Sunday, Feb. 7

Perfect weather. Great race.

Santana romps to two wins and takes Combo crown;

Chappell defends her title with stretch run

Making a key move

Defending champion Laura Chappell (61) begins a final push to victory in the Big Game 10K. Chappell would win in 37:49, while Sarah Halas (104) finished second in 38:17. Both times were under the former course record.

LAS VEGAS, Feb. 7, 2016 - Laura Chappell was the defending champion and course record holder at the Big Game 10K. She knew midway in her second Big Game 10K, that defending her title wasn't going to be easy because of the effort being made by Sarah Halas.


Chappell, a Las Vegas elementary school teacher and mother who runs for the Red Rock Running Company, dug deep and won her second 10K title. But to do it, she had to run 42 seconds faster than she did last year. The result was a victory in 37:49.


Halas, from Santa Rosa, finished in 38:17.


How good were those efforts? Both were well under Chappell's record from 2015 of 38:31. And Chappell finished third - overall - coming home only 26 seconds behind male runner-up James Emery. Halas finished fourth overall.


It was a great effort by Chappell. It did not come easy.


"We (Running Company teammate Mercy Ray) planned to run together but then the other runner in the pack (Halas) got a couple of steps ahead around mile 4. It was a make or break moment for me because I could have lost contact."


Chappell closed the gap. Then came the race's next critical move. At around 5 miles, Chappell went for the win.


"I've been training on focusing on the last mile of a race," said Chappell. "I trained hard, particularly on the mental part. To put your head down and go for it, putting the pain aside."


The training - and the effort - paid off big time. Chappell's winning margin was 28 seconds. All but a second or two came in that final push.


The second annual Big Game 10K benefited the Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, a prominent charitable organization that provides disadvantaged children and children in crisis with new shoes and socks, as well as other items. For each race entry submitted, $5 is donated to the foundation, founded by former NFL offensive lineman Tony Berti (San Diego Chargers, 1995-98) and his wife Nikki. More information is  at the foundation's website.



Eventual 10K winner Laura Chappell (61) and teammate Mercy Ray look concerned as they chase Sarah Halas early in the race.

Oh, the joy of being a young runner

A young runner (below) is all smiles in the bright early morning sunshine of a picture-perfect day in Downtown Las Vegas in one of the Kids' races.

JJ Santana came home a winner twice at the Big Game 10K.

LAS VEGAS, Feb. 7, 2016 - It's not often a runner can "warm up" for a 10K by putting together three 5:12 miles to easily win a 5K in 16 minutes, 8 seconds. But JJ Santana did just that at the second annual Big Game 10K in Downtown Las Vegas.


Santana, the defending 5K champion, did himself one better this year. After winning his second straight Big Game 5K title, he became the race's first "Combo" champion.


And, he did it in a style that was as fabulous as Downtown Las Vegas and the weather on a day made for running. After finishing the 5K, he trotted over to the start of the 10K ... and demolished the field.


"In the 10K, I felt really good," Santana said.


It showed. Santana ran 11 seconds per mile faster for the 6.2 mile race, grabbed a big lead early and just kept adding to it. Santana finished in 31:10. He broke the course record by 1:34. And, he finished a whopping 6:13 ahead of second-place James Emery.


It was a one-two performance for the record books.

Santana adds two titles

to one he won in 2015

International feel for a great day

The second annual Big Game 10K hosted its most international field ever. Runners from nine countries participated, including a trio who came to Las Vegas from Denmark.


"It was very nice to run a flat course and run around Las Vegas in a tee shirt, instead of freezing back home," laughed Mads Cheff Jessen after finishing his 10K run in 42:34, good enough for an 18th place overall finish.


"Las Vegas is very different from Denmark but we haven't seen a lot of the city yet," Jessen added. "We're staying at the New York, New York hotel and tonight we're looking forward to seeing the Super Bowl in Las Vegas and experiencing that."


And, yes, Jessen, added. He and his Dannish buddies might put down a little wager on the game.


First female Combo winner aces 5K

Erica Schramm became the first "Combo" champion of the Big Game 10K, and she did with a winning effort in the 5K. Schramm won the 5K in 19:09. She then nailed down the Combo title was solid 40:52 in the 10K, good enough for 12th overall.

The 2016 Big Game 10K benefits:

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