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At the end of Grandfather Mountain race ... a wedding

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Skip Sickler - Skip Sickler, Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
A crowd of onlookers watches Thursday evening as Greg Hill and Casie Schuster were married after the Bear, a 5-mile race up Grandfather Mountain. Officiating the ceremony was Jayson Milligan, a close friend of the couple. (Skip Sickler, Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.)

GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN Casie Schuster and Greg Hill had a little extra incentive Thursday evening to reach the end of the grueling 5-mile foot race that helps launch the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

They were getting married near the finish line.

Beneath the iconic Mile High Swinging Bridge, Schuster and Hill exchanged rings in what they said was a spur-of-the-moment idea.

“We’ve both been married before, so neither one of us wanted the big, full-on ceremony and everything that goes with it,” said Hill, 40, who lives in the Watauga County community of Vilas, about 8 miles west of Boone.

Schuster, 34, also of Vilas, finished the race in a little less than 1 hour, 4 minutes. Hill crossed the finish line two minutes later. The race takes participants on a 1,500-foot climb.

A few minutes after finishing the race, Schuster donned a T-shirt printed to look like a bridal gown and carried a bouquet of hand-picked daisies. A bongo drum provided the music, and a close friend, Jayson Milligan, officiated the ceremony.

“Crazy is only truly happy with more crazy,” Milligan said of the couple.

When asked whether she would take Hill as her husband, Schuster replied, “Absolutely.”

Hill, wearing a tuxedo T-shirt, answered “Yep” when it was his turn.

Milligan warned anyone who might object to the marriage to “keep your traps shut. This is a very tall mountain, and you will be thrown off.”

Hill and Schuster left Friday morning from Charlotte for a honeymoon in Oregon.

For the record, the winner of the race was Peyton Hoyal, 25, of Boone. He finished in 31 minutes, 46.7 seconds. Noah Green, 19, of Morganton was second. The top female finishers were Mary Ballinger, 29, of Blowing Rock and Alisha Little, 33, of Morganton.

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, which include Scottish athletic competition and music, continue through Sunday at Grandfather Mountain. For details, check www.gmhg.org.

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