The Grind graduates to another level |

The Grind graduates to another level

Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

ARAPAHOE BASIN – For three years, the Grind at Arapahoe Basin existed as a challenging local’s event, a randonee ski race in which hopes of winning belonged to anyone who was strong, in stellar cardiovascular shape and an expert skier on both uphills and downhills.In the fourth year, Pete Swenson and Monique Merrill showed up, and everyone’s hope turned to mush.The race on Saturday became one for second place, as Breckenridge residents Swenson and Merrill – two of the top randonee racers in America – left the field in their unseasonably cold, snowy dust. Both shattered records in their respective genders, Swenson by 4 minutes, 27 seconds, and Merrill by a remarkable 11:46.As two-time defending men’s champ Bob Mayer put it, “I’d been waiting for the fast guys to show up.”Mayer, a modest, well-above-average athlete himself, epitomized the difference brought about by Swenson’s and Merrill’s presence. He finished third on Saturday, a year after winning by nine minutes, and two years after setting the course record.This time, however, despite bettering his record by nearly a minute, he could get no closer than 1:35 to Swenson, who won in 52:27. Boulder’s Jason McGowin, who narrowly lost the victory to Mayer two years ago when the Breckenridge resident passed him on the downhill, returned the favor on Saturday.He passed Mayer early in the descent to claim the runner-up spot (53:41), which meant more than usual on this day.The Grind offers a rare randonee competition, in that the downhill portion is actually tougher, relative to other races of its kind, than the 2,200-foot ascent. Most competitors used skins or snowshoes (a few even did it on foot) to climb on groomed runs to the North Pole hiking gate; then they removed their skis and hobbled up an icy, uneven scree field.

Upon reaching the top, they put back on their skis (or snowboard, in a number of cases) and did whatever they could to get down the rocky, steep North Pole face and lower East Wall. One more short uphill drained whatever energy remained before the final groomed descent brought them back to the base.Some took more than two hours to finish the race, but it was a sprint for the winners, who are used to courses with 6,000 feet of vertical gain spread over three or four different uphill sections.”It was a comfortable day, just how I like it,” said a smirking Swenson, 38, the reigning ski mountaineering national champion. He added of the course: “There was only one ‘up,’ but for what it was, for an hour, it was good value.””The uphill skinning was pretty tame, whereas the downhill was right at the limit,” said Merrill, Swenson’s fiancé and, like him, a member of this year’s U.S. team at the ski mountaineering world championships in the Italian Alps.”The whole point is you have to be just as good going up as you are going down, and this course really played out for that,” she added.Jill Walker fit both bills, steamrolling up the mountain and then cruising down plenty fast. But for the second time in three years, Walker took a wrong turn on the course and it cost her some cash.She lost more than a minute upon reaching the bottom of East Wall, and 25-year-old A-Basin ski patroller Mik Jedlicka took advantage. Moments before Walker crossed the finish line, Jedlicka shot past her to finish as the runner-up behind Merrill.Merrill won $250 with a time of 1:00:24, topping the record held by another Basin patroller, Becs Hodgetts. Jedlicka’s $150 time was 1:13:54, with Walker (1:13:55) taking home $100. The prize purses were the same on the men’s side.As for thoughts of winning among the two women: Jedlicka later said Merrill is “in a different league” and Walker called the 36-year-old adventure racer “a cool role model.””But it’s fun to see how close you can get to her,” Walker said.Summit residents Cindy Burkart (1:15:57) and Jamie Bailey (1:25:06) rounded out the women’s top five, while Patti Banks won the women’s 40-and-over division with a time of 1:32:07.Vail’s Dawes Wilson finished fourth among the men (58:26), and was the last male racer to cross the finish line before Merrill. Summit’s Kurt Sorensen took fifth in the 48-racer men’s field (1:00:43).Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13630, or at Annual Cloudveil Grind ResultsSaturday, Arapahoe BasinMen 39 and under1Pete Swenson52.27.422Jason McGowin53.41.993Kurt Sorensen1.00.43.844Michael Shamborger1.03.52.905Todd Hanson1.09.43.346Harrish Gowans1.11.12.297David Dellamora1.12.27.098Teo Jackson1.18.26.079Andrew Solad1.20.01.15

10Jonathon Degenhardt1.20.03.0311Corban Spraker1.20.32.9112Jamie Sampey1.20.30.7213Todd Rankin1.22.35.5014Marlon Crepson1.24.12.5215Glenn Light1.24.24.7616Devon O’Neil1.24.42.6417Thomas Creighton1.24.46.1218Bryan Stiefvater1.26.19.0519Michael Negler1.38.30.7920Dan Ainslie1.46.47.8721Casey O’Connor2.46.15.4022Erin O’Connor2.46.17.38Women 39 and under1Monique Merrill1.00.24.392Mik Jedlicka1.13.54.973Jill Walker1.13.55.974Cindy Burkart1.15.57.035Jamie Bailey1.25.06.676Carol Kauder1.49.57.547Rebecca Rothhard2.20.31.46Women 39 and under1Patti Banks1.32.07.512Leigh Hierholzer1.40.26.02

Men 40 and over1Bob Mayer54.02.062Dawes Wilson58.26.413Bob Cottrell1.03.52.904Patrick O’Sullivan1.05.23.255Stuart Habel1.07.20.426Dr. Cavallee1.13.51.187Dag Hammerskjold1.14.01.748Gates Lloyd1.15.00.949Richard Sterling1.15.23.5910Ron Uhle1.16.29.4911Greg Hafeman1.17.02.8312Brad Berglund1.17.48.1813Mike Wilson1.18.14.4714Julian Stanley1.24.52.4515Craig Matthews1.30.00.5816Jim Kennedy1.32.09.8617Hoss Minkman1.32.34.5918Mark Olson1.37.43.4819David Young1.41.13.9720Quinn Dilucente1.42.42.5321Luis Brandao1.45.45.7622John Keefe1.46.01.7223Mike Keller1.46.05.8224Dave Pines1.47.46.9825Bob Findlay2.18.23.1626Larry Lolla2.42.48.87

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