Will Rogers 5/10K Sees Record Turnout

By Sue Pascoe
Photos by Luis Velasquez

This was the 40th anniversary of the Will Rogers 10K race, which was started by Brian Shea, Bill Klein and the late Chris Carlson as a way to complement the town’s Fourth of July parade and fireworks. Shea remembers adding the 5K in 1986 because the previous Fourth of July was so hot, the medical tent was overflowing with people who had attempted one of the toughest 10Ks in the county.

This year nearly 3,000 people, a record, registered to run in the event.

The 40th anniversary of the Palisades Will Rogers 5/10K Race had a record number of runners.
The 40th anniversary of the Palisades Will Rogers 5/10K Race had a record number of runners.


Tonny Okello took home his fourth straight victory in a time of 33.28 (5:24 min/mi). He holds the course record 31:21, set in 2014. “It was much warmer than last year,” said the Culver City resident, who also didn’t have anyone to push him. “When I left the 5K, I was pretty much alone.”

He said he wasn’t in good shape this year and that this was his first race in 10 months. “I have had a knee problem,” said Okello who spent time rehabbing it by biking, exercises and swimming.

Tonny Okello was a winner in the 10K race.
Tonny Okello was a winner in the 10K race.

After Kane See finished his 10K, he came up to congratulate Okello and said, “He’s my teacher for the past few months. Maybe one day I’ll be at the podium like him.”

Second in the race was 2011 winner Jim Lubinski, who joked that the reason he didn’t win was “this guy showed up.” The Palisadian finished in 35.34. “The whole community comes out,” Lubinski said. “Palisades is the place to be on the Fourth.” Taking third place by a mere four seconds was 18-year-old Ben Hansen (35:38), a track standout at Palisades High School, who graduated in June.

The 2008 winner, Kevin Purcell ran a 40.24, which gave him 20th.

David Olds, 55, who was the 1990 5K winner and the 10K winner in 1999 and 2008, elected to run the 10K, finishing 31st with a time of 41:52.

Peter Hogan, who won the 10K in 1994, had a time of 51:24, and finished 186th. Playa Vista resident Brian Cody, 44, who grew up in the Palisades and won the 5K in 1991, ran the 10K and finished 201 in a time of 52.10.

The youngest males running the course were eight-year-old Santa Monica brothers Ethan, Asher and Justin Funk, who took first, third and fourth. Ethan won with 54:39. Second place went to Palisadian Asher Collar, 9, who ran 1:03:21.

The oldest runners, in the 80+ category, were Mike Gordon, 81, of L.A. who took first (1:27:56) and Culver City resident John Williams, 80, who was second (1:30:09).


In the woman’s 10K, Erika Aklufi won with a time of 38:44 (6:14 min/mi). This was the second fastest course time behind Kara Barnard who set the record (38.34) in 2012.

Aklufi, the 10K winner in 2006 with a time of 35:56, was invited to be part of the anniversary race. The Santa Monica police sergeant is now the interim deputy for the city manager. “I’m on loan from the police department,” the downtown L.A. resident said, noting that she generally runs about 50 miles a week, and most of her races are usually longer. Her last race was over Memorial Day, which was a 50K at the Grand Canyon.

Erika Aklufi was a winner in the 10K race.
Erika Aklufi was a winner in the 10K race.

She was asked how this year’s run compared to her 2006 race. “I can’t compare it to when I was younger” said Aklufi, 41. “Last time I ran it ‘stupid;’ this time I knew what was coming. I ran it a lot smarter.”

Aklufi was a swimmer in high school and college, mostly 50 and 100 freestyle. She grad- uated from Riverside Poly High School and Yale, and her law degree is from UC Davis.

Second was Kara Barnard, 38, in 40:35. Barnard, has won the 10K six times and the 5K five times. The San Francisco resident was on the past Will Rogers winners committee with Peter Gilmore, David Greifinger and Pete Hogan for the purpose of the 40th anniversary, encouraging other winners to run.

Liliana Hernandez Molina, 29, from Glendale ran a 41:25, inching out Malibu’s Cubbie Kile (41:26) for third.

Former Palisadian Katie Dunsmuir Younger, 51, who has won the 10K six times, the first in 1982, placed fourth in her age group this year with a 49:17.

