By Mr. Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)October 20, 2016
The 554th Engineer Battalion repeated their performance as the post's cross-country champions Friday, winning the 2017 Commander's Cup Cross-Country Road Race at Piney Valley Golf Course.
554th Engr. Bn. runner Connor Wernecke was the overall winner, completing the 3.1-mile course in 18 minutes, 18 seconds. Wernecke, who had finished second in the 2016 race, said the race conditions -- partly sunny with, mild breezes and temperatures in the low to mid 60s -- was "perfect cross-country weather."
"It was really good to run on a really nice day," Wernecke said. "I just kind of hung out with the lead pack for the first half, and then I was on my own for the rest of the race."
Wernecke finished 34 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, which turned out to be his 554th Engr. Bn teammates, Patrick Richardson and Hunter Aquirre, who raced up the final hill of the course side by side until Richardson pulled away less than 10 feet from the finish line. Richardson finished second overall with a time of 18:51, while Aquire followed at 18:52.
"I was just going on pure adrenaline," Richardson said. "Our first mile was 5:34, and our second mile was pretty close to that."
Their 554th Engr. Bn. teammate Ryan Doblar finished shortly afterward at 21:33, and the team's fifth man, Stephano Porter, completed the race sometime after that.
Each team could have up to five runners, with the top four times added together for a team total.
The 554th Engr. Bn. took first with a combined time of 117: 28.
The 5th Engineer Battalion placed second with a combined time of 1:22:24.
Prior to the Commander's Cup 5k, Piney Valley Golf Course hosted the annual Waynesville High School cross-country invitational, which included six area high schools.
Danny Howell, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sports specialist, said future Commander's Cup 5k events will likely be held after the high-school races.
"It helps us (FMWR) out, because it's a ready-made course, plus we're already set up for the high-school meet," Howell said.
Several Commander's Cup runners said they enjoyed running at Piney Valley Golf Course, including Friday's first-place winner.
"There are a couple of sharp turns here and there, and the uneven terrain made it a little interesting, but I thought it was a really good course," Wernecke said.