Smith holds off Van Horn to win Grand Traverse trail run

Austin Colbert
The Aspen Times
Athletes compete in Saturday's Grand Traverse trail run from Crested Butte to Aspen.
Courtesy Xavier Fane



1. Cam Smith, 5:57:48.76

2. Sean Van Horn, 6:02:04.50

3. Lee Cordova, 6:28:33.67

4. John Herrick, 6:31:04.62

5. Matthias Messner, 6:40:17.96


1. Tara Richardson, 6:37:16.65

2. Emma Patterson, 7:20:56.38

3. Jill Seager, 7:33:34.79

4. Liz Smith, 7:43:32.62

5. Christina Bauer, 7:58:42.12

In many ways, Gunnison’s Cam Smith and Carbondale’s Sean Van Horn are still teammates this weekend in the summer Grand Traverse races. After all, in races this demanding, it’s good to have someone by your side.

“Especially with longer races, you are racing people but it is kind of like brother-in-arms just because it’s really hard,” Van Horn said. “I’m stoked for Cam. He’s an amazing all-around athlete. He doesn’t even run that much in the scheme of things, and he just crushed that course.”

It was Smith who came out on top Saturday in the fifth annual Grand Traverse trail run, a 40.7-mile ultra from Crested Butte to the finish at the bottom of Aspen Mountain that includes more than 6,000 feet of climbing and another 7,000 feet of descent. The 22-year-old finished in 5 hours, 57 minutes, 48.76 seconds, an unofficial course record.

“I was hoping to move fast and efficiently enough where no one would be able to catch me,” said Smith, a native of Illinois. “So it was interesting having that last three quarters of the race alone, but I felt pretty confident in my ability to close it out.”

Smith was in charge much of the race, but that’s not to say he didn’t have any competition as Van Horn finished only a few minutes back in 6:02:04.50. Van Horn won the 2017 trail run in 6:05:01.5. Denver’s Lee Cordova was third Saturday in 6:28:33.67, creating a significant time gap between second and third.

“I was having back spasms the last two weeks and didn’t think I would even start the race,” the 32-year-old Van Horn said. “I was pretty sure I was going to have to drop out around 10 miles and I ended up being able to run it. My back held up and I had tears in my eyes I was so stoked and grateful it held up.”

The Grand Traverse, organized by the Crested Butte Nordic Council, includes three different races, creating the opportunity for a Triple Crown winner. The first part of the triple came in March with the ski mountaineering race, won by the duo of Smith and Van Horn.

The two, who are about 10 years apart in age, have done a few skimo races together over the past few years. While they were forced to do their own thing in Saturday’s trail run, the competition remained nothing but friendly.

“It definitely brings you closer,” Smith said of racing together. “We don’t really see each other outside of races, but we are really good buddies because of our experience there. I think we both really want the best for each other and we both want the other person to have three incredible races in the three different events, but we both also want to beat each other.”

Having won the skimo race, Smith and Van Horn were the frontrunners for the Triple Crown entering the weekend. As a result, Smith had more than a four-minute cushion on his friend for Sunday’s mountain bike race from Aspen to Crested Butte.

Prior to Sunday, Van Horn admitted that mountain biking is more of a strength for Smith, and didn’t give himself much of a chance in the return journey. Smith, however, wasn’t quite ready to accept his crown.

“Nothing is guaranteed, but I certainly feel really confident heading into the bike,” Smith said. “I see myself as more of a cyclist than a runner. Maybe that will change after something like today. But I think I am the stronger mountain biker between the two of us and I also think I have a really good ability to recover. So relative to other people I think I’ll have some good legs tomorrow.”

The mountain bike race from Aspen to Crested Butte began at 7 a.m. on Sunday from Ajax Park in Aspen, with a finish at Crested Butte Mountain Resort.


Tara Richardson wasn’t much of a trail runner until she moved to Glenwood Springs a little more than a year ago. But this summer she’s racked up win after win, including in Saturday’s Grand Traverse trail run.

A 2014 graduate of Western State in Gunnison, Richardson was the top female finisher in 6:37:16.65, good for fifth overall.

“It’s been welcoming,” Richardson said of trail running. “I’ve dreamed of doing this race because I lived in Gunnison and I live close to Aspen, so it’s two of my favorite places. I literally signed up on Tuesday and I just pulled the trigger because I was in good shape.”

Emma Patterson was second among women in 7:20:56.38 and Jill Seager third in 7:33:34.79. Seager was the frontrunner to take the women’s Triple Crown title after Sunday’s mountain bike race.

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