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With the town-sponsored Turkey Trot just around the corner, now is a good opportunity to look back and reminisce about the run that has become a much-anticipated recreational and fitness event.

Those who’ve been around long enough will recall that in 1998 Gary Kutscher, a veteran runner who had competed in the Boston Marathon took first place and for his win was given a Butterball turkey by Abby Kendall, the overall female winner.

Upon receiving the turkey he laughingly declared, “I got the bird.”

• In 1999, a pair of Payson High School students fresh from the cross country season took top honors at the Turkey Trot. Leighanne Haynes, then a sophomore, won among the women and Nolan Blalock won the men’s title.

Payson Police Chief Don Engler finished second in the 40-49 age group.

• In 2002, Haynes once again won the women’s crown and PHS junior Tanner Morgan, a cross country runner, was first among the men. Haynes’ time was about two minutes faster than it was two years earlier. Tom Cooka won the senior division in 23:25.

• With the elimination of physical education from Payson elementary schools, Julia Randall classroom teacher Wayne Gorry turned to the Turkey Trot in 2003 as a way to educate students about the importance of being in good physical condition. In his class, 19 of 21 students participated in the run. For two months leading up to the run, the youngsters trained three times a week in timed mile and 20-minute runs.

One of the students participating was current Lady Longhorn volleyball player Rachel DiFelice who wrote in a journal, “I am feeling really good about it (the trot) and I also feel stronger. The training has been really good.”

• David Cluff and Rachelle Jones, both former PHS cross country runners won gold medals in the 2004 run. Cross country team members dominated the meet as Carlos Lopez, Carlan Pontious and Morgan ran well. A field of 92 runners competed.

• In 2005, Cluff once again won the Turkey Trot title kicking into high gear about one mile into the 3.1-mile race. Rim Country Middle School seventh-grader Ashton Wolfe took second overall and first among the female entrants. Wolfe was no stranger to running, having finished third in her age group in P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll half marathon.

• The 2006 Turkey Trot is an especially memorable one because Payson High School teacher Cindy Pool surged onto the local sports scene winning the women’s championship. Just three years later, Pool, was killed in a tragic accident while riding cross country on her bicycle. Among the male competitors in 2006, Carlan Pontious ran his way to first place taking the lead early and then opening up a sizable cushion.

• In 2007, another pair of cross country team members, David Knauer and Lana Cluff were the overall winners. Among the older runners, then 70-year-old Senior Olympian Tom Cooka won his age division.

• PHS alumni Carlos Lopez returned to Payson from the University of North Carolina Ashville, where he is now a student to win the 2009 Turkey Trot. At the university, Lopez is a member of the cross country team. During his years at PHS, Lopez starred in track, cross country and basketball. Sabrina Nelson won the Turkey Trot female title. Once again a number of PHS cross country runners turned out including Lucy Schouten, Ashley Spear and Jacquelyn Oesterblad.

The 2010 Turkey Trot begins at 9 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 13 at Green Valley Park. The registration fee is $25. Call (928) 474-5242, ext 7 for more information.

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