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McCormack Runs Off With First Place in the Scripps Ranch 10K for Third Time

To the uninitiated, it may have seemed more than a little out of place. Here it was barely past 7:30 a.m. on the Fourth of July--a day to sleep in for many--and already runners were crossing the finish line of the Scripps Ranch 10K.

Out of place? No. Runners will tell you that early-morning jaunts allow them to beat the sun’s most vicious rays.

For the 11th consecutive year, Scripps Ranch celebrated the Fourth with a 10K. For the third time, the winner was Steve McCormack.

McCormack finished in a slow 30 minutes 34 seconds. It was slow only because in 1985, McCormack entered the event for the first time and set a race record at 30:31. But that mark only lasted two years. In 1987, McCormack, who had been injured and could not run in 1986, shattered his old record with a 29:48 finish.

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“In ’87, I was training for a marathon,” McCormack explained, “so I was really pulling for a good time.”

This year there was no marathon to train for, but what really slowed McCormack was a right hamstring that he strained last week.

“I don’t even know why I ran,” he said of the injury.

He should have been asking himself why he won. Strained hamstring and all, McCormack took the lead around the two-mile mark and cruised from there. He and fellow Jamul Toad club member Juan Naranjo had set the pace early on, but Naranjo simply could not maintain stride with McCormack the entire way.

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“We got out early and pushed ourselves,” Naranjo said. “Right around two miles, we were together and he just took off.”

Naranjo, last year’s winner at 30:43, finished second at 31:20, ahead of John Rice (31:26), Martin Padget (32:09), and Michael Batis (32:14).

Martha Merz of San Diego was the first woman to cross the line at 36:38, an improvement over her seventh-place finish of a year ago, but not enough to satisfy Merz.

“I was trying to break 36 minutes,” she said. “That’s my big goal. I thought I could do it today, but it just wasn’t my day.”

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Merz finished ahead of Jeanine Daley (37:37), Madeline Ramirez (37:58), Laureen Mahoney (38:35), and Lita Lux (38:59).

Still, Merz’s first-place time was well off the race record of Pat Puntous, who clocked a 34:41 in 1984.

Many of the runners cited weather conditions for the lagging times.

“Usually at 7 a.m., it’s cool and sometimes a little foggy,” Merz said. “But today it was just hot.”

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