By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The race is only a mile long, but Lloyd Gray Jr. wanted to take a conservative approach to Monday’s Green Street Mile.
“I had a pretty conservative-minded approach,” the 23-year-old former college runner from Tupelo said after winning the annual 4th of July running event, “which I guess left me pretty slow for the first half-mile, because I expected a couple of other guys to be here who I thought could run significantly faster than 5-flat.
“So, I was planning on just going behind them, but that didn’t happen.”
While his time of 5:03 on Monday morning was nearly 15 seconds off his personal best in the mile – in his only other Green Street Mile appearance, as a junior in high school in 2005, Gray ran a 4:51, which was good enough for third-place overall – it was 23 seconds faster than the next closest competitor. John Geiger (5:26) finished behind Gray and Forrest Tate came in third with a time of 5:34.
Max Holman, who won the two previous Green Street Miles, ran the 2010 race in 4 minutes, 3 seconds.
“I made up my mind not to get in front of anyone until I got to the first traffic light,” said the 23-year-old Gray. “If I thought I could win, I decided I wasn’t going to lead until the first traffic light.
“It worked out.”
The former Millsaps College runner has something to brag about – or perhaps give him credibility – in front of his Holly Springs Road Hawks youth running club.
“I have had way too many hard-nosed approaches in the past that led to serious breakdowns in the middle of a race,” said the former cross country and 5K and 10K long-distance track runner.
He’s the son of the Daily Journal’s executive editor, Lloyd Gray Sr.
Meanwhile, an experienced runner who competes in the Boston Marathon was the top female finisher in her first try in the holiday footrace. Ashley Dyar Spriggs of Memphis claimed first place with a mark of 6:13.
“I was just trying to hold on,” she said.
Julie Johnson had the second-best women’s time with a 6:24 posting, and Bridgett Jolly placed third (6:31).
“I usually do 5Ks,” said the 39-year-old Spriggs, who is a member of the Pilgrimage Track Club out of Memphis. “This was my first time. I really liked it.”
The Memphis resident also won her age division at Sunday night’s Firecracker 5K Run For St. Jude.
“Just try to hold on until the end,” Spriggs said of her strategy in running the Green Street Mile, which is sponsored by the Tupelo Running Club.
• Results, Page 2B