Crown City Classic ...

The 48th Crown City Classic marked the first road race in San Diego County since COVID-19 struck last year.

Dillon Breen, Jessica Tonn win Crown City Classic 12k races; 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifiers Steven Martinez and Erin Menefee place first overall in the 5k; Event marks San Diego’s first road race in over 16 months

On a cool, gun-metal gray Saturday morning, nirvana conditions for road racing, 2,273 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes took to the Coronado streets on the eve of the Fourth of July. For a town that celebrates Independence Day weekend like few others,- a parade, road race, ocean swim and fireworks, the morning was special.

The 48th Crown City Classic marked the first road race in San Diego County since COVID-19 struck last year.

“It’s so great to be back racing again,” said women’s 5K winner Erin Menefee, a San Diegan who won in 17 minutes, 38 seconds. “It’s been so long since we’ve had a chance to compete. My team has done some time trials, but that’s nothing like the real thing.

“Being with all the people, it’s so fun celebrating the Fourth of July. It feels like we’re back again. This is the real thing.”

Nearly four years ago, Menefee underwent open heart surgery for a rare congenital heart defect. Five months after the surgery she ran her first marathon. Barely two years after the surgery she qualified for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials.

“I’m finally back to who I was before,” Menefee said in 2019 after qualifying for the Olympic Trials.

The same could be said for the running world as a whole with Saturday’s return to local road racing. The runners started beneath a 1,500 square-foot American flag. There were costumed runners. There were faces painted red, white and blue. People wore stars and stripes compression socks. The Tidelands Park finish was lined with American flags.

In another sign that road racing was back to normal, the event featured numerous runners raising money for the Islander Sports Foundation. Ainsley’s Angels, which supports special needs children, offered a huge presence pushing children in chariots.

This year’s Crown City Classic featured a 12K, 5K and kids half-mile run. Why a 12K? Because it measures 7.4 miles, honoring 7/4, the Fourth of July.

The races started at Tidelands Park, beneath the Coronado Bridge and along Glorietta Boulevard. The 12K route cruised past the Hotel Del Coronado and ran along the Silver Strand.

Another 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, Seven Martinez of Chula Vista, won the men’s 5K in 14:46, a 4:45 per-mile pace. Martinez romped to a nearly one-minute win with Jyden Schmid finishing second in 15:41.

“You can’t beat San Diego, the weather, the people, you just can’t beat it,” said Martinez, who graduated from Otay Ranch High in 2012. “I was living in Georgia the last couple of years. There were races over there, but there were no clubs, there wasn’t much of a big community, running-wise. It wasn’t that important.

“Here, people love it. There are a bunch of clubs, a bunch of running groups. It’s a big family here.”

In a virtual photo finish, Dillon Breen won the men’s 12K in 37 minutes, 26 seconds, one second ahead of San Diegan Dylan Marx. Like Martinez, Marx qualified for the 2020 Olympic Trials, where he finished 35th.

In another sign that life was back to normal, Breen’s first words after crossing the finish line were, “I’m looking for the beer garden.”

Jessica Tonn of Phoenix eased to victory in the women’s 12K, touching the tape in 42:07, two minutes ahead of local Hilary Corno.

The real winners, though, were the entire running community and race director Jamie Monroe, a former Navy SEAL who gave the 2,273 participants the opportunity to pursue their passion.

“Nobody does the Fourth of July like Coronado and the Crown City Classic is such a big part of the fabric of the community,” said Monroe. “Nothing says freedom and that races are back, like this event on Independence Day weekend.”

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