By Mr. Forrest Berkshire (USACC)October 13, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Pain pulsed through Caleb DeVries' legs halfway through the Army Ten-Miler. But he had no plans to stop running.
Not now. Not on the downhill side of the biggest run of his collegiate career. And not with his fellow University of Kentucky Cadets depending on him to complete the race.
Jogging along scenic Independence Avenue past the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, DeVries' focus was broken by the cheers from crowds lining the route, offering words of encouragement to those going by. Suddenly, the freshman forgot about his legs and picked up the pace.
"You get a lot of energy from the crowd," said DeVries, who had never run 10 miles straight before completing the Ten-Miler held Oct. 4.
More than 400 Army ROTC Cadets ran in the 25th annual Army Ten-Miler. A team with Virginia Tech won the ROTC division, the second straight year the squad claimed the title in the collegiate category.
The Hokie Battalion beat out a team from the University of Connecticut, finishing the course with a collective time of four hours, 14 minutes, 38 seconds. East Carolina University was third. Kentucky took fourth.
Though Virginia Tech had eight members on the squad, only the top four times counted toward the team's overall time. Virginia Tech had two teams compete. It's second entry ended up eighth.
The ROTC division included 56 teams representing almost 50 schools.
Individually, Dickinson College's Gregory Leak was the top Cadet finisher, coming in 60th overall with a time of 56:03.
John Steger, a senior and captain of Virginia Tech's winning group, said he was confident the team would finish strong. He attributed the win to a solid training regimen, experience and camaraderie.
"It's a good group of guys," Steger said. "We're not losing many (to graduation), so the next two years will be good."
The Army Ten-Miler is among the largest races in the country, with 30,000 people competing Sunday. Starting and ending at the Pentagon, the course crosses the Potomac River, running along the National Mall to loop around the U.S. Capitol building, forming a 10-mile circuit.
The event attracts runners from around the world. This year's race featured competitors from as far away as Brazil, Japan and Korea.
ROTC teams traveled from as far as Wyoming to compete. Many Cadets said they had only been training since returning to school, which amounted to about five weeks leading up to the race.
Some said a lack of roadwork hurt their times. Others said that despite little preparation, the environment they faced back home with hills gave them an advantage on the relatively flat route of the Ten-Miler.
Katherine Baumann, a senior with the University of Connecticut, runs marathons during the year. She approached her third Ten-Miler with a strategy: Run with a buddy.
Paired up with fellow senior Cadet Josiah Hennig, the two worked together to create holes in the initial pack of people at the outset and encouraged each other along the way.
Until the end.
"That last 100 meters is fair game," said Baumann, who sprinted toward the finish to edge Hennig.
Competing in the Ten-Miler was more than a chance to run for many Cadets. It was an experience.
They connected with other runners from around the country, toured the nation's capital and attended a luncheon during the Association of the United States Army's annual convention held in ROTC's honor.
Back at the Pentagon after the race, John Hessler sat on the pavement stretching and trying to work the cramps from his legs. The Cadet with the University of North Carolina-Charlotte reflected on his accomplishment of completing the Ten-Miler.
What stuck most with him was the infectious camaraderie he witnessed while enveloped by thousands of other competitors at the race's start.
"There were a lot of patriots; a lot of amazing people," Hessler said. "It's like a huge family out here."