Latest Edition of Local Holiday Run Sees Four First-Time Winners
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The big question going into last Thursday’s 42nd annual Palisades Will Rogers 5/10K Run was whether Tonny Okello would become only the third person—and first male—to win the local 10K race for a sixth time.
So when race announcer Bob Benton declared the first 10K runner was approaching the finish, spectators gathered along Toyopa and at the entrance to the Palisades Recreation Center were anxious to see if it was the man wearing #1 on his bib and trademark white Team Oceana t-shirt.
Instead, it was Cosmo Brossy, a 22-year-old from Los Angeles, who broke the tape in 34:18—snapping Okello’s string of five consecutive victories. Okello was second, 13 seconds behind, and for the second consecutive year 48-year-old Highlands resident and reigning Palisades Turkey Trot 10K champion Ken Rideout came in third in 35:24.
Brossy, a Fluffy Bunny Track Club runner, had just graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts and ran cross country and track at Brentwood School.
“One guy was running really fast and I wasn’t sure I could beat him until he broke off for the 5K,” Brossy said. “From then on I had a gap between me and Tonny but this is a hard course—harder than all the high school courses I ran.”
Okello, who clocked his best time of 31:32 the first year he won in 2014, still wore his ever-present smile and gave Brossy a warm hug upon reaching the finish line. The 35-year-old Santa Monica Track Club member from Lira, Uganda who now lives in Mar Vista became the first five-time men’s champion last summer and the first runner, male or female, to win either race five years in a row. He has since taken time off from competitive racing but still easily beat his goal of under 36 minutes.
Russell Edmonds of New Zealand set the record of 29:46 in 1983 but that was before the course was lengthened slightly to the certified 10K distance in 2012. Only two runners, former Palisades High cross country and track stars Katie Dunsmuir and Kara Barnard, each won the 10K six times but neither won more than four straight, although Barnard had a record eight-year winning streak overall (five 5Ks, three 10Ks) from 1997-2004.
After dueling eventual winner Kaitlyn Peale of Portland for the first five miles before settling for second place last year, 33-year-old Caitlin Chrisman returned this Fourth of July to take the women’s 10K title in 37:17.
“The pace was slower this year, which made it harder in a way, but also better,” said Chrisman, who finished seventh overall and well over six minutes faster than the second female finisher, 17-year-old Elizabeth Scott of Topanga. Crisman won in just her second try while running the race with her fiance Peter Kardassakis, who was born and raised in the Palisades. The two live in Mountain View in the Bay Area and are getting married in September.
“It’s a tradition of my fiance’s family—he’s in the race and his father is running as well,” said Chrisman, who ran in Illinois growing up and in college at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. “I prefer longer distances. I’ve run six or seven marathons.”
Jim Lubinski was fifth overall and won the men’s 40-44 age group in 36:14 while fellow Palisadian Brian Temple again won the 50-54 age division and placed 12th overall in 37:51.
Still going strong are Fluffy Bunny veterans Tyson Sacco (45) and Kevin Purcell (43).
Sacco, who won the 10K in 1999 and 2001, was 23rd overall and fourth in his division in 39:32 this year while Purcell, the 2008 and 2010 winner, was 31st overall and fourth in his division in 41:14.
Rebecca Martin, 54, was first in her age group in 46:20, fellow Palisadian Zoe Jacobs won the female 19-29 age category in 47:48 and 75-year-old Helga Jessen won her division in 1:17:41. Caroline Quigley won the 10-12 division; Natalia Johnson won the 11-13.
Putting the 3,339 registered runners and onlookers in a patriotic mood was Pali High senior Hunter Barnett, who delivered a stirring rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” just before members of the Borland Family (honorary race starters in memory of former Ridge Runner and longtime volunteer Lynn Borland, who passed away on Halloween) blew the horn to begin the 3.1-mile run through the Huntington neighborhood and the 6.2-mile run up to Will Rogers State Historic Park and back. From the platform co-honorary mayors Bill and Janice Crystal waved down to fellow residents as they passed by the starting line on Alma Real and with that the races were underway.
The first winner was 20-year-old Evan Hassman, a junior “I have computer engineering major at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, who won the 5K in his first attempt in 16:49.
“I have to do a 5K as part of my cross country training and I liked it,” said Hassman, who went to the same high school as Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion in Pennsylvania) and was eighth in the steeplechase at the NCAA Division III Nationals. “It kind of reminded of a five-miler I used to do. Mentally it’s challenging, but still not too difficult. I’d like to come back and run it again next year.”
Brian Duff, a 42-year-old from L.A., was second in 17:05 and 38-year-old Samuel Silva (17:08) of Culver City was third.
Two Natalies battled for the women’s 5K crown for the second year in a row and this time Palisadian Natalie Gigg beat former Pali High runner Natalie Marsh, who beat another Palisadian, Natalie Mitchell, to win last year’s race. Gigg, 24, was third in the women’s 10K last year but opted for the shorter course this time.
“I’ve run it a few times, usually the 10K” said Gigg, a lifelong Palisadian who went to Corpus Christi from kindergarten through eighth grade, played club soccer for the Westside Breakers, earned All-CIF honors at Marymount High and went on to play for USC. “I always enjoy running here. The people are great and it passes right by my house going up Toyopa. This is a good time for me. I wasn’t sure how I’d do. I did my first two track workouts the last two weeks.
Maintaining a six-minute-per-mile pace, Gigg was 13th overall in 18:39, finishing 43 seconds ahead of Marsh, who just completed her senior track season at Claremont Mudd Scripps and won in 18:57 last year.
“I just graduated, so now I’m in retirement,” Marsh joked. “My college team was great, I loved it and compared to most high school programs I felt very prepared. I set my own goals for myself, there was an adjustment but going to a Division III program was a great option for me.”
Several Palisadians won their age divisions last Thursday. Casey Scaduto (17:23), Lizzie Walker (23:15) and Leona Adeli (23:44) swept the top three spots in the female 10-12 age group; Zoe Shin (24:08) won the female 13-15 division; Gayle Sullivan was first in the 50-54 division; Sid Greenwald was first in the 60-64 age group; Laure Webber was first in the 65-69 age group; Judith Collas won the 80-84 age group and DJ Tatz won the 85-89 category.
Hutchens Larson won the male 1-9 age division in 21:17; Simon Gallagher won the 45-49 age division in 20:29; Brian Weintraub (22:13) won the 60-64 age category; Kevin Niles (21:29) won the 65-69 division; Mehdi Razvi (26:26) won the 70-74 age division and Stanley Feinstein (32:14) won the 75-79 division.
This year’s 5/10K, which was followed by Avery Kline’s singing of the national anthem to precede the half-mile Kids’ Fun Run, marked the first time since 2013 that there were four new winners.
Fittingly, the Dick Lemen Memorial Trophy was awarded to Pali High runners upon winning the inaugural “High School Challenge.” Brett Bailey (fifth overall in 17:35), Alec Schmitt (ninth in 18:27) and David Tobin (15th in 18:54) led the Dolphins to victory over second-place Loyola.