071719_MNS_Sports_Peachtree_Bill_Thorn Bill Thorn with family and friends

Bill Thorn, front center, celebrates with family members and friends, including former Atlanta Track Club Executive Director Julia Emmons, front right, following his 50th consecutive completion of the AJC Peachtree Road Race July 4 in Atlanta. Thorn has run in the 10K every year since its inception.

The AJC Peachtree Road Race completed its 50th edition on the Fourth of July with more than 60,000 participants in the annual Atlanta event.

All four elite races saw their record times broken in 2019, thus earning each winner a bonus of $50,000.

Brigid Kosgei of Kenya won the women’s footrace with a time of 30 minutes, 21 seconds, crossing the finish line just ahead of fellow Kenyan Agnes Tirop in a photo finish. Kosgei’s time broke the previous best mark by 11 seconds. Fancy Chemutai was third at 30:32.

“I want to say thank you to the people who were cheering us all the way,” Kosgei said in a news release. “They say ‘try, try, try’ and I was so happy for these people. I hope to come again next year to make a record again.”

Decatur resident and Atlanta Track Club member Janel Blancett was the top Georgia women runner at 36:03.

The men’s footrace also saw its best time broken in the fastest 10K run in the history of the United States. Nineteen-year-old Kenyan Rhonez Kipruto won the race at 27:01, breaking the previous Peachtree record of 27:04 set by Joseph Kimani in 1996.

“I am happy for the win today,” Kipruto said in a news release. “When I was coming here, I was coming for a course record and I thank God for that.”

Atlanta resident and club member Wilkerson Given was the top Georgia male finisher at 30:12.

The Shepherd Center wheelchair divisions saw both of its records broken as well by the race winners. The $50,000 bonus was the largest single payday in the history of elite wheelchair racing.

The women’s wheelchair race was won by Switzerland’s Manuela Schar in 21:28, 31 seconds better than the previous mark of 22:09. Tatyana McFadden (22:30) and Susannah Scaroni (22:31) rounded out the top three.

“It’s amazing,” Schar said in a news release. “I was just happy to win it because it was such a tough race. To get that bonus is just huge.”

Daniel Romanchuk of Champaign, Illinois, won his third consecutive men’s wheelchair race with a time of 18:11, which bested the previous record of 18:38. Marcel Hug (18:33) and Josh Cassidy (19:32) were second and third, respectively.

“It still hasn’t entirely sunk in yet,” Romanchuk said in a news release. “It was a fast day and a great field. I was just sprinting all the way to go as fast as I could – It was a very strong record so I knew it had to be an all-out record. To have an equal payout for the record bonus, I’m lacking the words to describe it.”

Emily Sisson (Scottsdale, Arizona) and Colin Bennie (Charlottesville, Virginia), were the top American finishers, running 32:03 and 29:12, respectively.

Tyrone resident Bill Thorn, who this spring retired as the longtime Landmark Christian School track and cross country coach, finished his 50th consecutive Peachtree and continued his streak as the only member of the Original 110 group of finishers to complete every edition. Walking alongside his friends, family and former Atlanta Track Club Executive Director Julia Emmons, Thorn was ecstatic to have finished the Peachtree yet again.

“It could’ve been just a fad,” Thorn said of his early Peachtree streak in a news release. “But as you go along through the years, people like Julia say to me every once in a while to keep going and that was really encouraging, and so it just became a year-after-year thing. Whoever would have imagined that little tiny group would have turned into this?”

Author Emily Giffin was the winner of the Peachtree’s T-shirt contest, with her design, titled “Lucky Bib,” unveiled as the chosen design to the race’s participants. Created in collaboration with club member Tina Tait, the design was part of a special competition ahead of this year’s race, with submissions curated by notable Atlantans and Atlanta institutions.

“Honestly, that was the highlight of my life,” said Giffin, an club member who ran the race with her daughter, Harriet, while her sons and husband raced ahead. “It’s more than winning a contest – it’s the fact that this is my family’s passion. The Atlanta Track Club means so much to us and so it’s symbolic of what we do as a family.”

In a news release, Rich Kenah, the Peachtree’s race director and the club’s executive director, said, “Atlanta Track Club, its members and volunteers wanted to make the 50th running of the Peachtree an unforgettable celebration of the history and legacy of this race. And Running City USA delivered. This is a day that Atlanta will remember for years to come.”

Atlanta native C.J. Stewart's non-profit organization LEAD (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct)

will host its annual Breaking Barriers Baseball Camp for children ages 5 through 10 at the Trinity School in Buckhead July 29 through Aug. 2.

“Atlanta has the highest wealth gap in the United States, and we are divided as a city between the haves and the have-nots,” Stewart said. “The camp is an intentional effort to connect youth that live in Bankhead and Buckhead and to provide jobs for our ambassadors. Historically, baseball has always brought people together in America. Recall the story of Jackie Robinson, and even how the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta, allowing us to prove that we were a city ‘Too Busy To Hate.’ Connection then leads to consensus, followed by collaboration, resulting in change. LEAD is committed to empowering youth of all races to lead the racial change our community and world need to see.”

Stewart had a standout prep baseball career at Westlake High School and Georgia Perimeter College, leading to his selection by the Chicago Cubs in the 26th round of the Major League Baseball Draft in 1996.

At the conclusion of his professional career, after two seasons in the minors, Stewart saw a need to give back to his community.

“I was born and raised in the inner city of Atlanta, and my childhood dream, as early as age 8, was to play professional baseball for the Chicago Cubs,” he said. “My dream became a reality, but I didn’t have a blueprint that I could share with African-Americans boys that were being raised in the inner city of Atlanta. Conviction led me back home.”

Stewart reflected back on his path toward professional baseball for inspiration.

“Conviction always precedes connection,” he said. “I was raised in poverty by a young mother and father. My parents were hard working but lacked the financial resources and the network to convert my dreams of playing baseball into a reality. Without the support of my community, my dreams would have never flourished. I know what it feels like to want and not have. I know what it feels like to be the only black kid on the baseball team. I know what it feels like to be on public assistance, for people to make negative assumptions about you because of the neighborhood you come from. I connect with them and know how to help them because I am them.”

LEAD has served more than 350 black males from grades six through 12 in its partnership with Atlanta Public Schools for the year-round Pathway2Empowerment program. Middle school student-athletes participate in the Middle School Character Development League.

The middle school students in the program become LEAD ambassadors though high school matriculation. To date, 100% of LEAD ambassador student-athletes have graduated from high school and enrolled into college, and 92% have received college baseball scholarship opportunities.

For more information on the camp, visit lead2legacy.org/breaking-barriers-baseball-camp.

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