Still growing, trail series sets another record
BRECKENRIDGE – Like a fetus, the Nike ACG Summit Trail Running Series just keeps growing. A record 94 runners turned out for the fourth of six summer races Wednesday afternoon, despite the threatening skies overhead. The turnout was the third record-setting field in the series this year, breaking the previous high of 88.While the numbers continue to grow, however, the names at the top of the results sheet keep finding ways to fend off the added challengers – for the most part.On an up-and-down course that began at the Watson trailhead in downtown Breckenridge and wound through the Cucumber Gulch area behind the Breck Nordic Center, usual suspects Danelle Ballengee and Derek Griffiths were joined atop the podium by Kelly Ahern and Andrew Adamowski.
Ballengee, a notorious junk food eater, won the women’s long-course race (about 15K) in 1 hour, 6 minutes and 16 seconds despite going in with a stomach full of fast food, and Griffiths came out on top in the men’s short-course race (about 5K) in 16:48. Their wins were their third of the series.On the women’s short course, Ahern, a Western State cross country runner, edged Summit High School cross country coach Heather Quarantillo by 43 seconds (19:51 to 20:34). Adamowski drove from Evergreen to beat his friend and former Colorado Relay teammate, Paul Brett (they won last year’s relay), by a little more than a minute on the men’s long course.”I’ve been wanting to come up for one of these races all year,” said Adamowski, who finished in 1:03:39. “I’ve heard about them a lot.”He’s not alone on that count. As the series has picked up steam within local and regional running circles, its fields have reflected that renown. Despite its mid-week dates and right-after-work start times (all races begin at 5:45 p.m.), runners from as far away as Colorado Springs and the east Denver suburbs have made a habit of showing up to compete.Not just gazelles like Griffiths, either. Wednesday, 9-year-old Garrett Finn and his dad Ken made the trip from Colorado Springs to take part, joining the extra-strong local throng that has shown up without fail this summer.
“I have a hard time getting off work in time to get over to the races sometimes,” said Kim Eytel, a physical therapist with Avalanche Physical Therapy, who took second on the women’s long course Wednesday. “But this is great – spread the word. To the town’s credit (Breck’s recreation department puts on the races), they’ve done a great job. These are well-run races with good support; that’s what brings people from a longer distance.”As for those from Summit who don’t necessarily compete for wins but have made the series a fixture on their calendars, the races hold a social attraction as well as an athletic one. “We get to see our buddies, that’s what’s fun about this series,” said Frisco’s Tina Oberheide, who ran the short course Wednesday. “We all gather, no one really cares who finishes ahead of who. My goal is always to beat the first of the long-distance runners.”For others, seeing how they match up with speedy series regulars is the draw.”I like coming out and running with the young guys,” said Tom Hill, 60, a parking control officer for the town of Breckenridge.
SHS nordic ski star Patrick Neel, who helped the Tigers win a state title last winter and finished an impressive fourth in the 15K, does it with snow on his mind. “It’s ski training for me,” he said. “Plus,” he added, gazing in the direction of the winners, “I like seeing how I’m doing against these guys.”The next race in the series, a challenging course that starts and ends at Breck’s Carter Park, takes place July 21.See page A18 for complete results.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at email@example.com.
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