41st annual Madison Courier 10K overall winner Kristopher Sandlin (right) and top female Leah Anders. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
41st annual Madison Courier 10K overall winner Kristopher Sandlin (right) and top female Leah Anders. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
The winners podium of the 2019 Madison Courier 10K Run was filled with familiar faces but that was the only thing familiar about the 41st running of the Madison Regatta Weekend road race.

Times were higher and smiles were fewer thanks to a temporary — at least most runners hope temporary — rerouting of the 6.2-mile course to send runner back to a finish line at Madison Consolidated High School’s Cub Field rather than the traditional dash down Hanging Rock Hill and up Third Street to Lytle Park in downtown Madison.

Kristopher Sandlin, 27, of Vevay, ran the course first overall in 33:47 for his record fifth Courier 10K win with former Hanover College runner Logan Wells, 26, now of Ada, Ohio, taking second in 34:15 and Carter Leak, 18, of North Vernon, third in 34:32. Leah Anders, 18, of Rising Sun, was ninth overall and the top female in 42:09 for her second consecutive and third overall win in the event.

And while the cream once again rose to the top, the new road course proved to be a curdling experience for most.

The course change, made necessary by road work that prevented the traditional finish down Hanging Rock Hill, proved to be a far greater challenge than most runners were accustomed. A wave of hills to the finish on a overcast day when the temperature was still in the mid-70s with 100 percent humidity left runners gassed at the finish.

“Oh yeah, it’s tougher. You saw how hot and humid it already was this morning and then you add that hill on the backside instead of going down Hanging Rock and, whew, if you had any momentum you lost it all right there,” said Sandlin, showing more exhaustion than in any of his previous wins. “Then you have these two hills coming back on Wilson Avenue and that just adds to it ... If the sun had been out it would have been a lot slower. I ran this course a few times — really easy runs — but that doesn’t prepare you for the way a race will challenge you.”

Sandlin put some distance on his closest challengers — Wells and Leak — on the Wilson Avenue run back to the finish but he never felt comfortable with his lead and the farthest thing from his concern was the fact that his time was creeping higher than any of his other wins.

“I started pulling away on that first uphill on Wilson Avenue and then ran the rest of the thing pretty much by myself,” Sandlin said. “But I was running scared because those two guys behind me are definitely really strong and accomplished runners so I knew I really couldn’t let off the gas ... After hearing some of the splits, I was just thinking, awe man, just run and give the effort and don’t worry about the times too much because it’s hilly and hot and humid and those three things don’t make for good times.”

As brutal as the course was for the winner, it was just as bad or worse for those trying to catch him. If misery loves company there was a pity party at the top.

“It’s not even close to the same course,” Wells said. “I would not describe it as fun. That’s not the word that I would use … to go from having that downhill mile four that you can look forward to, to having an uphill that you’ve got to dread at mile four is a huge difference. It’s a whole different mindset. The times were out the window today. You just tried to compete.”

Anders who has been training feverishly all summer preparing for her freshman cross country season at the University of Southern Indiana, said if not for all that hard work she might have been a walker by the finish.

Anders pulled away from her closest competition for first female a quarter-mile into the race and then ran alone or with the top 10 men the rest of the way. In the end she posted a 4:48 win over the next female finisher, Staci Fiddler, 49, of Bedford, Indiana, with a 46:57. Kinley Kunkel, 14, of Bedford, Kentucky, was the third female in 47:17.

“If I hadn’t been training so hard this summer to prepare for college I probably would have been walking it in,” Anders said. “Oh my gosh this course is awful. Oh, it’s so bad. This is the only road 10K that I run throughout the year and taking that downhill out is so bad … my feet went completely numb. It was bad.”

“She’s putting in work this summer. She’s doing a real good job and doing all the little things right and getting herself prepared for college and she’s going to do an awesome job in college,” said Sandlin, who was Anders’ coach at Switzerland County High School. “It’s a gutsy course for her, but I’d say she’s a lot tougher than I am. Like I said, she’s tough kid and she’s a lot further along than I ever was at that point in my career.”

A total of 159 runners — 80 males and 79 females — competed in the run with another 68 — 39 females and 29 males — participating in the walk. The walk is non-competitive, but there was a close finish by two determined walkers this season as Dan Leach, 64, of Bedford, Indiana, finished with a time of 1:11.19 to just edge perennial first walker Steven R. Floyd, 64, of Bloomington, at 1:11.34. The first female was Carrie Blades, 51, of Madison, in 1:19:16.

Sandlin’s fifth Courier 10K gives him two more than any other runner but many of those wins have been at Wells’ expense. Wells said he’ll keep chasing Sandlin until he finally gets a win.

“I’ll keep coming back. I’ll keep coming back until I win it,” Wells, the son of Hanover College cross country coach Brady Wells said. “I’ve gotten second like three or four times now so I’ll keep coming back until I can beat this guy.”