Five hundred and thirty-seven runners and walkers participated in Smyrna’s first Top Gun Night Run 6K race, raising more than $40,000 for continuing maintenance of the Capt. Jeff Kuss USMC Memorial.
The Kuss Memorial is named for the Blue Angels pilot who died in an airplane crash on June 2, 2016, during practice for the Great Tennessee Air Show.
The race started at the Smyrna Event Center and finished at the Kuss Memorial in Lee Victory Park. Awards for the overall winner and for age and gender groups reflected the Top Gun and Blue Angels theme.
The run followed a six-kilometer route instead of the traditional 5-kilometers to honor Kuss’ Blue Angels Tail-Number Six.
The F/A-18 C Hornet aircraft, the centerpiece of the Kuss Memorial, is on permanent loan to the Town of Smyrna from the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola. One of the conditions of the permanent loan is that the memorial must be maintained by the town.
In the next few years, the Hornet will need a paint job at a cost of between $15,000 and $20,000.
One eye-catching runner was U.S. flag waving Smyrna resident Randy Woodward, running with his wife, Susan.
Randy is a combat wounded veteran and a Navy SeaBee who was injured on a deployment in 2005 when his vehicle struck an improvised mine. With running a key component in his recovery, Randy vowed to carry his American flag — a pole-mounted five by eight flag — in a race in every state. Susan said Randy has participated in 12 marathons in the past year and has carried the flag in 16 states.
The other runners allowed him to stand at the front of the pack at the starting gate during pre-race Pledge of Allegiance.
The overall winner of the Top Gun Night Run was
Cory Gibson, 30, of Hendersonville was the overall winner with a time of 24 minutes, 59 seconds. His mother, Candace Gibson, won her age division, and his father, Mark Gibson, came in third in his age division.
Andrea Hall of Nashville was the overall female winner at 30:08.