How long does it take to get from downtown Frisco, up 1,500 feet to the top of Mount Royal? If you’re Greg Ruckman of Breckenridge, you could do it in 30 minutes and 20 seconds. For the second year in a row, the former Olympic rowing medalist and avid runner was first to the summit and crowned Frisco’s King of the Mountain, as a part of the second running of the Mount Royal Hill Climb 5K, Saturday.
But Ruckman, who finished first in Breckenridge’s half marathon and third in the arduous 23-mile Breck Crest race earlier this summer, was hardly the story. For spectators standing near the summit, seeing a shirtless Ruckman power up the final steep grade of the hill was no big surprise.
But seeing the competitors on his tail was enough to make a jaw drop. If there were any kind of time bonus for age of competitor, three top finishers all under the age of 13 would have smoked the former Olympian. Finishing second in the grueling run straight up the Mount Royal Trail’s substantial incline was a slender blond-haired 12-year-old, less than five feet tall. Tyler Scholl of Kremmling finished just 1:30 behind Ruckman.
After the race the young man gave an interview that sounded more like it was coming from a seasoned professional athlete.
“I was trying to go for the win,” the apparently media-savvy Scholl told the Summit Daily. He proceeded to discuss the amount of respect he had for Ruckman and how he couldn’t quite keep up with him in the end.
Scholl alone would have been the story on the day, but he was not alone in his peer group among top finishers.
Two more equally impressive young athletes summited Mount Royal within minutes of him.
While Kelly Ahern of Breckenridge was crowned Queen of the Mountain, with a finishing time of 36:05.6, second place went to 9-year-old Alayna Szuch, who finished less than three minutes behind her at 38:48.0, besting her mother, Caroline, in the process by almost 30 seconds.
“It was a hard one,” the younger Szuch said after the race. “You just had to keep going.”
The young girl’s inspiration? “I copy my brother,” she said. Her 11-year-old brother, Collin, finished sixth overall in 34:58.
“We run as a family,” Caroline said, almost as if it was no big deal that two children had bested most of the 59 other competitors racing to the finish line at the top of Mount Royal.
The family of runners proceeded to walk casually back down the trail as if they’d just been out for a stroll.
For others, Mount Royal clearly put up more of a fight. Although smiling, one runner crossed the finish at the summit with a definitive, “I’m never doing that again.” After finishing, she said, “I did it ’cause my friends said I couldn’t.”
Once they made their way back down the hill, competitors were treated to a post-race breakfast in the park on Frisco’s Main Street.