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2016 wharf to wharf

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O n July 23, 1973, an annual local rite of summer was born when 276 runners congregated on that day in Santa Cruz to start a 5.8-mile run that wound along the seaside cliffs and emptied into the Capitola Esplanade. The Wharf to Wharf had humble beginnings for sure. Race leaders were misdirected to run on to the Capitola Wharf itself, whereas the finish line was actually in Capitola Village. Later, it was determined that Jack Bellah was the first Wharf to Wharf champion. Or, as his champion's plaque declared, the first "Warf to Warf" champion. The founding directors of the race were: Wayne Fontes, Race Chairman, Ken Thomas, Race Coordinator, and Jim Red- ing, Chairman of the Day's Events. In 1972, the Hihn building at 201 Monterey Avenue, in Capitola, was purchased and restored by Jim Reding. In 1973, the building was selected for the National Registry of Historic Places and was recognized as California State Historical Land- mark 860. State and local political leaders were scheduled to present plaques to the community and to commemorate the occasion, the Capitola Heritage Day Committee was formed to organize the celebration. For one of the day's activities, Reding sug- gested that a 6-mile footrace be held from the wharf in Santa Cruz along the coastal route to the wharf in Capitola. Reding suggested the event be called "The Wharf to Wharf Race." Fontes contacted Thomas, the Soquel High track coach, and asked him to join the group. Ken Napier, a prominent Northern California distance runner from Los Gatos and Pete Sorenson, from San Francisco, were contacted. They gave technical guid- ance as to how to set up a race. Thomas and Fontes gathered volunteers and organized the logistics. Heritage Day community leader Doris Sujan appeared with Fontes before various city and county governmental agencies to get the necessary approval, permits and rare cooperation. Fontes requested and received $200 from the City of Capitola to help finance the celebration. The first race was so well received by the community that the Heritage Day Committee was asked if the race could be an annual event. Thomas, Fontes and Reding assumed the task of organizing the second race. Runners, including Mark and Gary McConnell, as well as their father John, were asked to help. Kirby Nicol joined Thomas, Fontes and Reding to form the nucleus of the present Wharf to Wharf Race Committee and Thomas was elected president of the organization. Soon, through word of mouth within the running commu- nity, the popularity of the race began to swell. The number of runners participating each year began to grow dramatically. Today, the Wharf to Wharf sells out months in advance. It generates on average over a quarter million dollars every year for local school athletic programs and running organizations. It also generates thousands of dollars for local hotels and businesses. What started as a casual race for 273 participants has grown to the biggest annual sporting events in Santa Cruz County with eager participants from around the world. It has become the place to be for some of the world's elite runners and local weekend warriors alike. It has become a reflection of our community. The following is a brief, year-by-year history of the Wharf to Wharf race: 2015 Back from a disappointing 2nd place finish in 2014, Risper Gesabwa looked dominant from the start and pulled away in a wire to wire victory in a time of 31:19. Her 2015 title is her second Wharf to Wharf title. Simegn Abnet of Ethiopia took 2nd place and Top American, Alycia Cridebring, took home 3rd place. One of the best races in years happened on the men's side, as a pack of 6 runners were still together with a little over 1 mile to go before Kenyan, Sam Chelenga, decided to step on the gas peddle. The pack gave Chelenga a run for his money, but Sam was able to hang on and win with a time of 27:25, with fellow country men, Shadrack Kosgei and John Muritu, taking 2nd and 3rd. The top 7 finishers ended up within 19 seconds of each other. Top American and Top Local, Brett Got- cher, had one of his best races ever, finishing only 7 seconds off the winning time. 2014 2014 will be membered as the year of the woman! Caroline Rotich led a trio of Kenyan women across the line under the course record of 30:42. Rotich (30:18), 2012 Champ Risper Gesabwa (30:29) and Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolt (30:42) all ran faster than the previous course record. Rounding out the Top 4 was Top American, 2013 Champion, Emily Infeld. On the Men's side, returning Champion, Nelson Oyugi, put up a 14 WHARF TO WHARF SATURDAY | JULY 23, 2016 SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL Wharf to Wharf HISTORY Photo credit: Shmuel Thaler, Santa Cruz Sentinel

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