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Josh Whitehead was the top finisher from Madison in the 42nd annual Cotton Row Run 10K race. The longtime elite runner was third overall and was the top master’s runner. Photo- Ashleigh Cox

Josh Whitehead Leads Madison Runners In Return Of Memorial Day Staple

HUNTSVILLE- After two years away from its usual Memorial Day date due to the COVID pandemic, the Cotton Row Run made its way back on the May calendar with a glorious morning with near perfect weather conditions in downtown Huntsville. The 42nd annual race, presented by Bill Penney Toyota, featured 10K and 5K races along with a one-mile fun run.

In the 10K event, Gilbert Boit turned the course into his liking with a winning time of 29-minutes, 35-seconds. The 27-year old edged Shadrack Keter, 21, in a mad dash to the finish line with a one second victory. Both top two runners race for a running team based in Montana.

Top finishers from Madison were Josh Whitehead and Ella Carter. A perennial top runner from Madison, Whitehead, 43, turned the trek through downtown Huntsville in a time of 33:00. He was third overall and the top male masters finisher. As for the 14-year old Carter, she made the 10K trek in 46:10 and was the 97th overall finisher.

“I was hoping for a good masters run with no other expectations,” said Whitehead. “I had a pace plan for the race as I took a third place spot early in the race and saw the top two runners from a distance in front of me early. I kept that spot the rest of the way.”

It was Whitehead’s highest place finish in the Cotton Row Run and an incredible personal feat as nearly two years ago he was a victim of a hit-and-run incident on Zerdt Road while cycling. Although he was wearing highly visible gear as a cyclist and was traveling at an estimated 28 miles per hour when he was struck from behind and thrown to the side of the road. His injuries included a broken back in three places and a separated right shoulder. He was in a back brace for five months and underwent surgery for his shoulder over three months later.

“I didn’t know if I’d ever run again,” said Whitehead of his return.

With the traditional homage to the real meaning of Memorial Day, the event this year was highlighted with the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Teresa Schmitt, whose father hailed from the immediate Huntsville area, remains a MIA of the war and Schmitt addressed the attending crowd at the start line on what the annual holiday means to her with her father still listed as missing in action. Her message was heartfelt and moving to the thousands who gathered for the start of the 42nd annual race.

Of the 1,289 who ran the 10K race and the 1,047 who took on the challenge of the 5K race, one person was selected by a random drawing from the race participants over the age of 18 and won a 2022 Toyota Corolla. Onie Tomlin was the lucky winner of the car from Bill Penney Toyota of Huntsville.

Joe Velasquez, who was featured in last week’s edition of the Madison Record, was No. 163 of the 223 runners from Madison who completed the 10K race. The 73-year old was the eldest of the Madison participants and posted a time of 1:10:27. Both Yezen Alomainy and Colin McFarland, age 12, shared the honor of being the youngest from Madison to finish the 10K. Yezen did so in 49:46 and was 31st overall from Madison while Colin was 61st with a finish time of 54:35.

Of the 299 Madison residents to complete the 5K race, 24-year old Adam Wallenfelsz was the fastest with a time of 17:13. Top Madison female finisher in the shorter of the two races was Tabytha Hartland. The 14-year old was clocked at 21:56.

With the 25-member race committee on hand along with 400 volunteers, the Cotton Row Run was a near perfect experience for all involved and a great encounter to be back on Memorial Day…a day of remembrance.

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