The Charleston area's top male and female runners easily defended their titles at the second annual Montague Mile in North Charleston on Sunday night.

Michael Banks, 27, of Charleston, won the "invited" elite race in 4 minutes, 19.7 seconds, beating the only other athlete in the race, 26-year-old David Thomas, by nearly 12 seconds. Despite a route change from last year that included a slight hill and several turns, Banks was only off his winning time by one second this year.

Likewise, Caitlin Judd, 30, of North Charleston, won in 5:28, nearly 23 seconds faster than her sole competitor, 24-year-old Christine Smith of Summerville. Judd was off her time last year by two seconds.

Despite relatively meager crowds, both Banks and Judd said the mile race was a welcomed change from the routine of 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons.

"I had a blast racing last night," said Banks. "It's hard to find a race in the area that isn't a 5K, so I was excited when (organizer) Howie (Schomer) announced that he was putting on the event. Hopefully more people will start to show up in the future, both to race and watch."

Banks added that the Montague Mile will be his "unofficial start to the fall racing season."

Judd, who is coming off of top 50 finish at the Eugene (Ore.) Half Marathon, said she enjoyed racing the mile, despite the fact that she is more of a longer distance runner.

"I can't say that the mile is an event that I am very good at and it (the Montague Mile) was especially challenging this year just coming off a pretty tough half marathon in Eugene last weekend. But it was a good time and I was happy to support the race," says Judd, also noting that the course was little tougher with the turns and hill.

"I hope that in the future more people decide to come out and participate in this event because it adds some much needed diversity to the Charleston running scene."

The mile race, which started and finished near Dig in the Park on Montague, was put on by the Charleston Marathon organization. The event started with a race for children, included races for males and females in open and masters (age 40 and up) divisions, and finished with the races featuring "invited" local elite runners.

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Reach David Quick at 937-5516.