32nd Annual Will Rogers 5/10K Run Kicks Off Town’s July 4th Festivities
By the time Jennifer Rogers-Etcheverry took the stage to fire the gun that officially started the Palisades-Will Rogers Run last Saturday morning, the sun had begun to creep out of the clouds–a bright beginning to the community’s most patriotic day of the year. “It’s all of you who keep my great grandfather’s legacy alive,” she said, referring to the famous actor/comedian after whom the landmark holiday event is named. “Thank you all so much.” Moments later the field of the 32nd annual July 4 race–some 2,612 strong–began its journey into the Huntington Palisades and, for the 1,050 runners in the 10K, up Sunset to the dreaded switchbacks of Will Rogers State Park. Just past the 15-minute mark the first winner rounded the bend on Toyopa at the entrance to the Palisades Recreation Center. That was 20-year-old Ravi Amarawansa, who won on his fourth attempt in 15 minutes, 13 seconds. “I was hoping Peter Gilmore would run because I would’ve liked to test myself against the best,” he said. “This is my best time for a road race. It’s a nice flat course. Good for running a PR.” Gilmore, a former Palisades High/UC Berkeley distance runner and now one of the nation’s top marathoners, has won his hometown race eight times and set the course record of 14:10 in 2003. Amarawansa ran track and cross country at Venice High, graduating in 2007, but he got his start in the sport at Paul Revere Middle School, where he trained under Paul and Stacy Foxson. “They introduced me to the long jump, the mile, the 400, everything,” said Amarawansa, a psychology major at the University of San Francisco. “It all started with them.” The last time Amarawansa ran the 5K here was his freshman year at Venice when he clocked 19:38. He would have run it at least once since except he got stung in the ankle by a bee the day before, the ankle swelled up and he decided not to run. “I think I’ll try the 10K next year,” he said. A sleepless night might have affected her time but it couldn’t keep Therese Fricke from winning the women’s 5K for the second time in 18:47. In her first prep race since getting back into training with Coach Eric Barron’s Track Club L.A. before Christmas, Fricke was first in her division and third overall at last month’s Brentwood 5K, won by 2008 Palisades-Will Rogers 5K champion Vivien Wadeck. Fricke, 35, lives in Santa Monica. She won the Palisades-Will Rogers 5K for the first time in 2005 and her goal is to crack the 18-minute mark. “Even though I won today I would’ve preferred a faster time,” said Fricke, who has her own business (“On the Move” Pilates & Fitness) and is a singer/songwriter and guitarist. “I think it takes a good three or four races so I plan to continue getting my time back down, closer to where I left off with racing a couple years ago when I won the Heart of the City in 18:01.” Fricke’s personal-best 5K time is 17:52, which she ran in college at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington. Another of Fricke’s personal goals is producing her music CD. She recently sang at the Summer Soulstice in Santa Monica and her band “Tereza & the Banditz” is performing at the House of Blues in Hollywood at 10 p.m. Sunday night. “It’s so great that my hobbies–my passions–became my career,” Fricke said. “It’s awesome that I can motivate, heal and inspire others through fitness and music! It’s the greatest job!” The women’s 5K record is 16:29 by Annetta Luevano in 1995. Mikal Sandoval, a ranger at Will Rogers State Historic Park set the mood for the race with her stirring rendition of the national anthem. Then, announcer Bob Benton asked for a round of applause for Brian Shea, who was recognized for his tireless work as race coordinator every year since the race began in 1978. As usual the Fluffy Bunnies, a men’s track club based in Santa Monica, showed up in force–and properly attired in white bunny rabbit ears. Having completed the Seattle Half-Marathon in one hour and 10 minutes just a week before, the 10K must have been a walk in the park for men’s winner Lewis Eliot, a 29-year-old from Phoenix. At first, Eliot turned up Alma Real instead of proceeding through the 10K chute, but race officials yelled “You’re going the wrong way!” and quickly re-routed him to the finish in 33:29 with plenty of time to spare. Four-time winner Nate Bowen of Redwood City finished second in 34:10. “I’m staying in Santa Monica right now doing a lot of smaller races,” Eliot said. “This was my first time doing it and it was so cool.” Eliot is a triathlete and his goal is to qualify for the Olympic Triathlon in London in 2012. He has completed about 30 half-triathlons and seven full triathlons. His best Ironman time to date is 8 hours and 53 minutes. “I plan on sticking around for the Nautica [Triathlon] in Malibu and the L.A. Triathlon,” he added. “I’m going back to short course for a while.” The dreaded switchbacks were no big deal for Eliot, who got used to hilly courses while racing for the U.S. national cycling team before attending college at Montana State. Russell Edmonds of New Zealand holds the 10K course record of 29:46, set back in 1983–the same year that Katie Dunsmuir set the women’s record of 35:09. Shawna Burger wore a neon gold outfit and matching shoes on her way to winning the women’s 10K last year. This time, she arrived with a new color (pink) and a new strategy: follow the Fluffy Bunnies. “I thought to myself ‘Just try to keep up with them,'” said Burger, who charged to the front of the pack right away and was never challenged, covering the 6.2 miles in 38:02. “It helped a lot having run it last year and being more familiar with the course.” The 24-year-old Burger recently moved to Santa Monica and is majoring in fine arts at Cal State Los Angeles, where she ran cross country and track before using up her athletic eligibility. Burger finished almost two minutes ahead of VS Athletics Track Club teammate Laura Conley. Burger’s only regret is that she couldn’t run the 5K too: “Maybe I’ll try that next year. I love this race and I want to keep coming back.” Amarawansa and Burger celebrated their victories by riding in the parade that afternoon. Camille Chapus won the 13-15 age division and was second overall in the women’s 5K, finishing in 19:31 and 12-year-old Palisadian Mackenzie Howe won her age group in 21:56. Carol Gordon won the 45-49 division in 21:14 and Diane Goldberg won the 75-79 age group in 45:40. Palisadian Andrew Bland won the men’s 13-15 age division of the 5K in 17:34, Ron Graham won the 50-54 age group in 18:11, Anthony Reading won the 55-59 category in 21:12 while locals Ted Mackie, Tom McKiernan and Ken Adams swept the top three places in the 80-99 division. In the 10K, Gregory Dunne, Sawyer Pascoe and Tommy Collins swept the top three spots in the 13-15 division and Adam Gooch was first in the 65-69 age range in 47:20. Michaela Keefe, Elisabeth Lomis and Caitlin Keefe finished 1-2-3 in the 12-and-under division, Hannah Cranston won the 16-18 division in 47:24 and Eleanor Keare won the 40-44 category in 44:17. Jennifer Levi, Brianna Becker and Tanya Bentley swept the 35-39 age division while Jamie Halper, Susan Harbert and Maria Marrone were 1-2-3 in the 50-54 age group. Pacific Palisades-own kickboxing champion Baxter Humby, in training for his July 25 fight in Las Vegas, took it easy in the men’s 5K, completing the 3.1 miles in 23 minutes flat. For complete results visit the official race website at www.palisades10k.com or try the Race Central website at www.runraceresults.com.
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