Butler outduels archrival to win 8 Tuff Miles

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ST. JOHN - At about the same time the St. John 8 Tuff Miles Road Race debuted 16 years ago, Derrick Butler and Chris Reis started their racing rivalry.

The Cincinnati natives went to neighboring high schools and competed against each other in college as well. They train together, and the latest chapter of their friendly rivalry unfolded Saturday morning on the notorious up-and-down course from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay.

In a race that saw a record 983 runners cross the finish line, Butler won the 8 Tuff Miles Road Race in 46 minutes and 22 seconds, while Reis, last year's champion, finished second.

"We went back and forth during the race and I grabbed the lead for good in between Mile 3 and 4," said Butler, 31, who ran the race for the first time. "I'm pretty good at working the hills, and Chris is very strong on the down hills. On that final stretch, I was definitely peeking over my shoulder and keeping an eye out for him."

Reis, a 30-year-old running shop manager, broke the course record last year in 46 minutes flat. He finished Saturday's race in 46:49, and finished just ahead of St. John's Jeremy Zuber, who was the top local finisher in 51:26, and took third overall.

"I kept them in eye sight for about a mile and half, and then at that point, it was just a battle for third," said Zuber, a six-time champion at this race. "Every year, this race gets better, and it's amazing to see the community come out and support. It's fun to carry the flag for St. John."

Trying to describe the course to other runners back in Cincinnati can be a challenge, Reis said.

"This is my third time on this course, so I should have it down pretty good by now," said Reis, who has placed in the Top 2 the last three years. "But it's a unique race, and you never stop learning about it. I can't say I felt as good as last year. I was never really sharp coming out of the gates."

Reis and Butler are members of the Cincy-Tucky All-Stars, a running group which had 20 runners from Ohio and Kentucky in Saturday's event and each wore camouflage racing jerseys. A member of the running group has won the 8 Tuff Miles title each of the last three years.

"And we will be back for more," Butler said. "We're all friends and this is a big trip for us every year. Believe it or not, Cincinnati actually has some hills. We train on them all year long for this."

Other top finishers from the Cincy-Tucky All-Stars included last year's runner-up Court Lilly, who was fourth at 51:53, along with Brian Dugan (53:13) and Marc Teismann (54:32), who finished in the Top 10.

St. Thomas' Shane Degannes was 10th and St. John's Peter Kamitses finished 11th to highlight the top local finishers.

On the women's side, St. Thomas resident Ruth Ann David, 38, won the women's title for a third straight year and crossed the finish line in 1:00:10. She was the top women's finisher for the fifth time - she also took home top honors in 1999 and 2008 - and was 30th overall Saturday.

"Training for this race is always very hard," said David, who is a local cross-country coach and physical fitness trainer.

N.C. State University middle-distance runner Emily Egelhoff-Whalen, 20 - who is from Raleigh, N.C., but also lives on St. John - finished second among the women in 1:02:08. Jennifer Sprague (1:02:39) and Cheehee Kim (1:04:10) - both of the Cincy-Tucky All-Stars - took third and fifth, respectively.

Other top local finishers among the women included St. John's Devon Nemire-Pepe, who was seventh, and Elizabeth Conklin, who finished eighth.

Six youth age group winners won a portion of the 8 Tuff Miles scholarship fund. Two-time St. Thomas-St. John IAA district cross-country champion Rohit Gaikwad, an All Saints School senior, trimmed almost two minutes off his time from last year to win the boys 17-19 age group and finished 27nd overall.

Antilles School senior Nikki Barnes won the girls 17-19 age group in 1:27:54.

Gifft Hill School student Evan Jones won his age group for the fifth straight year. On Saturday, the St. Thomas-St. John IAA district elementary cross-country champion finished in 1:03:09 and secured the boys Under-12 division. Alison Bartsch won the girls Under-12 age group in 1:23:53.

Coral Breuning, another area cross-country runner, took the girls 13-16 age group in 1:22:29. Andre Ripley of St. Thomas finished in 1:15:37 and won the boys side of that age group.

"We had a record number of finishers, and I'm pretty pleased with that," said 8 Tuff Miles Race director Peter Alter, who clocked a formidable 1:23:40. "After we raised the registered number of runners from 1,000 to 1,100 this year, I sort of expected a new record. It was a great event."

Alter and St. John residents Christine Meyer, 53, and Christine Chapman, 59, are the only three runners to compete in each edition of the annual race.

All three were supposed to compete Saturday, but Chapman, who was diagnosed with throat cancer last spring, had to travel back to the mainland U.S. for treatment. A group of Chapman's friends formed a relay team, wore Chapman's bib number, and competed in her absence.

For full race results or to find out how to register for next year's race, visit online at www.8tuffmiles.org.

- Contact sports writer Aaron Gray at 714-9102 or email agray@dailynews.vi.

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