Cole Atkins survived college teammate Jesse Cherry and a police motorcyclist near the finish line on Thanksgiving morning to win the men's division of the 32nd annual Turkey Day Run and Gobble Wobble.
Atkins, who attends grad school at High Point University in North Carolina, and Cherry were running neck-and-neck for most of the 5K race, which snakes through the streets of downtown Charleston. The two runners were well ahead of the competition as they raced up King Street toward the finish line, which was located just past the intersection of King and Calhoun Streets. That's when Atkins and Cherry had to use some fancy footwork to dodge a police motorcycle that escorted the runners.
Atkins, who was a soccer standout when he attended Academic Magnet, crossed the finish line in 14 minutes and 46 seconds while Cherry clocked in a second slower at 14:47. Channel 4 weekend meteorologist Neville Miller finished a distant third in 15:15.
West Virginian Heather Parks won the women's division with a time of 17:28 to beat runnerup Shawana White by 11 seconds. Last year's champ, Michelle LaFleur finished third in 18:09.
A record 5,135 runners and walkers entered the event, and 4,228 crossed the finish line.
Atkins won the race, but his time could have a few seconds faster if not for the motorcycle.
"The guy should have moved," Atkins said. "He didn't move. But it turned out OK for me."
Atkins graduated from Academic Magnet High School in 2004 and was good enough to play in the North-South All-Star Soccer Game. Atkins helped Academic Magnet to an appearance in the Class AA Lower State championship match his senior year, scoring 20 goals.
He played soccer at High Point and used up all of his eligibility.
He never ran competitively until 18 months ago and will compete in track and field this spring.
"I still have eligibility left in track, so I'm going to bleed it for everything I can," Atkins said. "I ran to stay in shape for soccer and now running has really take off for me."
Parks made her Turkey Day Run debut a memorable one with the victory.
She's from Bruceton Mills, W.Va., which is located approximately 25 miles from Morgantown, the home of West Virginia University. She competed in track and field at WVU and ran in the 2004 Olympic marathon trials.
"The course is flat as a pancake," the Mountaineer said of Charleston's course. "I like it. It's like running on a track. This is my best time in some time. I had a son two years ago and have been fighting to get back where I was."
The event is a fundraising project of the Rev. P. N. Lynch Council No. 704 of the Knights of Columbus.