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Chris Platano gains momentum down Hanley Hill after passing the halfway mark. Photo by Denise Baratta.

Platano captures Pear Blossom men’s race

It’s payback time for Chris Platano.

On Saturday, the Portland runner got a measure of revenge against the Pear Blossom Run 10-mile course that had bullied him the previous two times they crossed paths.

“Both times I kind of struggled on the course,” said Platano, “and I wanted to get some redemption today and run a lot better.”

Redemption is a continuing theme for the former Myrtle Point High and Willamette University track and field and cross country runner.

“I’m getting a little redemption post-college,” he grinned. “I feel like I’m running a little faster than I did in college. It’s nice to keep it going.”

Platano cruised to victory in 52 minutes, 24.16 seconds.

An employee of Nike and a member of the Bowerman Track Club, Platano was in the clear from the get-go, establishing a comfortable pace for himself and sticking to it.

“He just took off,” runner-up Daniel Lindstrom of Central Point said, gesturing with the wave of a hand.

Lindstrom, himself a former collegiate runner at the University of California, Riverside, finished in 56:35.65. He was followed by Levi Jackson of Central Point in 57:12.50, Jace Hinesly of Ashland in 57:22.60 and Neil Olsen of Central Point in 59:07.53.

The 42nd edition of the race went off without a trio of champions who accounted for 11 of the previous 15 victories, including seven by Max King. The other two absentees were Cole Watson, the course-record holder (49:05) and winner of the previous two Pear Blossoms, and Trevor Palmer, who triumphed in 2014 and ‘15.

In his two prior races here, Platano placed second to Watson in 2016 and was fifth three years ago when Palmer won.

Platano knows King and Watson “decently,” he said.

“When they show up, it’s always, ‘Ah, geez,’ you know?” said Platano, who was drawn to the Pear Blossom while visiting the family of his girlfriend, former South Medford athlete Kristen Gillingham.

King and Watson “are at a little bit different level than me,” he said, “but it’s always fun when they are in the race to see how close you can get to them.”

Platano actually did have success in the prep and college ranks.

He placed second in Class 2A cross country as a senior for the Bobcats, and was fourth in the state in the 1,500 and 3,000 in track that school year.

At Willamette, he won the conference steeplechase crown but didn’t make it to nationals.

“A lot of seconds,” he mused.

But not on this day.

Platano’s goal was to run 5:15 miles as steadily as he could. He was in the dark the first couple miles.

“It was kind of funny,” he said. “My watch messed up and I didn’t know what I was running the first two miles. Then around Mile 3, I got 5:15 exactly, so it worked out well.”

Remarkably well, actually. His pace for the 10 miles was right at 5:15.

He fought his way up the hill on Hanley Road before the turnaround at Ross Lane, then made his way back.

Despite not having anyone to push him, it wasn’t a walk in the park.

Aside from beautiful scenery and enthusiastic crowds lining the streets, said Platano, “Nothing’s too pleasant about it.”

In his previous two Pear Blossoms, he got “ate up on the hill both times,” he said. “That’s an amazing course. It’s super flat, but super deceptive because that hill is no joke. It takes it out of you.”

Lindstrom was in the race for the second time, having finished fourth in 2016. He would have run a year ago, he said, but his wife was having their third child at the time.

Based on his performance, his goals were modest: finish in the top 10 and break 57 minutes.

“I don’t run like I used to,” said the 2010 UC Riverside graduate. “I have three kids and I’m a pharmacist. I don’t run as much.

“I felt real good. After that hill, I felt it though. I just crested it and pushed myself down.”

Corey Hartgrave of Grants Pass won the wheelchair/handcycle 10-mile race for the 11th time.

In the 5-kilometer race, Matthew Medina of White City claimed the men’s title in 18:12.02. Grif Wilder of Gold Hill was second in 18:32.50, and Medford’s Peyton Shepard was third in 18:33.07.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com

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