Jan. 23, 2013
For immediate release

Former UC Davis runner worked her way to Olympics and into SRA’s Hall of Fame

(Sixth in a series highlighting the eight members of the Sacramento Running Association’s inaugural Hall of Fame class. Today: Linda Somers Smith).

Consider Linda Somers Smith the poster child for perseverance.

The former tennis player started running in college, taking a back seat to star teammate Patti Gray at UC Davis. But Somers Smith, then known as Linda Somers, showed she’s a competitor who never gives up.

Check out her post-collegiate record and marvel at how she developed into a world-class runner.

Somers Smith 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).

She then delivered her most memorable performance in February of 1996.

At 34, Somers Smith made the U.S. Olympic Team with a personal best 2-hour, 30-minute and 6 –second effort to finish second at the Olympic Marathon Trials en route to a 31st place finish at the Atlanta Games.

Her 2:33:40 performance in the 1989 CIM remains the fastest time by a Sacramento-area woman in race history. Somers Smith also qualified for seven U.S. Olympic Trials and went on to become a record-setting Masters and senior runner.

Those exploits made Somers Smith an obvious choice for the Sacramento Running Association’s Hall of Fame. She is scheduled to be inducted at a dinner on Saturday night at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.

She joins the other members of the inaugural Hall of Fame class: Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Billy Mills, Paul Reese and Dennis Rinde.

“Perseverance, to me, was her best trait,” said John Mansoor, the Sacramento Running Association’s executive director. “She didn’t start running until late, in college. That was not that unusual back then.

“Patti (Gray) was the thing at UC Davis. Linda, just try as she would, could not keep up or beat Patti. Linda was pretty competitive. That really bothered her.

“Linda just kept at it and kept at it and kept at it, then at (34) makes the Olympic team.”

Somers Smith also placed seventh in the 1995 World Championships with a 2:32:12 effort and was 11th at the 1995 Boston Marathon with a 2:34:30 performance.

And she’s still going strong. Somers Smith, a UC Davis Law School graduate and an attorney who lives in Arroyo Grande, finished 28th at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials last January in Houston with a 2:37:36 effort at age 50, breaking Joan Benoit Samuelson’s American age-group record.

She earned USA Track & Field’s Outstanding Masters Award in 2008, 2010 and 2011 and was inducted into the Road Runners Club of America Hall of Fame last year.

“Now obviously she’s one of the best senior women in the world,” Mansoor said. “There’s no quit in Linda.”

Mansoor points to runners like Somers Smith and Kim Conley, a member of the SRA’s Elite Team who made the U.S. Olympic team last year in the 5,000 meters, as reasons for supporting the development of post-collegiate runners.

“It shows exactly why we have the SRA Elite program,” he said. “There is a lot of development after college. Kim Conley had that same trait.”

Tickets for the Hall of Fame dinner are $50. Group and table of 10 reservations are welcome and can be made at www.runsra.org.

The dinner, which begins at 6 p.m. and includes a no-host cocktail hour, will also feature 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 include 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 will receive the men’s college track athlete of the year, with Deborah Maier earning the women’s track athlete honor. Other college honorees include 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.

Olympian Kim Conley, the women’s track athlete of the year, heads the open division. Other honorees include 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 include 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 include 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 will also honor 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 are 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.