51st annual Crown City Classic to kickoff 4th of July Celebrations in Coronado

One of America’s best, defending champion Jess McClain Returns to join 2,5000 runners at San Diego’s favorite Red White and Blue running tradition

by Don Norcross

Coronado, CA – July 3, 2024 Shortly after making a U-turn on the Silver Strand bike path at the halfway mark of last year’s Crown City Classic 12K, Jess McClain took the lead.

Not first among the women. First among the men, women, and children. First as in not a single soul in front of her. Soon, the cries from runners jogging in the opposite direction and spectators lining the course filled McClain’s ears.

“Let’s go, girl.”

“You go, girl.”

Go, McClain did—all the way to the Tidelands Park finish line, becoming the first woman in the 50-year history of the annual Coronado road race to beat all the men. McClain finished the 7.4-mile race on the Fourth of July in 41:30. Daniel McCarty finished second in 43:24.

“She just ran her race, did her thing, and was able to really make a name for herself,” said race director Jamie Monroe. “I thought it was pretty amazing.”

Come Thursday morning, McClain will be back to defend her title. Coronado and the Crown City Classic have become a second home for the 32-year-old. Her in-laws live part-time on the Island, and Thursday will mark the fourth year in a row she’s laced up her running shoes and tackled the course.

In addition to being the overall winner in 2023, McClain won the women’s race in 2021 and 2022.

“As far as patriotism goes, you can’t get much better than the Crown City Classic,” said McClain, who lives in Phoenix. “It’s just such a fun way to get out of bed and kick off the Fourth of July.

“It’s fun to see family and friends running together. You have the wheelchair athletes out there. There are rock bands playing oldies after the race. I always jog home, shower, and head out to the parade (which will be held for the 75th year). I pretty much spend all day with family. The race is a great way to kick off the fun to come that day.”

McClain’s Crown City Classic victory proved to be an omen of amazing accomplishments to come for the woman who was a seven-time All-American at Stanford.

In February, McClain placed fourth at the U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in Orlando, Florida, finishing in 2:25:46, a 3-minute, 38-second PR. The performance earned her a Brooks sponsorship, and she’s the first alternate for the Paris Olympics.

In June, she placed fifth at the New York Mini 10K in 31:22, eclipsing even her 10K track PR.

And on Saturday, she finished fourth in the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Trials in 32:04.57.

Her fourth-place performance at the Marathon Trials is eye-dropping for multiple reasons. McClain didn’t run her first marathon (and still hasn’t raced a half marathon) until three days before her 30th birthday.

“It was a bucket list item,” she said.

She ran 2:33:35 that day in Mesa, Arizona, which met the Olympic qualifying standard, but the course wasn’t certified. In her second go at 26.2 miles, McClain clocked a 2:29:24 last year at Grandma’s Marathon.

Then came the fourth-place finish at the Trials. Of her performance that day, she said, “I was just really stoked, knowing in my mind I ran really well, focusing on competing rather than the clock.”

It’s been said placing fourth in the Trials is the most agonizing of finishes. Almost, but not quite good enough to represent your country in the Olympics. McClain’s 2:25:46 was just 15 seconds behind the third-place finisher.

“Days after the race, it was more frustrating for me (than race day),” said McClain. “I realized how close, how short of a distance 15 seconds is over 26 miles. You always look back, the woulda, coulda, shouldas. What could I have done? But if I hadn’t run my own race, I don’t know if I would have finished as well as I did. I didn’t know I was in fourth place until 800 meters (to go).”

She wasn’t as disappointed placing fourth Saturday in the Trials at the 10,000, where she finished 18.01 seconds behind Karissa Schweizer, who earned the last Olympic spot.

“If it was going to be a tactical race, I knew I didn’t quite have the wheels to hang with those other women the last mile,” she said.

As for how much McClain loves Coronado and the Crown City Classic, she reached out to Monroe via Instagram to ask if she could receive an entry.

“It feels like my home away from home,” she said.

“There are a lot of other places she could go (race on the Fourth of July),” said Monroe. “For her to come here, on our Independence Day Race, we feel so honored.”

Come Thursday morning, McClain fully expects the men to be targeting her.

“I’d love to have some men run with me,” she said. “It’d be great to have some company.”

Knowing the times McClain has clocked this past year, Monroe issued the following challenge to the rest of the field: “If someone’s going to beat her this time, they’re going to have to work hard to do it.”

The Crown City Classic 5K and 12K begin at 7 a.m. About 2,500 runners will participate. Another 200-300 children will race the half-mile at Tidelands Park at 8:30.

The race is deeply rooted in the Coronado community. The bulk of the volunteers are from Coronado Middle School and Coronado High School.

The race annually donates $20,000 to the Islander Sports Foundation, which helps pay for uniforms and coaches at the two schools. For more information about the race, visit www.RunCoronado.com.


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