Saturday’s Madison Courier 10K Run was won by Kristopher Sandlin while Sara Martin was the top female. Sandlin (above, 122) sprints toward the finish, holding off Chase Ballard (186) by three seconds while Martin (below, 301) was all alone in her stretch run to finish 12th overall and 37 seconds ahead of the female runner-up. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
Saturday’s Madison Courier 10K Run was won by Kristopher Sandlin while Sara Martin was the top female. Sandlin (above, 122) sprints toward the finish, holding off Chase Ballard (186) by three seconds while Martin (below, 301) was all alone in her stretch run to finish 12th overall and 37 seconds ahead of the female runner-up. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)
Former Scottsburg and Franklin College distance runner Kristopher Sandlin arrived a little late for Saturday's 36th annual Madison Courier 10K race but he finished early enough to claim his second straight Firecracker title by three seconds over Chase Ballard of Columbus.

Sandlin, a recent graduate of Franklin who now lives in Greenwood, won his first Courier 10K last year in a time of 31:44 in a drizzling rain, defended that title Saturday with a 31:18 clocking over the 6.2 miles under perfect weather conditions.

Former Southwestern runner Sara Martin, 27, now of Seymour, was the top female in 37:19 to edge Mackenzie Dye, 21, of New Castle, by 37 seconds.

Fortunately for Sandlin, Saturday's 8 a.m. start time had to be pushed back a few minutes due to a timing issue, and by the time honorary starter Cat Graham fired the starter's pistol the 22-year-old former Warrior and Grizzly was feeling no affects from his abbreviated warmup.

"I got a little bit of a late start so the delay at the start didn't bother me," Sandlin said. "I don't think things like that are really a problem anyway."

Sandlin and two other runners - 17-year-old Ballard and Hanover College senior cross country standout Logan Wells, 21, of Scottsburg - quickly broke away from the field and went on to settle the outcome among themselves.

"It was pretty much the three of us from about the mile mark on," Sandlin grinned. "We pulled away from everybody else and we were going to see who could tough it out."

Ballard took charge first by pulling out to about a 10-second lead on Sandlin and Wells starting at about the 3-mile mark, but the defending champion never got worried.

"I used my experience and just tried to stay calm and tried to see if I could wear him down," Sandlin said of the teenager. "My experience in races like this really helped out a lot. I knew what I could do and where I could do it."

About 5 miles into the race Sandlin reeled in Ballard and then overtook the youngster on the big downhill grade that passes by Hanging Rock. He then held off the determined teen in the final stretch for a 3 second win with Wells another 33 seconds back in third.

"I kicked it at the end but I made sure to not to wait to kick until the very end," Sandlin said. "I wanted more of an elongated kick rather than leave it up to a sprint and it worked."

Joseph Fuller, 18, of Sydney, Ohio, was fourth in 34:29 and James Harris, 50, of Indianapolis, rounded out the top five in 35:18.

Martin, a strong middle distance runner at Southwestern who went on to run at University of Southern Indiana, was running her second Courier 10K in three years. She finished fourth among the women in 2012 with a time of 44:38 to Dye's winning time of 40:17 in a race run in scorching heat. Dye was the runner-up last year in 38:37.

Martin's finish was 12th overall among all runners while Dye placed 15th regardless of gender.

According to Martin, Saturday's win just shows her growth as a distance runner and how the 30 miles of road work she puts in weekly is paying off.

"I've been training a lot harder," said Martin, who now lives in Seymour and works as a wellness coordinator. "I'm just a lot stronger runner now than I was two years ago."

Martin and Dye were followed to the line by Mackenzie Crouch, 17, of Charlestown, in 39:05 and Teresa Wiczynski, 20, Columbus, in 39:58 while Traci Falbo, 42, of Charlestown, rounded out the top five among women in 40:43.

Saturday's Madison Courier 10K, an official Madison Regatta event, drew 307 runners and 135 walkers. Overall results for the run and walk as well as run results by age group are available on our website at www.madisoncourier.com.

Results of the run and walk and photos of the top age group finishers in the run will be published in Thursday's edition of The Madison Courier.