Tuesday, March 6, 2012

World Class Mountain Runners Take Titles in Washington

March 3, 2012

OLYMPIA, WASH.- Guerilla Running’s 2nd edition of the “Mountain Marathon and Hillbilly Half” provided the opportunity for some of the best mountain runners in the country to test their legs on the under-respected trails of the Capitol State Forest west of Olympia.

This year’s Hillbilly Half teamed up with the La Sportiva Mountain Cup as the fourth stop in their ten race series. The series offers runners from around the country to compete for points. The highest accumulated points in their best in five races put competitors in contention for a piece of the total prize purse of $25,000. Several runners traveled from various places in the country to compete.

Gina Luarezi of Carbondale, Colo. came into the race as the leader of the La Sportiva Cup, having run both the Moab Red Hot 33k and the Ugly Mudder 7 Mile Trail Run this year. Luarezi finished 10th overall in a time of 1:49:26.97, a seven minute lead over her nearest rival Christina Bauer (14th,1:56:56.47),and a new course record. Bauer (Flagstaff, Ariz) came into the race in 5th place in the Mountain Cup standings. Luarezi and Bauer are first time competitors in the Mountain Cup and are looking strong in the overall standings after today. Local runner Sarah Kjorstad (Tacoma, Wash.) was the third finisher in 25th place (2:02:57.90).

The first four finishers in the men’s division were all from out of Washington. Winner Matthew Byrne of Scranton, Penn surprised 2011 Mountain Cup winner Jared Scott (Grand Canyon, Ariz) by navigating the challenging conditions better than anyone today. Byrne, runner-up in the 2011 Mountain Cup, set a course record by nearly ten minutes with his time of 1:26:27.91. Scott was three minutes back in 1:29:38.10. Another Arizonian, Robert Krar (Flagstaff) finished less than a minute back from Scott in third (1:30:16.38). All three were in the top four of this year’s standings coming into the event.
Guerilla Running was more than happy to host such talented athletes, who made a great impression not only for their speed but their friendly and enthusiastic selves. The next stop on the Mountain Cup is the “Hell's Hills 25K” in Smithville, Tex. on April 7th.

At each race La Sportiva partners with the race directors to select someone in a series race for the “Standout Award.” Guerilla Running and La Sportiva voted on Wendy Neidig for this award. Neidig (41) of Centralia, Wash. is new to trail running and today’s race was not only her first trail race but her first ever half marathon. A regular in Guerilla Running training runs, Neidig has sprinted into the spirit of mixing community values with the life changing benefits running can bring. For this Neidig received a gift package from La Sportiva and their partners.

Words used to describe the Mountain Marathon course ranged from “gnarly” and “awesome” to “brutal” and “sadistic”. While just 58 runners of the 70 starters finished the race, oddsmakers might have bet less after surveying the course. The 2011 race had to alter both courses, eliminating much of the elevation and trail sections runners experienced today. For runners to better, or come close to bettering, the winning times in this year’s race was indeed impressive.

Despite the conditions, the top two finishers made the race look easy. Partners Sean Meissner and Cassie Scallon, of Sisters and Tigard, Ore. respectively, finished with smiles on their muddy faces. The two finished exactly five minutes apart with Meissner finishing in 4:14:34 to Scallon’s 4:19:34. The two are no strangers to trail running and Meissner directs a great Northwest event each April, “The Peterson Ridge Rumble”.

Thanks to a great crew of volunteers throughout the course, including Thurston County Search and Rescue, everyone made it out of the mountains relatively unbroken.

Special thanks to Guerilla Running for providing this article! 

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