DIXON – Rock Falls rising junior Dawson Smith stood eager to break early from a line of contenders at the starting line of the 19th annual Reagan Run 5K Saturday morning.
Smith’s gun time and chip time were the exact same, as he crossed first in 16:00.1 to take top honors.
“I thought I had a decent chance,” Smith said. “We went out really hard at a 5:02 pace. In the middle, I just wanted to hang around. When we entered the woods and started going uphill, I just kept the same pace.”
Smith has been competing in the Reagan Run for 8 years, cracking the top 10 in 2016 with an eighth-place finish of 17:04.31. Instead of running in the 2017 race, the Rockets’ distance ace attended the University of Oregon’s running camp.
Course familiarity played a huge role in helping Smith to his first Reagan Run victory.
“It helped a lot,” he said. “I knew the course, so I knew where to make my moves to the front.”
Matt Smith, Dawson’s father, won the male Master’s Division with a time of 18:05.6. Matt took up running so he could help Dawson train, and the decision has been mutually beneficial for the father-son duo.
“He’s probably one of my biggets supporters,” Dawson Smith said. “He pushes me to work as hard as I do.”
Indiana recuit and 2017 Reagan Run champion Jake Gebhardt finished second in 16:11.9. Dixon’s Collin Grady took third (16:25.7), New York resident Jeffrey Mayer was fourth (16:38.0) and Dixon’s Christian Seagren finished fifth in 16:44.2.
“Jake Gebhardt and Collin Grady did really well. It was a fun race,” Smith said. “I figured [Gebhardt] would come back, because last year I heard he waited to make his move. I figured he’d do that, and I heard people yelling at me that he was coming.”
Smith is hoping to have the same cross country success that Gebhardt experienced after his Reagan Run victory. The recent Sterling grad finished second at the 2017 Class 2A state meet, a race that saw Smith finish 15th.
“It gives me a lot of confidence that I can hold pace,” Smith said. “I also have a better kick now, so I’m excited to see what I can do this fall at the state cross country meet.”
Jessica Iasparro (née Langford) returned to the top of the podium in the female division, crossing the finish line first with a time of 18:24.2. Iasparro, 47, won four consecutive Reagan Run titles from 2009-12, but her fifth victory comes on the heels of a near-death experience last spring.
The 1989 Winnebago graduate had an emergency C-section while delivering her sixth child, Isabel.
“I had Isabel in April of 2017. It was a scary and difficult delivery,” Iasparro said. “I lost a lot of blood, and I was worried about getting my body back and getting my and hemoglobin back up. Running helped a lot. It made me feel stronger, but it’s been a tough recovery.”
Three months later, she competed in the SwedishAmerican State Street Mile in her native Rockford. Iasparro won her first of 10 State Street Mile titles at the age of 19, and her goal is to capture victory No. 11 this August.
Iasparro ran cross country and track at the University of Minnesota after high school, and went on to help as a graduate assistant at Washington University in St. Louis. She was an assistant on Dixon cross country coach Evan Thorpe’s staff in 2010 and 2011.
Iasparro woke up excited to run a good time thanks to cool temperatures Saturday.
“That first mile is always very fast. I went out in 5:22,” she said. “I love the second mile with the woods and hills, and I really love every part of this course.”
The experienced runner felt good entering the third mile, and an old friend gave her the vote of confidence she needed to finish strong.
“I saw Evan Thorpe, and he said that I looked great and that no one was behind me,” Iasparro said. “I felt very easy and relaxed coming in, but enjoyed the back-and-forth with the other runners.”
Defending female champion Kayla Roth took second with a time of 19:14.5.