Listen: Oldest Imperial Challenge racer describes what it took to cross finish line
At about 2 p.m. last Saturday at the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 8, Imperial Challenge race coordinator Jeff Westcott began to recite the age division winners as part of the April 21 run, bike, skin, snowshoe, splitboard and ski “pseudo-triathlon” event.
And to start off, Westcott recognized the oldest finisher on the day, the only person older than 70 to complete the wet, windy whiteout course: 73-year-old Sharon Crawford of Frisco.
“And usually she comes around the corner right about now every year,” Westcott said through his megaphone from in front of Ski Hill Grill.
“I don’t see her,” he continued. “Is Sharon Crawford here yet? Sharon?”
Then there was raucous applause as Crawford rounded the assembled crowd of Imperial Challenge competitors and final-weekend Breckenridge skiers to receive her medal.
“This woman is bad***,” Westcott said. “Let’s make some noise.”
Smiling as she received her award, Crawford turned to Westcott to tell him how bad the visibility was above tree line as part of Saturday morning’s race.
“Can you see now?” he replied through the megaphone. “You can see right now, right?”
“That’s all that matters.”
LISTEN: Got 15 minutes? Frisco’s Sharon Crawford, 73, takes us through her own Imperial Challenge journey as the race’s oldest finisher
Aside from the conditions that altered a race that typically has more of a sunny, sprintime feel, the story of the 27th annual Imperial Challenge may just have been centered around the youngest and oldest finishers of the race: 10-year-old Victoria Campbell and Crawford.
During the post-race awards ceremony, Campbell received the loudest ovation, but Crawford’s may have been a close second. And the two Imperial Challenge bookend finishers — in terms of age, actually passed each other on the way up Pioneer.
“It was awesome to see Victoria with her father,” Crawford recalled. “Her father was helping her but she was doing it herself.”
“I didn’t know she was in the race,” Crawford added, “and I thought, ‘man, this is not a very old girl who is doing this, good for her.’”
Crawford may be on the opposite end of the age spectrum, but it took just as much training, focus and sheer guts in the face of chilling wind gusts for the 73-year-old to complete the race.
In doing so, not only did Crawford complete the course, but she finished ahead of 19 other competitors, some as young as 25.
“It’s a real fun race” Crawford said, “and it’s well named, because it is a challenge — especially this year, it was a challenge.
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