King out, Gage (or Klimek) is back for Pear Blossom Run

The Pear Blossom Run will have a new men’s champion this year. No, Max King won’t be beaten. The seven-time winner won’t be here to add to his record number of victories, electing instead to compete in a 50-mile race in California.

Women’s defending champion, Marci Gage (formerly Klimek), will be back and will attempt to become only the second to win the women’s race three straight times.

With an open men’s field, it’s hard to predict who will prevail, but a few names stick out. Former Southern Oregon All-American distance runner David Laney is in it for the first time, as is Lauren Jespersen, who starred at Klamath Union, then ran for Stanford, ending his career in 2008. Laney has been competing regularly, but Jespersen has turned his attention to his family and work and runs primarily for fun these days. His quote to me: “Good luck finding a better story.” He was very good-natured about it.

Another threat should be Trevor Palmer, former Crater and SOU runner. He gave Drew Jordan a run for his money in the Ashland Fourth of July race last summer. Jordan, from North Medford, is enjoying a solid distance career at Washington State.

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