Local runners come out on top at Macon Labor Day Road Race

'I was just running my heart out'

Mary Persons freshman Justin Wachtel talks about his win in the men's 5K race in the 41st Macon Labor Day Road Race.
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Mary Persons freshman Justin Wachtel talks about his win in the men's 5K race in the 41st Macon Labor Day Road Race.

Alan Black gave it everything he had.

The 43-year-old runner who has won either the 5K or the 10K event at the Macon Labor Day Road Race 15 times, ran even with Justin Wachtel for most of the 5K race Monday, but with 400 meters left, Wachtel made a move and took the lead.

Black threatened in the final 100 meters and did everything he could to catch the 14-year-old Wachtel, but Wachtel held on for the win in the very first road race he has run with a time of 15:18. Black ended up one second behind.

“I knew who Alan Black was because I was looking at past results, and his name was all over the place,” said Wachtel, who is a freshman at Mary Persons and has only been running for two years. “I knew that he would be tough to beat, and I looked back at about 50 meters, and I saw he was catching up, so I just gave it everything I had at that point. It was really a great race and I am happy that I was able to win.”

Megan Sapp of Macon talks about her win in the women's 10K race in the 41st Macon Labor Day Road Race. This was Sapp's first win in the race after finishing second last year.

Black praised his younger competitor for his efforts for the win.

“Oh man, I tried everything I could to catch him at the end, but I just didn’t have enough speed to do it,” said Black, who ran a marathon in Nebraska a week ago. “That young man ran a great race, and I had more in the tank than I thought I would, but when he took the lead, all I could think was, ‘Wow this kid is fast.’ After that, I just couldn’t quite get back to him. Honestly, I don’t mind losing to someone like that, and he could have a bright future in the sport. I am very proud of him.”

The women’s 5K race also yielded a first-time winner as 16-year-old Erin Leonard won the race with a time of 17:07 to defeat second-place finisher Ann Centner by 34 seconds.

“I had some girls running with me for the first mile or so, but I was able to pick it up on the first hill and get a lead,” said Leonard, who won the cross country GHSA Class 5A championship and added the 1,600 and 3,200 championships in the spring for Jones County. “After I got the lead, I never glance back, but I knew I had a lead, and it’s all about trusting my training and asking God to help me. I had a goal of breaking 18 minutes, and thankfully I was able to do that.”

Macon’s Megan Sapp captured the women’s 10K race after finishing second a year ago. Josh Grant from Arabi won the men’s 10K race.

“I have been in a lot of these, and I saw that some of the bigger clubs were not here (Monday), so I thought I may have a chance to win, which is always good,” Sapp said. “I actually ran faster last year, but I knew I ran the best that I could (Monday). I think it was about mile three that people started telling me that I was in the lead, but I had no idea how far ahead I was, so I just tried to keep my pace.”