Steven Grolle was smiling Sunday as he sprinted down the home stretch of the 35th annual Pinecrest Run.
And why not? He was on his own island running away from the pack. He was out of earshot from the nearest competitor and literally could have stopped at the Pinecrest Lake marina for ice cream and still finish the race in first.
Grolle, 15, a Sonora Wildcat sophomore who runs on the cross country team, toasted the field of 111 competitors in the 5-mile run with a time of 32:51.52 — over 48 seconds faster than Sonora resident Brian Forbes, 36, who won his age group, and over 1:30 ahead of third place.
“I think the course was pretty tough, I was pretty tired,” said Grolle. “The hill is pretty steep so I decided not to run up.”
Not to run up? Was he giving the field a chance?
“I’ve tried to run up it a couple of times and it didn’t work too well,” said Grolle. “So I pumped my arms and took big strides and basically power-walked.”
Grolle is referring to the trademark of the Pinecrest Run — a steep hill approximately two-thirds of the way through the race which destroys plenty of fast-paced runners.
Through the first half of the race, Forbes looked to be in striking distance of Grolle.
But around the third mile, Grolle pulled away.
“I think it was right where I hit the trail that goes beside the lake that I started to pull away,” said Grolle. “Going in I expected to maybe get third in my age group. There were some people who ran last year in my age group who were pretty fast, but I guess they weren’t camping up here this year. It was my first race of the season and I was pretty scared.”
Grolle got an adrenaline boost late in the race when he had to outrun a truck that was supposed to stop, but didn’t.
It helped him push toward the finish line and break the ribbon.
“It was the first time I’ve ever won, much less even seen the winning ribbon. But it felt great.”
Grolle wasn’t the only runner setting a blistering pace.
Lauren Creath, 18, of Corte Madera, set the bar for women and finished fifth overall with a time of 35:47.48.
Creath finished 2:07 ahead of Summerville High School star Kristen Turner, 16, for the top prize.
Other age-group winners included Alex Weissman, 25, of Pinecrest (34:55.55), Jim Heryford, 50, of Murphys (36.54;78), Ernesto Ramirez, 49, of Sonora (38:40.43), Melissa Minjarez, 34, of Stockton (39:33.08), Shaan French Jr., 13, of Sonora (40:48.18), Ron Alonzo, 61, of Medford, Ore. (42:00), Ray Walker, 72, of Angels Camp (57:09.96), Sam Slater, 12, of Sonora (45:38), Michelle Smith, 29, of Mi-Wuk (45:52.43), Margaret Grolle, 48, of Sonora (46:46.93), Vicki Demenno, 51, of Corte Madera, (49:20.65), Elizabeth Harris, 66, of Pleasanton, (48:41.78) and Eva Walker, 72, of Angels Camp (118:34.24).
Jordan Cashman, 14, of Strawberry, made quick work of the field in the 1-mile Fun Run.
Cashman raced to a first-place finish in a time of 4:58.90.
Christopher Hoffman-Brady, 14, finished in second place with a time of 5:21.21 followed by Ramirez, who competed in both events, with a time of 5:46.87.
Keely Cashman, 12, of Strawberry, was the top female finisher and was seventh overall. She finished with a time of 6:20.55.
All proceeds from the race benefit Pinecrest School physical education program, which includes the winter ski and snowboard program through Dodge Ridge.
The event records stand for another year. Austin Ramos, of Fair Oaks, in 2005 set the course record with a time of 28:34.49. The womens’ record is held by Heidi Perham, of the Bay Area, who finished in 33:35 in 1985.