Rory Tunningley and Rachel Baptista served notice that they are in great racing shape Thursday as both topped a field of more than 3,800 runners at the Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot Five Miler.
Tunningley, a former Longhorn track and cross country ace rocketed out of the Long Center staging area up Lavaca St. to hit the first mile in 4:50. Meantime Erik Stanley, also a former Longhorn runner, kept Tunningley in his sights.
Tunningley tackled the hills on 15th St. and Enfield Boulevard, passing mile two in 9:54 and mile three in 14:48.
As he held steady on Cesar Chavez en route to mile four, Stanley began to close the gap. But Tunningley has one more gear, and he used it to power through to the finish, breaking the tape in 24:43. Stanley took second in 24:50, with Allen Sumrall third in 25:10 and JT Sullivan fourth in 25:18.
“When I turned into the bridge off of Cesar Chavez I was sure I was going to win but knew I needed to close hard to make sure I didn’t let Erik get too close,” said Tunningley.
“The race was great—I took the lead from the start and ran the entire race alone. With about a mile to go Erik got close (about five seconds back) before I started to push again and open up more of a gap on him,” added Tunningley, who is targeting the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in search of an Olympic Trials marathon qualifying time.
“I’ll be looking to run and PR and possibly get an Olympic trials qualifying time,” said Tunningley. “I need to run 1:03:59 for the half. I ran a pretty solid half marathon a month or so ago but this [Turkey Trot win] is a good sign after coming back from a year and a half of injuries and not really running much.”
Like Tunningley, Baptista, who won the 2018 Statesman Capitol 10,000, led pretty much the entire race. She raced through the first mile in 5:47, and hit mile two in 11:27.
Hitting her stride by mile three, she dropped the pace to 5:23 and never looked back. Even so, she didn’t take anything for granted.
“I took the beginning pretty conservatively because of the hills and advice from my coach and started pushing the gas a bit after the second mile,” said Baptista. “However, I did run 4.5 miles of the race with my shoe untied!
“I try to never consider having a race locked up because you never know what could happen in the end,” added Baptista, who plans to make her marathon debut at the Chevron Houston Marathon in January. “I like to think that if I’m in front, there is someone within kicking distance behind me, so I don’t let up too early.”
As it turned out, she didn’t have to worry. When she broke the tape in 27:30, Cate Barrett (second in 29:01) was a minute and a half back. Sarah Rimel took third in 29:12. Brittany Innis ducked under 30 minutes with a 29:49 for fourth place.
Upcoming races: Saturday, December 1 at 8:00 a.m., the Jingle Bell Run 5K at the Hill Country Galleria, 12700 Hill Country Blvd., Bee Cave. Also on Saturday, December 1, the Round Rock Rotary Reindeer 5K Run, 5:30 p.m. at Old Settlers Park – Christmas Village 330 Palm Valley Blvd. in Round Rock.