49th Annual Saguaro Race Report

First place overall went to Nathan Thomas in a time of 42:38. A member of the U.S. Air Force stationed in Oklahoma, the former Sal Point Catholic High School standout came back to Tucson and handled the the rolling hills of the Rincon Mountains with ease, running one of the fastest times in the history of the venerable course. In second place was University of Arizona alumni Randy Arriola, while third place went to Derek Weber, who traveled from Albuquerque, NM.

The women’s race included three women who have qualified for the US Olympic Marathon Trials, Katie James, Autumn Ray, and Alita Jokisch. All three women will try to make the Olympic team at the February 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. Course record-holder Katie James rose to the challenge, finishing the course in 47:48, within one minute of her course record of 46:39 set in 2016. Second place went to Sedona’s Autumn Ray, while Sal Point Cross Country coach Alita Jokisch took third place.

First place in the men’s master’s 8-miler was speedy Robert Rezetko, while the first master’s in the women’s race was co-race director Tia Accetta.

One of the few races that are allowed to take place on National Park lands, “Saguaro” as it’s known, is Arizona’s oldest continual running race. Arizona State Age Group records were set by a handful of runners, including 82-year-old Paul Robilla fomr the Grinders, who covered the 8-mile loop in 1:29:54, a remarkable achievement. Special thanks to long-time friend-of-SAR Dave Hill for helping keep track of our local athletes and doing the record-keeping. The rest of the State Age Group Records include the following:
M51 Robert Rezetko
M63 Benito Gonzalez
M75 Lewis Parkhill
M82 Paul Robillia
F28 Kaitlyn James
F60 Janet Holland
F65 Merry Dearmon
F66 Mary Black

The overall 5k was won by John Malloy, while Eva Bruce took home top honors for the women runners.

As we have indicated, this is one of the few events allowed to take place on actual National Park land. We are grateful to the full team from the Saguaro National Park, including Chief Ranger Ray O’Neill and Superintendent Leah McGinnis. Special thanks to Ranger Steve Bolyard who manage event weekend logistics. Steve met with us a few times before the race to ensure event planning and preparations — we could not do this without his help. The NPS crew included about 10 Rangers on duty and about 20 volunteers who helped manage traffic, pedestrian safety, route safety and more.

In addition to the National Park Service, we offer special thanks to the 100 or so volunteers and others that it takes to produce this race.

DJ Rich did a great job of giving us plenty of upbeat music and helping with the announcements.

Many members of the SAR Board contributed a great deal to race production: Sheryl and Steve Felde, Diane Manzini, Lauren Erderlyi, Heather Hopkins, Caroline Gardiner, Dave Dixon, and Denise Gezinzki all put their wheel to the grindstone on race weekend, while Doreen Davis managed the SAR materials and Heather and Amye helped with all the pre-race marketing on social media and email. SAR Office Manager Lucas Tyler did a ton of help behind the scenes — and had a good race on top of it all! Timing was done by Greg Wenneborg (9-time Saguaro champ, if you care about that sort of thing).

The water stations at Miles 2, 4, and 6 were managed by the enthusiastic teen-age runners from Sahuaro High School Cross Country team — special thanks to long-time SAR member Pam North for helping coordinate them!

The Mile 7 water station was managed by the Tucson Tri-Girls — that was a busy station as it also included the out-and-back for the 5k!

The runners of The Workout Group were instrumental in handling weekend registration, early-morning set-up and late-morning break-down — thanks to the WOG family for all the running support you provide SAR! Special thanks to Steve Outridge and Michele Hawk for managing the course logistics and driving the truck around and around the loop.

Now, here’s a list of all the folks who did so much to help out — if we missed you let me know and we’ll add you to the list!
Marti Ackermann
Dennis Bonilla
Sandra Crusa
Maureen Cunningham
Dave Dixon
Diane Donahue
Mark Donahue
Lauren Erdelyi
Joe Faulk
Sheryl Felde
Steve Felde
Jeff Fulks
Caroline Gardner
Denise Gizinski
Austin Grover
Michelle Hawk
Elizabeth Herron
Rachel Hilgeford
Heather Hopkins
Bob Howard
Connie Lopez
Kelly Mack
Diane Manzini
David Odom
Steve Outridge
Andrew Peck
Steve Beorbon Quoeton
Cindy Schnell
Steve Sheldon
Cindy Sorrensen
Caitlin Vogelsberg

As race director, I think I did not order enough portojohns, so I will fix that for next year — sorry for the delays on that end! Other than that, it seemed like things went pretty well. Let me know if you think otherwise at randy@runtucson.net.