Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sharp and McLarty Take Top Honors at 2009 Santa Barbara News-Press Half Marathon

SCA Half Marathon Championships
Santa Barbara News-Press Half Marathon
Saturday - November 7, 2009

Andrea (“Drea”) McLarty and Aaron Sharp

It was another spectacularly beautiful day for racing, as the Southern California Association USATF Road Running Grand Prix and Road Championships returned to Santa Barbara on Saturday, November 7, at the 33rd annual Santa Barbara News-Press Half Marathon. Taking first place in the men’s division was Aaron Sharp, with a time of 1:09:16, and in the women’s division Andrea McLarty wins her championship title with a time of 1:22:12.

Aaron Sharp 

At a previous USATF event, one runner described racing in Santa Barbara, as “Aaron Sharp, and then everyone else way behind him.” 2009 looked like a field to challenge Sharp’s domination. Joining Sharp at the start line was Robert Olivera of Ventura, winner in October of the Ojai Half Marathon with a time of 1:10:32, and Eli Rodriguez, of Whittier, the 2009 Southern California Association USATF Marathon Champion, who also had an October victory, winning the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon in 2:25:57.

A little more than an hour later, as the top runners neared the finish line, the race appeared to be “Aaron Sharp, and then everyone else way behind him.” Sharp, who is preparing for the 2009 California International Marathon in December, won a decisive victory, finishing three minutes ahead of Olivera’s 1:12:48, and six minutes faster than Eli Rodriguez’s 1:15:27. This was also Sharp’s third time running the Santa Barbara Half Marathon, and his best finish as well.

Andrea "Drea" McLarty 

While Sharp held a decisive lead throughout the entire race, Andrea McLarty (Drea), had more of a challenge to keep her distance from challengers Sara Dillman and Chrystee Bradley. McLarty reported that while she felt strong for most of the race, the last 5K was a tremendous struggle. Despite having the worst “bonk” she could remember in a major race, McLarty held her focus and won convincingly in 1:22:12, followed by Dillman, 1:23:52, and Chrystee Bradley, 1:25:04.

After becoming a mother to two children, McLarty is returning to running with a real passion and fire. This was not McLarty’s first Santa Barbara Half Marathon; she also ran the course in 2007, finishing in 1:31:51. Two years older and two years wiser she cut nearly ten minutes off her previous time! Like Sharp, McLarty is preparing for a marathon, in her case the inaugural 2009 Santa Barbara International Marathon.

The Santa Barbara News-Press Half Marathon is also part of the 2009 Road Running Grand Prix, and competition in the 2009 Road Running Grand Prix for overall scoring is about as close as possible. In the women’s division, both Rosalva Bonilla and Lydia Salinas ran a great race. In October, Salinas took the overall lead from Bonilla by 22 points after the Run Forrest Run 5K in Long Beach. When the scores from the Half Marathon were in, Bonilla moved out in front of Salinas again, with a razor thin margin of 11 points. Bonilla has a score of 3304 compared to 3293 for Salinas. The final outcome between these top runners will not be known until after the final Grand Prix race, the Dana Point Turkey Trot 10K, on November 26, which is also the 2009 Southern California Association 10K Championship.

Several men have now run the four-race minimum for end-of-year cash prizes and awards in the Grand Prix, and the leader, not surprisingly, is Eli Rodriguez. Rodriguez holds a commanding 200-point lead over his nearest rival, David Kent. But Rodriguez has lots of potential competition by runners who have only run three races in the Grand Prix, including top masters runners Perry Forrester and John Araujo, and young Nicholas Lopez, the 2009 Southern California Association USATF 5K Champion.

In the team competition, a newly filled-out Santa Barbara Athletic Association trounced Track Club LA, 4001 to 3666. The Santa Barbara Athletic Association had no fewer than four runners scoring above 800, the mark for “nationally ranked” runners. Leading the SBAA was Maggie Mason, who also took top honors at the Semana Nautica 15K race in July.

The final Association Road Running Championship race will be the Dana Point Turkey Trot 10K, held on November 26, 2009. This race will give overall awards to USATF runners, as well as determine the final winners in the 2009 Road Running Grand Prix.

USATF Contact:
Wayne Joness
Chair, Open Athletics Long Distance Running Committee
Southern California Association/ USA Track & Field
Cell (310) 600-5332 Email: