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MailTribune.com
  • PEAR BLOSSOM RUN

    King aims to continue long-running reign

    Four-time winner and Central Point native has qualified for Olympic Trials in steeplechase
  • The last time we saw Max King, he was setting another record in the Pear Blossom Run.
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    • runners' log
      packet pick-up: Today, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Lausmann Annex behind City Hall. Also, there at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
      • race times: All at City Hall — 5K, 7 a.m.; mayor's mile, 8 a.m.; whe...
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      runners' log
      packet pick-up: Today, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Lausmann Annex behind City Hall. Also, there at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

      • race times: All at City Hall — 5K, 7 a.m.; mayor's mile, 8 a.m.; wheelchair start, 8:15 a.m.; 10-mile, 8:30 a.m.; mayor's 2-mile, 8:35 a.m.
      • route: The 10-mile run heads out Jacksonville Highway, up Hanley road, then turns around and follows the same path back to City Hall.
      • entries: For the 10-mile run, 1,225. For the 5K, 800.
  • The last time we saw Max King, he was setting another record in the Pear Blossom Run.
    Soon, we might see him in the Olympic Games.
    At present, however, the Central Point product is content to return to Medford after a one-year hiatus and try to add to his cache of Pear Blossom championships in Saturday's out-and-back, 10-mile race along Jacksonville Highway and Hanley Road.
    Racing begins with a 5-kilometer event at 7 a.m., beginning at City Hall. The featured 10-miler is at 8:30.
    There are 1,225 entrants in the longer race, 800 in the 5K.
    "It'll be a little bit of a training session," says King, 28. "I'll just go out, see who's running and do what I need to do. I'm going to run it to have fun more than anything, just kind of be in the race. The Pear Blossom is a great race."
    In its 32nd year, the Pear Blossom carries considerable stature. But it's not quite on the level of some of the events King has competed in in the past year.
    The former Crater High athlete qualified for the Olympic Trials last May by winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase in The Road to Eugene '08 meet. His time of 8:31.26 bettered the 8:32 qualifying standard. The trials start in late June in Eugene.
    In February, King placed seventh in the U.S. Cross Country Championships, and two weeks ago, he competed in the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Great Britain. He placed seventh at nationals and 55th at the worlds.
    King, a Cornell graduate, has moved from Bend, where he was a chemical engineer, to Eugene so he could train with the Oregon Track Club.
    Needless to say, two questions come to mind.
    First, does King consider the Pear Blossom small potatoes after such meets?
    "As far as the atmosphere," he says, "it's a lot more fun to run the Pear. They're both totally different experiences and a lot of fun. At the world championships, there's so many different people, different languages and different cultures, and it's usually in a foreign country, that sort of stuff."
    Second, should other competitors bother to show up?
    "The thing about the Pear," says King, delivering the race's slogan since Day 1, "is that everyone's a winner. Everybody needs to come out and run. It makes it that much more exciting."
    King's meet schedule prevented him from participating last year. He had won the four previous Pear Blossoms, setting men's records for overall and successive victories.
    In 2005, he shattered the course record with a mark of 49:29.
    Rigorous training in the past week and a lingering cold leave King doubtful about breaking his record, even though weather conditions are expected to be favorable and similar to what they were three years ago.
    "That's another thing where we'll see what happens on race day," he says, "but it's probably not in the cards."
    There will be challengers to King, but how successful they are remains to be seen.
    Former Eagle Point standout John Lucas, who placed 44th in the marathon Olympic Trials in November, is expected to run. He's clocked a 2:18.50 marathon time, and in their high school days got the better of King in head-to-head competition.
    Lucas went on to compete at Oregon.
    Damian Baldovino, the 2002 winner and four times a Pear runner-up, has stepped up his training and is now among the country's elite masters runners.
    The 41-year-old Lakeview man has been training about 70 miles per week, double his workload at this time last year, and is aiming for the 40-44 age-group record of 52:06.
    "Leonard Hill has it, so I know it's a tough record if he set it," says Baldovino.
    Baldovino was second last year to Matt Barnhart of Eugene. Barnhart, who isn't entered this year, ran 52:46 to Baldovino's 54:13 in record rainfall for the event.
    Two other accomplished distance runners are entered. Hal Koerner of Ashland, the reigning champion of the Western States 100-mile race, and another ultramarathoner, Erik Skaggs, who recently moved to Ashland from New Mexico and owns a couple course records in the Southwest, will give it a go.
    Koerner was eighth in the Pear Blossom last year.
    Such distance runners have slow-twitch fibers in their muscles, says race director Jerry Swartsley, and might not be built to outrace someone such as King.
    "Max has that speed," says Swartsley. "Like they say, you can't buy speed. It's one thing you either have or you don't have. You can't train for it."
    Among the other top entrants are the Julian brothers, Bob Jr. and Tim. Bob Julian was third last year in 54:24, and Tim won in 1995 and '98.
    Similar to the men, the women's division won't have its defending champion, Melody Fairchild of Boulder, Colo.
    In fact, Cheryl Tronson of Bend will be the most recent women's winner in the field. She claimed the 1998 title. Last year, at age 49, she was seventh.
    A couple of out-of-state runners unfamiliar with the layout entered predicted times of less than one hour, says Swartsley, which would threaten the women's course record.
    Runners can pick up packets today from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lausmann Annex behind City Hall. They also can be picked up there at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.co
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