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Gil-Juarez captures Fourth title

ASHLAND — Friends and loved ones got a rare chance to see Jorge Gil-Juarez run in person on Monday.

After all, the former Phoenix High athlete now goes to school at Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky.

With his folks in attendance, Gil-Juarez defended his title at the 40th annual Fourth of July Run.

"It's a special moment when you know you are going to win the race again, and it was even more special this year because both parents watched my race," said Gil-Juarez, who ran for the NCAA Division I Eagles and, earlier, for the Pirates. "It's hard to watch when you live across the country."

The 22-year-old Gil-Juarez won the 10,000-meter race downtown in 33 minutes, 38 seconds.

Ashland's EJ Holland was second (35:57) and Chris Mayer of Middlefield, Conn., was third (35:59).

Melissa Penwell of Rocklin, Calif., earned the women's crown after finishing the 6.2-mile run in 38 minutes, 35 seconds.

Ashland's Marissa Dobry (a recent St. Mary's High graduate set to run at the University of California Berkeley) took second (40:33) and Elaina Mertens Biechler of Dubuque, Iowa, was third (41:23).

Gil-Juarez let his running maturity guide him on Monday.

"Three miles is easy to get to, it's mostly downhill, then miles 3-5 are when you mentally have to get tough and that last mile should be easy because you are going to be done and you have the home crowd cheering," said Gil-Juarez, who will return to Kentucky this fall for his senior year as a health promotion major (his college athletic eligibility has expired).

Penwell grew up in Eugene and ran for Churchill High before competing in rowing at Oregon State University. She picked up her interest in running three years ago when she moved to California.

Penwell claimed fourth in the 2014 Fourth of July Run and third last year.

"Running is really big around (Rocklin) and I didn't know anybody when I moved there, so joined up with a club," the 29-year-old said. "It's been a lot of fun."

Penwell and Dobry kept pace together for some time before Penwell started to pull away toward the end.

"I think it is a tough course because it starts downhill and you feel great and it finishes uphill, so that last mile and a half is rough," said Penwell, who will next compete in the San Francisco Half Marathon. "I ran with Marissa for the first half of the race and she kept me running fast downhill. ... There are a lot of hills where I live so I'd say my strength is catching people on the uphill. I don't like hill finishes, but it worked to my advantage."

The Fourth of July Run kicked off in 1977 and is a fundraiser for the Ashland High and Phoenix High cross country programs. It is the third oldest annual race in southern Oregon.

Penwell's time was the fifth fastest by a woman in the history of the race. Meanwhile, Dobry's mark broke the age 13-19 record set by Camelia Mayfield.

In the 2-miler, Alex Franklin of Ashland won the men's crown in 11:01. Christian Hill of Ashland was second (11:11) and Ashland's Arlo Davis third (11:30). On the women's side, Ashland's Amelia Bueche claimed first (12:22), Salem's Taitum Schaap second (13:04) and Sarah Anderson of Yorba Linda, Calif., third (13:45).

Fourth of July Run

10 kilometers

(Top 15)

At Ashland

Men

1, Jorge Gil-Juarez, Morehead, Ky., 33:38; 2, EJ Holland, Ashland, 35:57; 3, Chris Mayer, Middlefield, Conn., 35:59; 4, Robert Julian Jr., Phoenix, 36:59; 5, Jayson Swigart, Boulder, Colo., 38:04; 6, Zac Morel, Talent, 38:56; 7, Hal Koerner, Ashland, 38:57; 8, Noble Boutin, Ashland, 39:13; 9, Matthew Richards, Ashland, 39:17; 10, Sean Nesbitt, Denver, 39:26; 11, Maciej Simm, Phoenix, 39:42; 12, Gregorio Alegria, Medford, 40:17; 13, Drake Knowles, Phoenix, 40:40; 14, Grif Wilder, Gold Hill, 41:09; 15, Joshua Thorpe, Portland, 41:16.

Women

1, Melissa Penwell, Rocklin, Calif., 38:35; 2, Marissa Dobry, Ashland, 40;33; 3, Elaina Mertens Biechler, Dubuque, Iowa, 41:23; 4, Annie Ware, Elverta, Calif., 41:38; 5, Blake Chronister, Medford, 42:03; 6, Emma Amundsen, Talent, 43:48; 7, Nikki Steinsiek, Ashland, 44:19; 8, Riley Smith, Ashland, 44:23; 9, Sandy Newsome, Medford, 44:32; 10, Stefani Ritter, Talent, 45:07; 11, Dorsey Dobry, Ashland, 45:59; 12, Livvy Ramos, Ashland, 46:16; 13, Sarah Strickler, Central Point, 46:38; 14, Jennifer Nidalmia, Medford, 46:42; 15, Maya Nerenberg, Ventura, Calif., 47:06.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt

Melissa Penwell pushes to the finish to take the Fourth of July Run women's title. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON
Jorge Gil-Juarez makes his way through downtown Ashland en route to victory Monday. PHOTO BY ANDY ATKINSON