For The Union Democrat

When 14-year-old Adin Dibble tore away from the Old Mill Run starting line Saturday and built a block-long lead on the 10K field within a mile, the uninitiated might have figured that here was just another kid who’d burn out, then struggle exhausted to the finish line.

But when the Curtis Creek School eighth -grader won the 39th Old Mill in 37:06, those who knew Adin were not at all surprised. After all, this prodigious teen and member of the Sonora Gold Track and Running Club has been winning every local race in sight.

A previous Old Mill winner, Dibble has also won the Jamestown Run, the Orient Express and the Copper Run – repeatedly. But Saturday’s time, said the young winner, was his best.

“I really felt good today,” said Dibble, clad in his trademark red-white-and-blue running shorts and socks. “I had a lot of energy.”

Which the 59 runners behind him realized quickly. Runner-up Brian Forbes finished more than a half-minute in back of Dibble and third-place finisher Dave Evans trailed by more than three minutes.

Forbes had a pretty fair excuse: “I ran the Boston Marathon Monday,” said the 43-year-old Sonoran, who’s been running for nearly 20 years. Forbes did indeed spend nearly four hours in wet, frigid and windy conditions deemed the worst in the Boston’s 121-year-history.

But the ultramarathoner, who has tackled 100-miles races, was nevertheless undaunted, by his second-place finish Saturday. “I’ll get Adin next time,” he laughed. “That kid’s goin’ down.”

Which, given Dibble’s upward trajectory, may be doubtful.

New Zealander Sarah Butcher won the Old Mill women’s crown and eighth place overall, with a time of 51:55. Meri Lopez (52:22) and Justine Morrison (52:49) followed within a minute.

These Old Mill performances came in near ideal conditions at Columbia State Historic Park, home to the run since it was founded in 1978. The opposite of Boston, clear skies and balmy temperatures greeted participants. Sixty runners ran the 10K, and total participation – with kids’ runs and a new two-mile walk included – topped 150. It was the largest OMR turnout in several years.

“We’ll definitely do it again,” assured Dave Urquhart, the longtime county school administrator and runner who coordinated this year’s race. “All our volunteers and sponsors made it possible. Now we’re ready and eager to celebrate the Old Mill’s 40th next year. We’ll make it a big deal.”

It’s already a big deal for Tuolumne County’s Christmas Eve Dinner and the WINGS Fund, beneficiaries of the 2018 race’s increased participation.

Saturday’s 39th edition had no shortage of stories:

If youth was served, age also had its day in the sun: Ninety-one-year-old Bill Ferrell, who’s seldom missed an Old Mill, was Saturday’s oldest finisher by more than a decade. He and son Ron were in the premiere 1978 Old Mill, have run nearly every edition since, and together have trained and competed on the original course thousands of times.

Ron, 70, missed Saturday’s run because of a senior driving class, but Bill took off an hour before the starting gun sounded. “Today I’ll be mostly walking,” he conceded. “I want to get back before everybody’s gone.”

He did. And got a standing ovation.

Another record set Saturday: Longest distance traveled by a race winner, set by women’s champ Sarah Butcher. Her Dunedin, N.Z. home is exactly 7,213.19 miles from Columbia.

“We’re on holiday here in the States and were driving through Columbia on our way back from Yosemite yesterday,” said Butcher, a 40-year-old triathlete who has been “running forever.” “I saw a poster about the Old Mill Run. So we parked the RV overnight and I decided to give it a try.”

A try turned into a win. “ It was so beautiful out there,” said Butcher, a legal scholar and instructor, after crossing the line. “It was a wonderful run.”

And the Columbia crowd was generally gracious about surrendering the first-place gold-pan to the only foreign national ever to win it.

But only generally. As Butcher received her trophy, one gadfly couldn’t help himself:

“First the America’s Cup and now this,” he cracked, referring to the Kiwis’ 2017 upset sailing win over defending champ U.S.’s $10 million, Oracle-funded boat.

The women’s division had a couple of more stories: Runner-up Meri Lopez wondered after the awards ceremony why she didn’t get her second-place trophy.

Turns out she was registered as a male, even though she looks nothing like one. Glitch ironed out, Lopez rose from eighth guy to second gal and was given a medal to prove it.

Then there was third-place women’s finisher Justine Morrison, 35, of Sonora, who ran the race with Penny Blue, her two-year-old Vizsla. “She definitely speeds me up,” conceded Morrison. “Penny just loves to run.”

Which could lead to an investigation PEDs (Performance Enhancing Dogs) at the Old Mill. Or to establishment of a new division in which dogs are required.

That said, there were a lot of old dogs from the Old Mill’s past sniffing around Columbia Saturday.

One former OMR winner, 58-year-old Tim Wyman, hasn’t lost many steps. His 46:10 was good enough for first in his division and seventh overall.

“I predicted I’d finish in 46 minutes and I was 10 seconds slower,” Wyman said, sporting a 1998 Harvey McGee Memorial OMR T-shirt.

Artist Chuck Waldman, who jokes that his winning 1980 time was among the slowest in early Old Mill history, not only fired the starting gun Saturday but designed the classic retro 2018 OMR T-shirt.

And a roster of aging Old Millers swapped memories — and stories of various joint-replacement surgeries — during the new and very popular two-mile walk.

And, as late Union Democrat publisher McGee wrote in the aftermath of the first Old Mill in ’78: “The last entries in seemed to enjoy the day as much as the first and, to a runner (and walker) they were ready to do it again next year.”