Just under 3,000 runners, one of the largest fields in the history of the event, competed today at the 23rd edition of the Village Runner 4th of July 5K presented by UCLA Health. The race was run under partly cloudy skies with cool ocean breezes keeping the temperature in the high 60s.
Ana Cristina Narvaez, from Aguas Calientes, Mexico, ran 17:13 to win the women’s race and Juan Paredes, of Los Angeles, captured the men’s race at 14:50. The race winners won $200 prize money. Placing second and third in the women’s race were Grace Zamudio and Alison Kielty in 17:38 and 17:56, respectively. In the men’s race, Luis Ibarra, of Aguas Calientes was second with 14:53 and Stewart Harwell, of Redondo Beach, third with 15:04.
“It was great winning again,” said men’s winner Juan Paredes, who won the men’s race a couple years back.
In the women’s race, winner Ana Cristina Narvaez said, “I ran by myself. In Mexico, I’m an elite runner on the national team in Mexico. I placed 5th in the 2015 June Pan American Games. Everyone was cheering for me when I finished; I think the guys were getting jealous.”
“[The race] was a lot of fun. I had two great guys to race with,” said Stewart Harwell, Redondo Beach, third in the race and the top local finisher. “I trained every day for this race. The hard work paid off. This was my first time running this race.”
The event highlighted a 5K Run, as well as the 5K Walk. The race began on Independence Day at 8 a.m. in Riviera Village. Prior to the race there was a Red, White, and Blue Costume Contests with gift certificates awarded for the best, and most unique, running costumes.
The first edition of the Village Runner 4th of July 21 years ago drew a few hundred participants. The popularity of the event has grown immensely in the following years, and this year’s race topped just under 3,000 runners for the first time. Race director Mike Ward said, “The race was great. It went off very smoothly. Of all the years we’ve had this race, this is the best it’s been. The staff did a great job. I started this race twenty-three years ago.
Coach Dean Lofgren actually got me my job at Village Runner many years ago, and Don and I decided to give the award to Dean. I’m looking forward to next year’s race.”
Kayla Montgomery, who competes for Lipscomb College despite battling the ravages of MS, ran in the 23rd Village Runner 4th of July 5K and was introduced by Jac Folkert of UCLA Health. She was presented with the Pathfinder Award at the race by actress Teri Polo (Meet The Parents). Also, title-winning track coach, Dean Lofgren, El Camino College, Torrance, was awarded the first ever Running Mentor/Coaching Award by celebrity actor Blake Cooper Griffin. Both actors also welcomed the runners and helped with the opening events.
Redondo Beach Councilman Jeff Ginsburg was on hand to run the race and Mayor Steve Aspel greeted the crowd and was the office starter for the race.
UCLA Health Systems, which has continued its expansion to better serve the South Bay, is the event’s continuing presenting sponsor and exclusive health care provider. UCLA Health Systems recently opened offices in the South Bay communities of Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Torrance, and offers the best available service and state-of-the-art resources to its patients.
The American Cancer Society was the race’s charity beneficiary, partnering with Relay for Life South Bay to utilize the proceeds to support the charity’s cancer research and free patient programs. The Sound 100.3FM Classic Rock Radio was back as the presenting media sponsor. They had their street team live at the event playing tunes!
Additional event sponsors include Clif Bar, which sampled their Clif Shots and Clif Bars at the race. Runners got free pizza slices from Fresh Brothers Pizza. Rock & Brews, Redondo Beach, hosted the post-event party that had people waiting out the door.
The top three male and female finishers received cash prizes of $200, $125, and $75 respectively, and all children who participate in the Firecracker Dashes receive medals.
The top five male finishers were Juan Paredes (26) of Los Angeles in 14:50, Luis Ibarra (36) of Aquas Calientes in 14:53, Stewart Harwell (32) of Redondo Beach in 15:04, Alejandro Martinez (18) of North Hollywood in 15:31, and Teddy Kassa (22) of Torrance in 15:32.
The top five female finishers were Ana Narvaez (24) of Aquas Calientes in 17:13, Grace Zamudio (22) of Santa Clarita in 17:38, Alison Kielty (29) of Torrance in 17:56, Rachel Miura (25) of Santa Monica in 18:05, and Lindsey Young (32) of Redondo Beach in 18:42.