Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mount Ashland Hill Climb: The Year of the Smoke and Heat

The Bull Gap Trail, three miles to go.

As the temperatures climbed into the triple digits in Medford and the thunderheads built on the horizon, the competition on Mt. Ashland mimicked the weather and got just as hot and serious. A sell-out crowd gathered at The Plaza in downtown Ashland, OR for the 32nd Annual Mt. Ashland Hill Climb.

Traveling down from the state to our north Joe Gray entered onto the picture with some serious credentials. He's the US's 2009 Mountain Running Champion and boasts PR's of 14:15 in the 5K, a 1:07 for the half-marathon and a sub 30-minute 10K.

This excited last year's Mt. Ashland Hill Climb winner, Rogue Valley Runner's Erik Skaggs. He welcomed the competition with open arms noting that he's always looking forward to being pushed to new limits. Also in the picture were the ever fast cross-country skiers from Bend, 2006's Hill Climb winner RVR's owner, Hal Koerner and last year's runner-up in the ladies race, Jenn Shelton.

Smoke from fires to the north and soaring temperatures made this year's Hill Climb one of the hardest ever. 191 intrepid souls pushed through the humid conditions to the summit this year, most likely the highest number of finishers ever.

When the dust settled and the final, steep scree slope was clear of runners Joe Gray had found his way to the top first in a blazing time of 1:47:29. Erik Skaggs followed in 1:51:30. Hal Koerner finished fourth in 1:59:17. Ashland's Tim Olson and RVR'er Ian Torrence both finished in the top ten in 6th and 8th places respectively.

In the women's race, Bend's Stephanie Howe lead the way in 2:13:17. RVR'er Jenn Shelton finished second for a second year in a row in 2:25:28, almost five minutes faster than last year. Talent's Amy Smith, RVR'er Darcy Kleiman, Eagle Point's Jennifer Callans and Ashland's Lisa Norvell also finished in the top ten in the ladies race.

The race was a great success. Congratulations to Race Director Torsten Heycke and all the other wonderful volunteers that staffed the aid stations, "summit party finish area" and drove runners safely down from the summit. The Mt. Ashland Hill Climb was the third of five races included in the Oregon Mountain Running Series.

Here are some photos taken by our Mountain, Ultra & Trail (MUT) Running Coordinator for USATF Oregon, Richard Bolt.

Mt. Ashland Hill Climb's Race Director Torsten Heycke.

Suprise of the day! Ashland newcomer Tim Olson runs a 2:04:46!

Lady's winner, Bend's Stephanie Howe.

Runner's await the "GO!" word.

Mike Sotos.

Skaggs enjoys his post-race beverage.

Adam Seibert, Skaggs, Joe Gray and JC Callans run a little pre-race warm-up.

RVR'er Todd Ragsdale loves to be done!

So fast, even the camera can't catch him. Joe Gray, your 2009 Mt. Ashland Hill Climb winner.

Jeremy Eisen.

Jenn Shelton.

Hal gives the thumbs up.

Greg Mueller.

David Jordan.

Chad Wikander.

Bob Julian.

Aaron Brian leads "the train."

Born to Run!

Here's the press from the Mailtribune written by Daniel Newberry. Nice work everyone!

Andy Atkinson's mile 1.5 and summit photos can be found here.