12,000 running stars come out for debut; finish line performance by current chart-toppers Neon Trees at L.A.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa led a field of more than 12,000 entrants who rocked the first ever Dodge Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon on Sunday morning. While the celebrities received most of the pre-race attention at the start line, it was a couple of California runners who stole the show at the finish line.

Employing an emphatic move with three quarters of a mile to go in the race, 36-year-old Jacques Sallberg of Pasadena pulled away from Lafayette, Louisiana's Kevin Castille to win in 01:6:27.

Castille, who finished fifth in 01:06:47 at the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon three weeks before, had no response for Sallberg's sensational surge but held on to finish second in 1:06:45.


"My only goal was to win," said Sallberg, who ran a personal best by almost two minutes. "I live close to here so this was real exciting. I'm in good shape and getting ready for a full marathon in a few weeks so this is a big confidence boost for me."

Oceanside's Sergio Gonzalez, who won the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon in early June, rounded out the top three with a 1:07:55 finish.

Sallberg and Castille separated themselves from the rest of the field just before the 5 mile mark. The pair ran together for the next seven and a half miles, trading jabs up and down the hills that made up the second half of the point-to point route, before an exciting final mile heading into the finish line downtown. Castille tried to make a decisive surge up and over the Beaudry Avenue Hill with a mile and a half to go, but Sallberg wouldn't let him get too far ahead.


"He helped me out a lot," Sallberg said of Castille. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have run that fast."


In the women's race, the second time was the charm for Arroyo Grande's Linda Somers Smith, as the 49 year old 1996 U.S. Olympic marathoner won in dominating fashion. Crossing the finish line in 1:14:48, Smith outdistanced herself from the runner-up Cheryl Smith of Laguna Beach by 3 minutes and 24 seconds.

"I was hoping to run around 1:16," said Smith, who was preparing for the ING New York City Marathon on November 7. "I tried to hold back, but I felt good."


This was the second Rock 'n' Roll event this month for the evergreen Smith, who ran a pending U.S. 45-49 age group record of 1:13:31 in finishing second to 2008 U.S. Olympic marathoner Blake Russell at the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon on October 3.

Finishing in third place behind Somers Smith and Cheryl Smith was Johanna Bonfiglio of Carlsbad, who clocked 1:19:19.

A handful of notable celebrities participated in the race, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was accompanied along the course by 2004 Olympic bronze medalist and mum-to-be Deena Kastor, actors Jerry O'Connell (1:50:45) and James Marsden (1:50:44), along with former NFL great Roger Craig.





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