In the closest finish in the history of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race, Scott Overall edged Ben Payne by 9/100ths of a second to win the men’s open division of the 10K event Saturday.
It took track officials more than an hour to declare Overall the champ, with a time of 29:30. Andy Carr, a staff member of the Atlanta Track Club and the official race referee, analyzed a photo that showed a side angle of the finish line to see that Overall’s torso finished just ahead of Payne’s as they hit the timing mat.
Overall first thought that he had won as he passed to the left of Payne, who had his left arm and left index finger pointed to the sky, at the finish line.
Payne, who is active in the Air Force and stationed in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he competes in the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, said he didn’t consciously slow down as he crossed the finish line. Overall said he thought Payne was celebrating, which caused him to ease up.
“I was pretty confident,” Overall, 32, said. “We were told in the athlete meeting that the first timing mat was the official finish line and the tape didn’t matter. As an athlete you know who crosses the finish line first. I thought I won the race.”
Overall, who competed in the Olympics in the marathon for Great Britain in 2012, and Payne sat in the elite athlete’s tent waiting to hear who would be declared the winner. Their conversation about the race was short and consisted of a variation on the same sentence: “I think I won.”
Overall became convinced he was the winner when he was told that he had to take the drug test.
Though they traded places during the race, Payne thought he had pulled ahead of Overall for good. He said he didn’t see or hear Overall approaching as they neared the finish line. Payne said the first time he saw him was as they approached the tape.
“It could have gone either way,” Payne said. “It just depended upon where the finish line was. It was a close finish, which is what you want in a race. We pushed each other until the very last step.”
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