By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Neither Benson Chesang or Kimi Reed were overly thrilled with their times at the Joplin Memorial Run.
They’re both strong enough runners, however, they still took home some hardware.
Chesang and Reed won the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively, of the half marathon on a mild, sunny Saturday morning.
“It’s my first win, but it was a slow time for me,” said Chesang, who was an All-American and two-time Big 12 champion cross country runner at Kansas, where he is now an assistant coach.
He finished the 13.1-mile course — which started and ended at Memorial Hall while taking runners south past St. John’s and McClelland Park before heading back north and west to Twin Hills — in 1 hour, 12.11 seconds.
It was his third half marathon this year and his first ever win.
“It was kind of a last-minute thing,” he said. “I didn’t decide to run until Wednesday night.
“I just wanted to come and compliment the people of Joplin. I wanted to come and be a part of this. And it was a beautiful run. The city of Joplin has some nice scenery.”
Reed — who was a seven-time track and cross country All-American at Missouri Southern as Kimi Shank from 2006 to 2010 — finished just 10 minutes behind Chesang at 1:22.7.
“It wasn’t a great time for me,” she said. “I started out pretty conservative so I could finish strong.”
She called the victory her “second big win” and said she had originally planned to use the 2011 race — then the Boomtown Run — as her first shot at a half marathon.
The Boomtown Run, of course, was canceled after the May 22 tornado. Since then she has run in “four or five” half marathons.
“I signed up last year and was really excited about it,” she said. “So I’ve been waiting to run this since last year.”
Reed graduated from MSSU in 2010 and now lives in Overland Park, Kan. She said the race was provided a welcome return to a community she is familiar with and grieved for last May.
“ When we started going through the tornado area, I just kept thinking how lucky I was that I wasn’t here in Joplin at that time,” she said. “It’s nice that everyone can come out and enjoy this and remember.
“It definitely gave it more meaning to me. I got to come back where I kind of know the people and the crowd a little bit.”
The same could be said for Josh Carter, a 20-year-old Joplin native and 2010 College Heights graduate who won the men’s 5-kilometer race.
Carter, now a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, finished in 17:03 for his first win.
“It’s great to come back and be in the community of Joplin,” he said. “It’s a close-knit community and you can definitely feel it today.”
Carter said he tries to run every day and had planned on being a part of the Memorial Run for quite some time.
“I think everyone in or from Joplin was affected in one way or another, but luckily I wasn’t directly. Our home was intact and everything,” he said. “Today was more of a celebration. Remembering what happened and celebrating how far we’ve come and how we’ve rebuilt.”