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Springing Into Step at Wildflower

Thursday, April 13, 2006

By Angie Young Special To The Dispatch

Morgan Hill - The wintry weather took a breather this weekend, allowing favorable running conditions for the American Association of University Women's 23rd annual Wildflower Run Sunday. Several hundred local and out-of-town athletes pounded the pavement in Morgan Hill neighborhoods and countryside, thanking the powers that be for lack of winds, rain and freezing temperatures.

The 2K, 5K and 10K foot races proved to be a hit with the runners.

The female overall winner of the 10K race was Gilroy's Kari Ann Bertrand, 35, who smoked the competition by zipping past the finish line in 37:37.

"I'm happy with the race . . . however, this will be my last one for a while," said Bertrand, who is 10 weeks pregnant with her second child. The Gilroy resident beat out two San Jose State cross country runners for first place. Erica Sahli, 19, was at Bertrand's heels finishing in 37:42 and fellow SJSU teammate Tiffany Hall, 20, took the third spot in 38:27. The two SJSU runners ran most of the race in a trio with Bertrand, until she broke away.

In all, 13 members of the SJSU team won several top awards in the 10K. Jose Burrola won the men's race overall with a time of 33:45, followed by fellow student Sean Dundon (35:30). Third place went to teammate Gordie Throne (36:00).

Said Burrola, 22, "This is my first time I ran this race. It was very challenging and I got a PR (personal record)."

At the start of the 5K, children lined up at the front much to the dismay of some runners.

"They shouldn't be standing in the front," one man commented before the race. "They're going to get bowled over." The same runner ate his words when some of those kids dusted him in the end.

One such speedster was Ruben James (RJ) Collins, 10, from Hollister. He took first place in his age group and sixth overall with a time of 20:25.

"I like to see how many people would pass me. Not that many did and I passed a lot of people," Collins said. His sister, 8-year-old Angelica Collins did her family proud with a first-place time of 22:44.

High school students from the South Valley dominated the 5K winners' circle. Live Oak alumnus Jesus Atanacio won the race in 17:56, Live Oak senior Andrew Taylor took second with an 18:50 and Daniel Beckwith finished third in 19:33. The 5K female champion was Ann Mari Rich (20:39), Suzanne Hancock took second place (21:01), and Live Oak freshman Olivia Duran finished in 22:07 to overshadow the rest of the pack.

"It was a hard-core race . . . so I kept within my pace," said Duran, who was pleased with her results.

The 2K run had its young competitors - ranging from ages five through 12 - toeing the line. Joel Hall from Morgan Hill won the event overall in 7:42. It was his first race outside of school and he plans to do the Wildflower again next year. Rich Thomas was close behind Hall with an 8:06 and Alexander Richardson came in third with an 8:57. The top girls were Sarah Gilbert (first place, 8:37), Katie Machado (second place, 8:52), and Alissa Pham (third place, 10:34).

The Wildflower is not just for the fleet-footed, but also for those who love to run ultra-marathons such as Jean Suyenaga, 39, from San Jose. She did a 50-mile race last week and plans to do another on April 22.

"The race was relaxed, although you get the adrenaline rush at the end towards the finish. The energy from the volunteers and other runners pulled me through to the end," said Suyenaga, who has run 26 marathons and four ultra-marathons.

According to AAUW-MH volunteer Kathy Sass, the first Wildflower race took place in 1983 on Santa Teresa Road in Morgan Hill. Back then only 200 female runners signed up to compete. Slowly, the idea caught on among the rest of the athletic community. Last Sunday's event had 515 entrants. Race proceeds go to scholarship programs geared for high school seniors to enter college or for those wishing to continue their education beyond junior college.

For more 2K, 5K and 10K race results, visit

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