Recapping the Palisades Will Rogers 5/10K Run

By Sue Pascoe
Photos by Shelby Pascoe

The day was nearly perfect for runners in the 39th annual Will Rogers 5K/10K Run, with overcast skies and moderate temperatures.

The Blue Eagle Color Guard out of March Air Force Base was sponsored by Palisadian Jordan Kaplan.

Tyler Newman, a student at Chapman University, captured the start of the race with a camera mounted on a drone. Photo: Tyler Newman
Tyler Newman, a student at Chapman University, captured the start of the race with a camera mounted on a drone. Photo: Tyler Newman

Next, U.S. military veterans Dr. Mike Martini (WWII), Peng Vang and Noe Aguirre (Post 9/11 conflicts), Wally Hastings (Korea), Frank Cornell (Vietnam), Kevin Niles (Vietnam), and Dick Littlestone (WWII, Korea and Vietnam) were introduced.

Race Sponsors Bill and Cindy Simon were thanked for their many years of participation.

From the popular event’s first year in 1977, Saint John’s Hospital has been a title sponsor. Marcel Loh, the chief executive of Providence Saint John’s and the John Wayne Cancer Institute, and his wife Jane were on hand for the start of the race.

“We’re so pleased to sponsor this race to help keep the community healthy,” Loh said.

After Palisadian Kelsey Ross, 31, sang the National Anthem, Honorary Mayor Kevin Nealon started the race.

Andrew Kline’s “big truck,” a customized pickup with an actual train horn, served as the pace vehicle. Kline, a former Rams football player, is the founder and managing director of Park Lane Investment

Company and is a Navy Seal Family Foundation board member.

At close to 8:15 a.m., the roughly 2,300 registered runners, walkers and stroller pushers set off on a course that winds through the Huntington Palisades, before veering down Sunset Boulevard—and for 10K runners, continuing into Will Rogers Historic State Park.

Culver City resident Tonny Okello, 32, won the men’s 10K for the third straight year with a time of 31:32, roughly a 5:05 mile pace. Katie Dewitt, 31, topped the women by running 41 minutes even, a 6:36 mile pace.

Tonny Okello won the men’s 10K.
Tonny Okello won the men’s 10K.

In 2012, the 10K course was measured to USATF standards, which lengthened the course by 475 feet. Until then Russell Edmond held the men’ record (29.45) and Katie Dunsmuir Young, who won the race five times, had the women’s record (35.09).

Currently, Okello has the course record of 31:21, set in 2014, and Kara Barnard has the women’s record (38:34 in 2012).

Okello, who described the conditions as “great,” was disappointed he didn’t break his record.

He started running in Uganda when he was 15 and then was recruited by the University of Alabama, where he ran the 5K and 10K. After graduating with a degree in communications he moved to Los Angeles.

He described this course as particularly difficult.“You go down the hill on Sunset and then you have to go up the hill on the switchbacks,” he said. “Then you go down the hill [out of Will Rogers] and back up [to Chautauqua]. Mentally and physically, it’s taxing.”

Next up for Okello is a 10K in Santa Cruz on July 24 and then a half-marathon in San Diego in August.

“I’ll be back,” he promised. “I have to try and beat my record.”

This year’s female winner, Katie Dewitt, grew up in the Palisades. Her father, Jim, has photos of running with his daughter in the race from as early as 1992.

Katie Dewitt won the women’s 10K.
Katie Dewitt won the women’s 10K.

At the finish line Dewitt said, “This beats doing half marathons.”

After attending Harvard-Westlake, where she ran track and cross country, she attended Yale University, graduating in 2007. She’s now working for a solar engineering company in San Francisco and runs with her husband, Barry Fisher (who finished 13th in 38.22). They’ve run some half-marathons and may enter the 2017 Los Angeles Marathon.

The 5K winners were Charles Sherman, 17, in 16:07, with a 5:12 mile pace, and Renee Delphin-Rodriguez, 37, in 19:12 with a 6:36 mile pace.

Last year’s winner Drake Johnston, 21, took second in 16:17 and Palisadian Jennifer Karlan, 13, was second with a 20:06.

Sherman, who was second in last year’s 5K (16:18), will be a senior at Loyola High School, and went to state in track and field. “I grew up playing tennis here,” he said and then credited Okello with helping pace him. “Last year I went out too fast.”

Charles Sherman won the men’s 5K.
Charles Sherman won the men’s 5K.

The Palisades Rivera resident attended Canyon School and Paul Revere and said that Revere coach Paul Foxson had helped with his running.

“I was hoping to go under 19 this race,” said Delphin-Rodriguez, a Santa Monica resident, who won the 5K in 2014 (20:13). An attorney, she serves as a general counsel for Syner-Med, dedicated to healthcare.

For those who have been running the 5K race for years with times that haven’t improved during the past two years, the reason could be that prior to 2012, the course was 427 ft. short of a full 5K. Beginning with the 2015 race, the course now meets USATF standards.

And then it was time for the most excit- ing race of the day, the Kids Fun Run. More than 400 youngsters, ages 10 and under, lined up behind a clown on Alma Real. Promptly at 9:30 they raced the half-mile loop that goes down Ocampo, turns on Drummond, then Toyopa and returns to the park entrance.

Renee Delphin-Rodriguez won the women’s 5K.
Renee Delphin-Rodriguez won the women’s 5K.
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