SANTA CRUZ—The return of the Wharf to Wharf Race didn’t start off as planned after a law enforcement officer on a motorcycle was stuck, forcing competitors to run around him.
It may have slightly thrown off Emmanuel Bor and the rest of the elite pack leaders as the group stayed together for what seemed like the entire race.
It wasn’t until near the end when the Keynan-born American long-distance runner waited to see who was going to try to come up on him after he took the lead.
That’s when he switched gears and Bor knew he had the race in the bag, finishing in 27 minutes, 17 seconds for the victory.
“I didn’t do anything, I was just trying to see who was going to make a move,” Bor said. “When they tried to go I responded. I waited, waited until the last minute and at 200 I just said ‘It’s time to go.’”
It was a nice win for Bor, yet, he said he felt like he didn’t compete hard enough from the get-go.
Bor was coming off a disappointing showing at the USA Track and Field 10,000-meter Championships after he fell down near the finish line.
He said he tried to bounce back in the 5,000 at the USATF Outdoor Championships but he also came up short with a fifth-place finish.
“For me, I don’t take this for granted to be able to use this time as useful,” he said.
And he’s always looking for his main motivator in his 5-year-old daughter, Olympia.
“She always tells me you’re gonna win the race and I’m sure she’s proud that I won,” Bor said.
There were an estimated 14,000 competitors who showed up for the 50th edition of the beloved race that sends them running a six-mile course from the Santa Cruz Wharf to the Capitola Wharf.
Bor earned a $4,000 payday for his win and a bonus of $1,000 for finishing as the top American.
Diego Estrada of Salinas was part of the lead pack and hung in there with Bor during the first three miles.
Estrada was on track of taking the lead until a tiny mishap at the roundabout near the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor forced him to lose some ground.
Estrada placed second in 27:19 and won $3,000 in prize money.
Kenyan Wesley Kiptoo, who earned a $2,000 payday, took third in 27:20 after leading much of the first four miles. Reid Buchanan (27:20) was right behind him in fourth and he earned $1,000 for his finish.
American Ednah Kurgat, who was born in Kenya, won the women’s division in 30:30 and also received the same payout as Bor.
Kurgat finished ahead of Kenyan Mary Mananu (31:02), Natalia Sulle (31:29) of Tanzania and Alycia Cridebring (31:34) of Pleasant Hill.
Kurgat said she was grateful for having the opportunity to compete and win the race.
“I feel great, I’m so happy about it,” she said.
Kurgat said she felt good prior to Sunday’s race and her strategy was to stick with the lead pack as long as she could. She also took advantage of the hills after having trained in Colorado where there’s a lot of hilly trails.
“I knew I was going to do good uphills and use the downhills [to my advantage],” she said.
Kurgat said she especially enjoyed having the mile markers with the bright colored balloons to help her stay focused along the race.
It was the first Wharf to Wharf Race for Kurgat and Bor, who both thought the event in itself was spectacular.
Kurgat mentioned something about being able to race along the beach as something special. Plus, the cool weather was just the cherry on top.
“The spectators along the way, the band, the music and all the positive vibes along the way were very great,” she said.
Bor said he was proud of the people that came up with this organization and all those who support the event.
“The ocean, it’s amazing,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, what a beautiful city.’ I would love to run here again.”
Locals excel in own backyard
Aptos High alumnus Jack Rose and Santa Cruz High alumna Mari Friedman were the top local male and female finishers, respectively.
Rose finished in 29:35 and was one of 16 runners to finish the race under 30 minutes.
The former Mariners and UC Santa Barbara standout said the whole time he didn’t feel too great.
“But I had some advice from my friend, Dane Garadone, who told me don’t go out too hard during the first mile,” he said.
Rose followed his friend’s advice and had his eyes on the pack the entire race, trying to catch them.
At one point, he thought the top local was ahead of him and he continued to feel pain until the crowd got him through it.
Rose ran in his fourth Wharf to Wharf Race and said each year is as special as the previous, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic derailed the race for two years.
He said being able to share the love of running and the love of the community is great to have once again.
“I know quite a few of the staff and [I’m] slightly involved in the running community here,” he said. “It’s a great event to have again in person and bring together friends and family like we haven’t had since before Covid. It’s just extra special this time.”
Rose said the amount of participation for the Wharf to Wharf is large for such a short race in such a relatively small town. He also mentioned the energy from the crowd and the bands along the way is something like no other.
“I was glad this race was able to happen again in person because it can bring together so many friends and family unlike before,” Rose said.
Friedman, who was one of the top local favorites, finished in 33:32 and was the sixth-fastest woman to finish the race just behind Abbie McNulty (33:00) of San Francisco.
“This is all a blur but I’m really happy, I’m really excited,” Friedman said.
Friedman, who attends Oregon State University, said Wharf to Wharf has been one of her favorites races to run since she was at Santa Cruz High.
“I always did it with all of my friends and coming down after not doing it for two years, the energy and how happy everyone is, is unmatched to any other experience,” she said.
Prior to the race, Friedman put in some major work after a hardcore training session in her final cross country season with the Beavers.
“I did a workout on Friday that just killed my legs, so I didn’t know how I was going to be feeling,” she said.
Friedman said she ended up going out a little faster than she was expecting to, but she still felt great throughout the race.
“I said to myself there’s no reason to slow down, let’s just go for it,” she said. “And that’s what I did. I kind of tried to pick it up every single mile and pass as many boys as I could.”
It was Friedman’s first time winning the top local spot. She said there’s always been some stiff competition from other locals in the past including Nikki Hiltz of Aptos High, Vanessa Fraser of Scotts Valley High and Anna Maxwell of San Lorenzo Valley High.
“Some of the greatest runners that I’ve been looking up to have run this course,” Friedman said.
Friedman said she’s just thrilled she gets to say she is from Santa Cruz, which she believes is a big running community unlike any other.
“I am really proud to be from here and to be the top local, it’s really special,” she said.