Breck racer Merrill wins Everest Award |

Breck racer Merrill wins Everest Award

DEVON ONEILsummit daily news
Summit Daily file photo/Kristin Skvorc

VAIL Monique Merrill became the second consecutive Summit County female to win one of the top individual honors in adventure racing last weekend, when she was named this years Everest Award winner during the Teva Mountain Games in Vail.Dillons Danelle Ballengee won the award last year, along with mens honoree Mike Kloser of Vail. This year, the 36-year-old Breckenridge resident Merrill was chosen ahead of Lisa Jhung and former Summit resident Jari Kirkland. Vails Billy Mattison was the mens winner.The Everest Awards are given annually to athletes in five sports: adventure racing, mountain biking, climbing, trail running, whitewater paddle sports and expedition. The honorees, according to the award definition, are those whose skill and innovation have pushed their sport to new heights and redefined the parameters of the achievable. They are pioneers, innovators, leaders, change agents and reflect the soul of the sport.Merrill, never one to consider herself a favorite, was accordingly surprised when she won.When an athlete is nominated, they ask for a bio, a video, pictures and articles, she said. And I basically just sent them a bio. I just didnt have time.At the awards dinner on Saturday night, she said she was 100 percent sure she was not going to win. Then she did.So then I was petrified because I had to speak in front of 250 people, and I can race for five days but I cant speak in front of a crowd like that, she said.I won this huge wine bottle, which maybe Ill open when I get married (shes engaged to ski mountaineering national champion Pete Swenson), or when my house gets built, or when the Grace makes money, she said in jest, referring to the healthfood store she owns in downtown Breckenridge, Amazing Grace. Itll be one of those three big occasions.Operating on just one hour of sleep after the banquet finally ended, Merrill helped her team finish fifth in the Teva Games adventure sprint race. Although drained, she still found time to share a lunchtime beer with some of the other winners from Saturday night.The magnitude of the honor hit her in a simple, telling fashion.Obviously someone thought something about me is inspirational, and that meant a lot to me, she said.Devon ONeil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at

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