Jan. 28, 2013
For immediate release

Olympic gold medalist inducted with seven other local runners

Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills headlined a talented group of eight runners inducted into the Sacramento Running Association’s Hall of Fame on an inspiring Saturday night at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.

Mills and the other members of the SRA’s inaugural Hall of Fame class – Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Paul Reese, Dennis Rinde and Linda Somers Smith – were honored at a dinner attended by nearly 300 people.

“Running has been full of gifts,” said Mills, who stunned the track world by surging past favorites Ron Clarke of Australia and Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia to win the gold medal in the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“Running saved my life in so many ways.”

His then Olympic record time of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds was nearly 50 seconds faster than his previous best. The 74-year-old Mills, who has lived in Fair Oaks since 1973, is the only American to win an Olympic gold medal at that distance; Galen Rupp claimed silver last year at the London Olympics.

Clark, who lives in Auburn, won the 1989 U.S. 100-Mile Road Championship in New York City by more than an hour, finishing in a national record 12:12:19. He followed that up by setting another American mark in the 1990 U.S. 24-Hour National Track Championship in Portland, Ore., covering 165.3 miles to win by a whopping 23 miles.

“It’s one big family,” Clark, 60, said of the running community. “I’m looking at my real award out here.”

Claugus, 57, won numerous national titles as a teenager, setting a national high school mile record of 4:40.7 that lasted for 10 years. She also placed second at the World Cross Country Championships in 1971, was an alternate to the U.S. Olympic team in the 1,500 meters in 1972 at 16 after finishing fourth in the Trials and ran 2:37:16 to place fourth at the 1982 Chicago Marathon.

“Probably what I’m most proud of is I’m still a runner,” said Claugus, a Rio Americano High School and UC Davis graduate who lives in Fair Oaks and runs regularly with her Golden Retrievers Kyley and Savvy.

“They kind of help me think about what’s really important.”

Iwahashi, 57, won the Napa Valley Marathon three times and recorded victories at Avenue of the Giants, Marathon de Medoc in France, the Detroit Free Press Marathon, the Bidwell Classic Marathon and the Russian River Marathon. She also started the first Team in Training group in Sacramento.

“I certainly am humbled and appreciate being honored,” said Iwahashi, who lives in West Sacramento. “I had the privilege of working with a lot of beginning runners. What I found most gratifying is I watched them get stronger.”

Klein, a 90-year-old Rancho Cordova resident who still walks and runs, has completed 90 marathons and 143 ultramarathons since she started running at age 55. She also set two world age-group records at the California International Marathon, running 4:31:32 when she was 80 and 5:49:11 when she was 85.

“Running has been very beneficial to me; it’s kept me healthy,” said Klein, who then recounted a letter she received several years ago from a fifth-grade boy that inspired her.

“He said, ‘You are my hero along with Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning. I hope you finish your 75th marathon and I hope you continue to run until you bite the dust.’”

Reese, who died in 2004, founded the Clarksburg Country Run and the Lake Tahoe 72-Miler. He covered 3,192 miles in 124 days during his run across the United States at age 73. He completed running across all 50 states in 1980, finishing in Hawaii, and logged 123,000 miles during his 35-year running career.

“My Dad loved running,” his daughter Susan said. “I think he came up with his best ideas and solved his problems running.”

Rinde, 54, finished seventh in the 1981 Boston Marathon with a 2:12:01 effort, the fastest time recorded by a home-grown marathoner. He ran in three U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, lowering his personal best with a 2:14:22 effort and a 10th-place finish in 1980. He won the Manitoba Marathon seven times.

“I’m very humbled by this,” said Rinde, a Casa Roble High School and Sacramento State graduate. “This community means a lot to me.”

Somers Smith, 51, made the U.S. Olympic Team with a personal best 2:30:06 effort to finish second at the Olympic Marathon Trials en route to a 31st place finish at the Atlanta Games in 1996. She also won the Chicago Marathon in 1992 (2:37:41) before capturing back-to back national marathon championships with victories at the California International Marathon in 1993 (2:34:11) and Grandma’s Marathon in 1994 (2:33:42).

“It’s a solo event,” Somers Smith, a UC Davis graduate, said of running. “But you can’t do it without everybody else.”

Kim Conley earned the SRA’s Athlete of the Year award after gaining a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. The former UC Davis standout, a member of the SRA’s Elite Team, ran 15:19.79 to edge Julia Lucas (15:19.83) and Abbey D’Agostino (15:19.98) in a dramatic race for third place in the women’s 5,000 meters and just beat the Olympic ‘A’ standard of 15:20:00 needed to compete in the Games.

In London, Conley recorded a personal best of 15:14.48 in the first round of the Olympic Games in London but failed to advance to the final.

Conley credited a training grant from SRA with helping her step back from her UC Davis coaching duties and focus on training.

“It was only about three weeks until I felt the level in all my running elevate,” she said.

The dinner also featured the presentation of Annual Achievement Awards to the Sacramento area’s top runners in track, road racing, cross country and ultra running.

High school honorees included Trent Brendel, boys cross country athlete; Maggie Bell, girls cross country athlete; Bob King, boys cross country coach; John DuCray, girls cross country coach; Edixon Puglisi, boys track athlete; Madeleine Ankhelyi, girls track athlete; and Donene Vukovich, girls track coach.

Brendan Gregg received the men’s college track athlete of the year, with Deborah Maier earning the women’s track athlete honor. Other college honorees included Trevor Halsted, men’s cross country athlete; Sarah Sumpter, women’s cross country athlete; Rick Anderson, men’s cross country coach; and Drew Wartenberg, women’s cross country and track coach.

Conley headed the open division. Other honorees included German Fernandez, men’s track athlete; Lindsay Tollefson, women’s cross country, road racing and marathon athlete; Kevin Pool, men’s cross country and road racing athlete; Tim Tollefson, men’s marathon athlete; Jacob Rydman, men’s ultra athlete; and Rory Bosio, women’s ultra athlete.

Masters honorees included Marcelo Lerda, men’s cross country athlete; Karen Jeffers, women’s cross country athlete; Chris Knorzer, men’s road racing and marathon athlete; Midori Sperandeo, women’s road racing athlete; Mary Coordt, women’s marathon athlete; Rich Hanna, men’s ultra athlete; and Jennifer Pfeifer, women’s ultra athlete.

Seniors honorees included Kevin Ostenberg, men’s cross country athlete; Sara Freitas, women’s cross country athlete; Iain Mickle, men’s road racing athlete; Janice Kesterson, women’s road racing athlete; Jacob Nur, men’s marathon athlete; Rena Lantz, women’s marathon athlete; Lee McKinley, men’s ultra athlete; and Karen Bonnett, women’s ultra athlete.

The SRA also honored several super seniors: Adam Ferreira, men’s cross country athlete; Yvonne Nickel, women’s road racing athlete; Mike Ammon, men’s road racing athlete; Richard Powers, men’s marathon athlete; Nancy March, women’s marathon athlete; Larry Cawthon, men’s ultra athlete; and Barbara Ashe, women’s ultra athlete.

Men’s cross country athlete Robert Seldner, men’s road racing athlete Ronald Gross and women’s road racing athlete Rusty Barnett were the veterans honorees.

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.

SRA events include the Super Bowl Sunday 10k Run on Feb. 3, the Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run on April 7, the Gold Rush 100k on May 11, the Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon on Oct. 27 and the California International Marathon on Dec. 8.

SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.