he’s enjoyed success as a runner, Keehn says the “times and the awards aren’t near as important as the impact you can make on other people.”
“I love the sport and I love connecting with people. That’s my main purpose. Running is just an added bonus,” he says.
The $500 prize money and the opportunity to compete at a lower elevation attracted Ian Anderson, champion in the men’s 5k division.
Anderson had a surprisingly easy time winning his event in a time of 17:19, finishing well ahead of Angel Ayala (20:42, Garden City) and Conner LeBeau (21:29, Scott City).
Makaela Stevens, a junior at Scott Community High School, won the women’s division in a time of 22:51, followed by Andrea Baber (23:30, Scott City).
“I decided to make the drive out here when I saw the prize money,” says Anderson, a resident of Louisville, Colo. “I like to compete on occasion at a lower elevation, but that can be hard for me to do. I have to drive six to eight hours or fly somewhere.”
Anderson, 25, admits that his first trip to Kansas wasn’t what he expected.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the conditions, the hills, a beautiful course, a beautiful lake and great people,” he said.
Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Anderson says he’s no stranger to wind, but said the morning breeze and hills had an impact.
“The wind and the hills did affect me. I was hoping to run a little bit faster, but I can’t be too disappointed in a win,” says Anderson, who trains with the Boulder Track Club.
“They foster athletes of all talent levels. In my group, I’m one of the slowpokes, so I get my butt kicked in the workouts, but it makes me a stronger runner,” he says. “I owe a lot to them for getting me where I am. I run just for the love of doing it.”
Anderson complimented race organizers for a well-run event, adding that he plans to return next year “and I’ll bring some of my Colorado friends with me.”
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