Olympia's king of the road

OLYMPIA – Think you’ve got what it takes to win a road race?

Before entering a local competition you might want to make sure Jesse Stevick’s name isn’t on the entry list.

The 2000 Olympia High graduate is putting together something of a monopoly on local events, having won the last four Capital City Marathons prior to adding a win in the 8K portion of the 34th annual Lakefair Run on Saturday morning at Heritage Park.

The 27-year-old Stevick ran for Whitworth College and participated in the Lakefair Run two previous times before finishing Saturday’s race in 25 minutes, 57 seconds – 24 seconds faster than the second place finisher.

So all those marathon wins must make a little 8K – which is 4.97 miles – seem like a cakewalk, right?

“In terms of racing, I like the mile on the track and I like the marathon,” said Stevick, whose wife Jenny, a Black Hills High graduate, also participated and finished first in the female age 25-29 group. “Distances in between I really don’t like all that much.”

Jacob Smith is a fan of the shorter distances, as well. Smith and his family came all the way from Wenatchee so Smith could compete in the event for the second straight year. Their time was well spent.

Smith, 15, went into a sprint after the race’s final turn to edge out Nick Harvey, 9:21.1 to 9:22.3, to take first in the 3K portion of the event. Smith placed fourth in last year’s competition.

The soon-to-be Wenatchee High sophomore runs cross country as well as the 1,600 and 3,200 during the track and field season for the Panthers. Smith thinks he’ll come back to defend his Lakefair crown next year but thinks he’ll stick with what he knows best.

“I came out last year and I really had a good time so I wanted to come back this year,” he said. “I’ll probably come back next year, but I don’t know about doing the (8K).”

The men’s 8K record was broken in last year’s race by Olympia High alumni John Moore. This year it was time for a couple of competitors on the women’s side to make some history.

Claudia Copeland not only set a new mark in the women’s 8K, the Olympia resident destroyed the old one. Copeland, 32, finished the event in 27:35.4, besting the old record (29:32) by nearly two minutes while placing 10th among all competitors – men and women – in the event.

Copeland was born in Romania and will have been in the United States for 12 years in December. As a high schooler, her Romanian cross country squad competed in the world championships twice and placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in her junior and senior seasons. Copeland hadn’t raced competitively in 14 years and trained for the Lakefair Run the past six months before setting the new standard.

“I’m very proud of me,” she said. “I have a long history with running and I have big dreams so we’ll see where it goes.”

Copeland shared the spotlight with a couple of other runners. One was Karen Steen, who also broke the old women’s record as she placed second in the women’s 8K with a time of 29:30.1. The second was Katherine Copeland, Claudia’s 10-year-old daughter, who finished first in the 14-and-under age group in the 8K with a time of 35:47.3 – more than 15 minutes faster than the second-place finisher.

The warm, sunny, but a bit overcast day also saw a larger than normal turnout of 640 registered competitors. That figure is about 75 runners more than last year’s event and the largest number co-organizer Kevin Wright said he could remember in his 13 years with the event.