For the 42nd year in a row, Lexington kicked off its Fourth of July celebration with the Bluegrass 10,000 road race through downtown on Wednesday, and for the second year in a row former University of Kentucky athlete Zack Beavin came out on top.
Beavin, 24, defeated three-time champion Antonio Marchi by 23 seconds. It's the second year in a row the pair has run away from the pack to finish 1-2. In a field of 3,360 entrants, nearly 400 more than last year's race, Beavin and Marchi set the pace.
Beavin, a Louisville native and St. Xavier graduate, ran the 10-kilometer course in 31 minutes, 56 seconds, averaging just over five minutes per mile. Marchi, 29, of Lexington, crossed the finish line 48 seconds ahead of third-place Joseph Drabot, 22, of Louisville.
Another former University of Kentucky athlete was the top female finisher. Katy Kunc posted a time of 33 minutes, 52 seconds and finished 12th overall. The Virginia native just wrapped up her senior season at the Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Oregon.
As he's done for the past several years, Marchi jumped out to an early lead. When he reached the first turn onto North Limestone near the Fayette County Circuit Courthouse he was about 30 yards ahead of a small group that included Beavin.
Marchi maintained a big advantage as the runners snaked through downtown but when the race spilled out onto the straight stretch of Main Street and Richmond Road, Beavin made his move, passing Marchi for the first time near the Kentucky Avenue intersection.
The two steadily increased their advantage over the rest of the field while nipping at each others' heels for the next couple of miles, trading the lead multiple times.
"I tried a few surges going out just to see if (Marchi) would fall off earlier but he hung tough," Beavin said.
With Marchi ahead by about 10 yards as he made the turn at the St. Margaret Drive intersection to head back down Richmond Road to the finish line, Beavin hit a new gear. Beavin took the lead for good just past the 5-mile marker and pulled away for the win.
"We kind of jockeyed back and forth trying to break one another," said Beavin. "And then coming up the final hill on Richmond (Road) I decided to commit to a move that ultimately stuck."
Beavin is now 2-for-2 in the Bluegrass 10,000. Last year was his first time competing in the event after spending three years with the UK cross country and track teams.
"It's really nice to come out and defend the crown," Beavin said. "It's just such a special race to Lexington ... so to win it I think just further ingrains myself in the running culture here."
Despite coming up short for the second year in a row Marchi was happy with the way he ran.
"I felt very good about what I did today, I've improved on my training and I got a new (personal best) on the track a few weeks ago," Marchi said. "Some years there's just tougher competition than others ... Zack is a really good athlete and he deserved to win."
14 years in a row for Queen
Laurel County's Greg Queen, 43, won the hand-crank wheelchair division for the 14th straight year, finishing with a time of 20 minutes, 43 seconds.
For the second year in a row 19-year-old Aerelle Jones of Nicholasville won the push-rim wheelchair division. She finished with a time of 32 minutes, 9 seconds, two full minutes ahead of her winning time from last year. .