Tam High School freshman -- former Dipsea Kidz runner -- wins Jingle Bells 5K in Sausalito

Lucas Ruark in an interview after the race

Lucas Ruark, a 14-year-old Tamalpais High School freshman from Marin City, has many goals as a competitive runner including someday winning a coveted Black Shirt in the Annual Dipsea Race.

On Sunday, he achieved one of his goals, though quite unexpectedly.

Ruark was leading the annual Jingle Bells 5K in Sausalito on Sunday and was looking around for someone to help pace him, even a teammate.

“That’s when I realized I had never won this race before,” Ruark said. “So I decided it was time to win it.”

Ruark, in fact, blew away the field with a winning time was 16:54. He was followed across the finish line by 48-year-old Sergio Higareda, the defending race champion from San Rafael, then 39-year-old Noah Lang (another Marin County runner) and Ruark’s Tam High cross-country teammate, 16-year-old Ben Wilheim. Redwood High School graduate Lucie James, 22, was the first female finisher and seventh overall. Allison Kegley, 44, of San Rafael was the second female finisher, placing 13th overall.

The event was contested on a flat out-and-back course along the Sausalito waterfront as rain clouds parted and attracted television coverage from KTVU Fox2 in Oakland and KRON4 in San Francisco. More than 150 runners registered for the race, which benefits the Dipsea Race Foundation’s Dipsea Kidz program and Sausalito-on-the-Waterfront’s Child Education and Activity Fund program.

The Dipsea Kidz is a youth development program available to students at Bayside MLK Academy in Sausalito and Venetia Valley School in San Rafael free of charge. It is fully coached by experienced dedicated coaches. Students learn about proper warm up, efficient running form and healthy nutritional options, as well as other training related specifics. Workouts challenge each student to his or her abilities. They meet two-days-a-week after school throughout the school calendar year. Students range from grades four through eight.

That’s when and where Ruark started his running career.

“I was a soccer player before and I wanted to get more stamina, so I started running with the Dipsea Kidz and met (program manager and head coach) Ana Levaggi,” Ruark said. “She gave me an opportunity and after that I started to love running. She helped train me and make me run faster.”

Ruark, who participated and competed in the Dipsea Kidz program while in grades four through seven, is now volunteering on Sundays to help and mentor younger Dipsea Kidz runners. He finished 50th in the 2021 Dipsea Race. The top 35 finishers earn a Dipsea Black Shirt.

The 112th Dipsea Race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach is scheduled Sunday, June 11, 2023.

The Jingle Bells 5K race capped Sausalito’s Winterfest weekend celebration that featured the free Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks Show on Saturday.

The Dipsea Race Foundation is a charitable non-profit (501(c) 3) corporation whose mission is “to inspire our community and beyond to support the tradition of the Dipsea Race, the maintenance of the Dipsea Trail, and the legacy for current and future generations.” It was established in 1997 to protect and promote the race and the values it represents. After a century of existence, the race has become an essential part of the community and cross-country running; the Foundation was created to preserve the race for future generations. The Dipsea Race Foundation has three main goals: to preserve the race and the trail for current and future generations, to support the entities and organizations that control the property over which the trail winds, and to encourage boys and girls from all backgrounds to appreciate and protect the Dipsea and other trails on Mt. Tam.

Visit the Dipsea Race Foundation website at www.dipseafoundation.org.