Three years ago, the Town of Smyrna began the Top Gun 6K Night Run as a fundraiser for the care and upkeep of the Capt. Jeff Kuss USMC Memorial in Lee Victory Park. The memorial honors Kuss, whose airplane crashed during a Blue Angels practice for the Great Smyrna Air Show. After this horrible accident, the town embraced Kuss, his family and the Blue Angels. This memorial is the result.
On a recent warm night with a slight breeze, 490 runners took off at 7:30 p.m. from the Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center at the crack of the starting gun shot by retiring Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold.
“It’s been 30 years on the force,” said Arnold, “fifteen of those as chief. It’s time to pass the baton on to someone new. I think I am leaving the department in good shape. There are great people there.”
The runners took off through a balloon arch into the engulfing darkness of the 3.7-mile course that included parts of the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport and Smyrna Municipal Golf Course, with the finish line at the memorial. The run was chip-timed and USATF certified.
Runners hit the finish line sweaty but smiling after receiving water and a medal from members of the military. After the run, spectators and runners enjoyed live music and food trucks that were stationed in the park offering lots of cooling treats.
Both casual and serious runners, as well as a number of walkers took off on the race. Lyle Haywood, who came in first, decided to enter the race rather casually and came to the event after work. “It was a good release,” he said with a beaming smile. It was obvious, however, that he is a long-time runner, as his former college track coach was on hand to help him celebrate his success.
Husband and wife Dean and Tasha Ives, who were just married last fall, ran together. There were also many teams of friends and family members who ran together. All excitedly displayed their medals to spectators who came to support them in this endeavor.
One young man, who was there with his father, admitted to getting a bit lost in the darkness, but he was excited about running the race. His father was so proud that his son completed the race, his first official 6K, although the young man is a runner on his high school track team.
As runners completed the race, the Missy Barnett Band’s rocking sound could be heard through the night air until the presentation of the medals for first, second and third place in male and female categories.
While Haywood came in first, he was followed by Justin Butler, Lewis Duarte, and LaBronn Anderson. Haywood finished the race in 22 minutes and 56 seconds, averaging to a 6 minute and nine second mile. Kellyn Garcia was the first woman to complete the course in 25 minutes and 39 seconds. She was followed by Mila Alvarez, Kristen Hagan and Jessica LeLoop. All of the results can be found here.
Winning results by category were:
Female 12 & Under- Lucia Wilson time: 34:10
Female 13-19- Lana Warren- time: 30:47
Female 20-29- Milanyely Alvarez- time: 30:33
Female 30-39- Kristen Hagan- time: 30:45
Female 40-49- Alesha Martin- time: 31:12
Female 50-59- Stacey Mcgaha- time: 31:11
Female 60+ – Tamra Smith- time: 33:21
male 12 & Under- Kaleb Hazelwood- time: 36:04
male 13-19- Ty Hazelwood- time: 27:03
male 20-29- Ryan Hollingshead- time: 25:32
male 30-39- Justin Butler- time 24:38
male 40-49- Luis Duarte- time: 24:51
male 50-59- Roger Brady- time: 25:45
male 60+ – Timothy O Leary- time: 26:48
Runners proudly had their photographs taken in front of the key feature of the Capt. Jeff Kuss USMC Memorial, a real Blue Angels jet. Funds from this year’s event will be paying for having the plane repainted, according to Smyrna Vice mayor Marc Adkins.
“Thanks to everyone who participated and came out to support the 2022 Top Gun Night Run,” said Marty Smith, Recreation Program Supervisor, Smyrna Parks and Recreation Department. “We had a great event!”