Shortly after walking away with his second consecutive men’s open title in the Surf City 5K Run, Jeff Thies waxed nostalgic about being home once again.
A sterling collegiate career at the University of Portland did not make Thies forget where he came from.
As a student at Edison High, he ran the residents’ race of the annual Fourth of July event. He progressed to become a contender at the open level, winning the event last year.
Then he went back to Portland for his senior year, where he helped lead the Pilots to a second-place finish (74-127 to Northern Arizona) in the NCAA Division I national cross-country championships in November.
Thies, 23, said he now hopes to secure a sponsor to pursue running professionally, and another title should not hurt the cause. He won the race in 15 minutes 13.30 seconds, holding off Robert Brandt (15:15.51) through the finish chute.
“It reminds me that I’m home,” Thies said of the tradition of running on Independence Day. “I actually just got back from Oregon last Thursday, so it was perfect timing. I had to get back in time for the Fourth and to run this race.
“Spending time with family and friends here, it’s one of my favorite holidays because of that and because of the community that is here in Huntington Beach. It really makes it a special thing.”
The starting point and the finish line are located at Worthy Park, adjacent to Huntington Beach High. Recent Oilers alumnus George Gleason (15:17.22) placed third in the men’s open division.
He had plenty of support in the neighborhood, and that was also the case on the race course. The 21-year-old Gleason, who runs for UCLA, had collegiate teammates Carter Blunt, Riley Kelly and Brandt running with him.
“I had done the residents’ race, but this was the first one where I did the open, kind of because it’s more competitive, and I can run with more of my friends who are not residents,” Gleason said. “You can run fast and still kind of feel pretty good because everyone is cheering you on. That’s something that doesn’t normally happen with distance running when you’re running on a normal day, so it’s pretty cool.”
Joshua Finkle, 27, ran 16:39.92 to win the Huntington Beach residents’ race. While the former University of Maryland athlete also enjoyed the communal feeling of the race, he noticed another trend when he looked at the results.
Seven of the top 10 male finishers in the residents’ race were teenagers, with Finkle being the only competitor in that group older than 23.
“It was funny to see the results and to see everyone’s age,” Finkle said. “I was like, ‘Ah, man. It’s definitely a young kids’ game now.’ ”
Ocean View graduates Ryan St. Pierre (16:48.00) and Hector Arteaga (16:52.64) rounded out the top three in the residents’ race.
The same could not be said for the ladies’ side, where the average age of the top 10 finishers in the women’s open division was nearly 29. Fallbrook’s Donna Mills-Honarvar (18:35.32) fended off Long Beach’s Lindsey Young (18:36.41) for the title. They were 43 and 34, respectively.
Recent Sage Hill graduate Brooklyn Button placed third in 19:26.22. She said she will continue her running career at Claremont McKenna College.