Virginia Runner Claims Surprise Victory at Hoag OC Marathon

May 8, 2024
  • Celebratory Atmosphere Marks the 20th Edition on Cinco de Mayo Sunday
  • Top marathon runner disqualified for unauthorized assistance rule violation

COSTA MESA, Calif. — May 8, 2024 /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – The 20th edition of the Hoag OC Marathon Running Festival, held on Cinco de Mayo, combined a festive atmosphere with competitive spirit as thousands raced from Newport Beach to the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. This year’s event was not only a celebration of endurance and community but also hosted the prestigious RRCA Marathon Championships, drawing a record number of participants.

Among the marathon participants Gabriella Smith, a 26-year-old from Lynchburg, Virginia, emerged victorious, narrowly outpacing Annika Mellquist of Gardena, California.

It’s surreal,” said Smith, a first-time marathon competitor and mother of an 11-month-old. “I never expected to win.”

The scenic course, known for its picturesque views along the Back Bay and through Santa Ana, received high praise from participants.

“This course is incredible,” added Smith. “It’s perfect if you’re trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon.”

In the half-marathon, local favorite Ashlee Powers, who grew up in Newport Beach, clinched the women’s title in 1:18:18, beating second-place finisher Hannah Chau of Huntington Beach by 27 seconds. Powers, an alumna of Corona Del Mar High School, expressed pride in her roots.

“It’s an honor to compete in my hometown for the first time, on the very roads where I trained in high school,” said Powers, who recently competed at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February. “The course is beautiful, one of the most beautiful that I’ve done and it’s run really efficiently. Compared to other marathons I’ve done, it’s great.”

Steven Martinez, a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier from San Diego County, took the men’s half-marathon crown in 1:06:42, with veteran master’s runner Roosevelt Cook of Hesperia finishing second. Martinez, who was coming off a hip flexor injury, was satisfied with his performance.

“I’m happy with the win,” Martinez said. “The crowd, the energy was amazing.”

In an unfortunate incident, a top competitor was disqualified for receiving unauthorized assistance, a decision that underscored the event’s commitment to fairness and adherence to USA Track & Field rules. Jason Yang of San Pedro was declared the men’s marathon winner with a time of 2:25:11.

“We were forced to disqualify a participant after it was confirmed they received unauthorized assistance from two individuals on bicycles,” said OC Marathon Race Director Gary Kutscher. “We take these rules seriously to ensure the integrity of our event for all competitors.”

This year marked the first time the event was sponsored by Hoag, a nonprofit regional health care system in Orange County known for its comprehensive, personalized care and network of 1,800 physicians, urgent care facilities and award-winning hospitals. The marathon route passed near Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, highlighting the connection between the 20-year community tradition and the health care provider.

“The OC Marathon is a great event for us to showcase how we can keep people healthy and make sure that we’ll be there when they need us,” said Andrew Guarni, Hoag’s chief financial officer. “We would much rather see them running and be outside living their best life than being in the hospital. We think it’s a perfect match.”

The Hoag OC Marathon Running Festival will return for its 21st edition on Sunday, May 4, 2025. For complete results, photos and more, visit www.OCmarathon.com.

About the Hoag OC Marathon

The 21st annual Hoag OC Marathon Running Festival returns to the seaside streets of Orange County, California the weekend of May 2-4, 2024. The Hoag OC Marathon weekend showcases three days of events, including the Kids Run the OC mile, the U.S. Bank OC 5K at sunset on Saturday and Sunday’s Marathon and Half Marathon. The race is a convenient destination event for runners, with the beaches, theme parks and near perfect weather. A free two-day OC Lifestyle & Fitness Expo at the OC Fair and Event Center kicks off race weekend, featuring fitness retailers, exhibits and interactive clinics. Over the history of the race, runners have raised over $9.5 million for a variety of charities and local non-profit organizations. For more information or to register for the race, visit OCmarathon.com.

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