The youngest and only female in the 9- and-under-group was Lily Polin, 9, from Rancho Palos Verdes, who ran a respectable 1:09:13.

The oldest females registered in the 10K were Palisadian Helga Jessen, 73, 1:12:51 and Venice’s Amy Galbraith, 74, (1:13.34), who competed in the 70-74-year-old division.


It was a Loyola trifecta as the top three places in the men’s 5K went to Loyola High School runners: Shane Bissell 16:25 (5:17 min/mi); Liam Jamieson 16:29 and Vinicius Giachini 16:35.

Bissell, a senior at Loyola, runs track and cross country. The Hancock Park resident said this was the fourth time he’s won this race and that he likes to come up here, because a lot of his friends live here. About the race, he said, “It was a good time for the beginning of the season.”

5K winners were Shane Bissell (left) and Regina Lopez (right), whose dad came to support her.
5K winners were Shane Bissell (left) and Regina Lopez (right), whose dad came to support her.

Jamieson, who is also a senior, lives in Santa Monica and has run the course before. Hancock Park resident, Giachini is a junior and this was his first time running the course.

In 2015, the 5K course was measured and 427 ft. were added to make it a complete course under USATF standards. Drake Johnston set the new record (15:56) in 2016.

Eighth overall this year with a time of 17:21 was Peter Gilmore, 40, who has won the race eight times. Over a 25-year period from 1986 to 2011, he has six of the fastest times on the course, including the previous record of 14:10.

The youngest males running the race were in the 9 and under category: Palisadian Wyatt Schinto (27:10) and Walter Sibson (30:11), both 7. Atlanta resident Dalton Troxell-Cap- pello, 9, took first in that category (23:56).

The oldest in the 80+ category was Stephen Bland, 84, (47:15) who took sixth. The winner in that category was Michael Hall, 81, in 34:37. Both listed Los Angeles as their home.


Regina Lopez, 26, of Alhambra won the 5K with a time of 17:54 (5:46 min/mi). This was Lopez’s first time running the course. “My friend told me about it,” said the former track star. She had run for two years at Oregon State before she started missing California and transferred to Cal Poly.

Her twin sister, also a track standout, was running a 5K in La Palma that day, but their dad came to support her.

“It wasn’t a PR for me,” Lopez said, not- ing that she was mostly running alone, but that “the guys were pushing me.”

She said she didn’t know what to expect on the course. “The first mile is all downhill, and the rest seemed all uphill.”

She plans to come back next year because “I like the atmosphere.”

Second place went to Malibu’s Emily Gallin, 32, in a time of 18:58. Santa Monica resident Tania Fisher, 51, a past champ who won the 5K in 1993, took third with a time of 19:09, which was 30th overall fastest time in the event.

The youngest female running was Lenna Bauerly, 4. The top three finishers in the 9 and under division were Palisadians Mollie Bryan, 7, in 28.52, Luciana Lavia took second with 29:00 and Gaby Bartle was third in 30:00, both are 9.

In the 80+ category, Ryamee Olin, 80, was first in 52.24. The Palisadian was joined by Carol Leacock, 81, who took third, Diane Goldberg, 83, fourth and Arline Halper, 81, fifth. Second place went to Barbara Smith, 83, in 53.58.

About 100 veterans ran in the parade this year and 11 kids from the Optimist Home also participated.

Bill Klein, one of the original race founders, started the race, and Race Director Brian Shea rode in the pace car, driven by Indy Car driver Townsend Bell. The Porsche was supplied by Steve Conforti and McKenna Porsche.

Movie and television star Kelley Jakle sang the National Anthem.

The Kids Fun Run had so many youth register that race organizers ran short of bibs. About 445 kids ran the the half-mile course that started and ended on Alma Real at Toyopa.
The Kids Fun Run had so many youth register that race organizers ran short of bibs. About 445 kids ran the the half-mile course that started and ended on Alma Real at Toyopa.

Providence Saint John’s Health Center was the Title Sponsor this year. Race spon- sors were Amalfi Estates and the Cynthia L. & William Simon, Jr. Foundation. Sponsors were TrueCar, American Legion Post 283, Caruso, Union Bank, Michael Solum with Farmers Insurance, Jordan Kaplan Family, Will Rogers Ranch Foundation and the Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Group.

Net proceeds of the race go to the Pacific Palisades Optimist Club, which supports various youth charities and donations.

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