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Milers Burn Up The Road In Irvine

Martinez, Hesch, Cushing-Murray, Padilla take elite titles.

Martinez, Hesch, Cushing-Murray, Padilla take elite titles.

Christian Hesch, right, sneaks past Brandon Bethke to capture the elite men’s race at the 2011 SoCal USATF Road Mile Championships. HEsch ran 

Dropping 36ft from start to finish down the #2 runway at the El Toro Marine Air Station in Irvine, the 2011 SoCal USATF Road Mile Championships were billed as the place to “run your fastest mile ever!” Competition was deep as the 2nd annual Championships were held on Sunday under calm but warm conditions, with temperatures approaching 80 degrees by the start of the Elite races.

Photo Gallery: 2011 SoCal USATF Road Mile Championships

The Elite and Masters women combined to make one heat of 28 ladies, all who broke 6:00 for the mile. Brenda Martinez, representing New Balance, led wire to wire to win in 4:38.43 to win by nearly twenty seconds. The race quickly became tightly bunched behind Martinez, with 18 ladies across the finish line in the next twenty seconds, led by Cal Coast Track’s Holly Hobson-Gery in 4:55.23, followed by NIKE Team Run LA’s Karla Alburez in 4:56.97. Newly minted master Grace Padilla, last years defending champion, finished 5th overall, earning the NIKE Team Run LA athlete the masters title in 4:59.60, 3 seconds faster than her overall winning performance of 2010. Nathalie Higley, of Redondo Beach, finished 2nd amongst Masters women in 5:02.69, with Tania Fischer of the Janes taking 3rd in 5:07.05

Next up was an expected victory for Santa Ana masters standout and Compex Racing’s Christian Cushing-Murray, who broke the tape in 4:17.31. Cushing-Murray, with a 3:55 mile personal best, was given a commendable challenge by Oceanside’s Timothy Gore, finishing just two seconds back in 4:19.99. Mission Viejo’s Ken Ernst led a pack of seven across the line for 3rd place honors in 4:29.87.

The final race on the docket was billed as a clash between two recent sub-4 minute milers, former El Toro High School (and Arizona State) standout Brandon Bethke and Hollywood resident Christian Hesch. Bethke, from nearby Lake Forest and running for Quicksilver, was cheered on by dozens of El Toro students looking for him to replicate his personal best of 3:57.34 mile set July 8th in Cork, Ireland. Hesch, a paramedic student at Mt. SAC, recently ran a PR of 3:58.68 for the mile in Falmouth, MA on August 13th. Luis Ibarra, also of NIKE Team Run LA, and Jacques Sallberg of Run With Us, added depth to the elite field.

The anticipated sub-4 minute race failed to materialize as the field was content to follow Ibarra through splits of 59, 2:02, and 3:04. With nobody willing to play their cards early, the race came down to a sprint with 150 meters to go, where Hesch took a two-step lead on Bethke, only to see Bethke quickly reverse the tables. With both athletes side by side in the final 50 meters it looked as though the decision to bring in photofinish timing was a wise one, but Bethke cracked with only 20m to go, allowing Hesch to take the victory by only .22 seconds–4:01.02 to 4:01.24. Ibarra was rewarded for his early front running with the final podium spot over steeplechase specialist Sallberg, who finished in 4th, just one week removed from running the AFC ½ Marathon in San Diego.

Full results and race photos can be found at: and

Results: 2011 SoCal USATF Road Mile Championships

El Toro, CA

Elite Masters Women

1 Grace Padilla 40 4:59.60 $250

2 Nathalie Highley 41 5:02.69 $150

3 Tania Fischer 45 5:07.05 $100

Elite Masters Men

1 Christian Cushing-Murray 43 4:17.31 $250

2 Timothy Gore 42 4:19.99 $150

3 Ken Ernst 49 4:29.87 $100

Elite Open Women

1 Brenda Martinez 23 4:38.43 $500

2 Holly Hobson-Gery 28 4:55.23 $250

3 Karla Alburez 25 4:56.97 $150

4 Mandy Grantz 25 4:57.15 $75

5 Cambria Wu 32 5:01.66 $25

Elite Open Men

1 Christian Hesch 32 4:01.02 $500

2 Brandon Bethke 24 4:01.24 $250

3 Luis Ibarra 31 4:04.71 $150

4 Jacques Sallberg 36 4:05.84 $75

5 Jorge Jabaz 25 4:09.76 $25