A little U.S.-based news to get your Tuesday going:
— Watch out, World Cup, Kikkan Randall is feeling good. The longtime U.S. Ski Team (USST) and Alaska Pacific University (APU) skier took first place in the 25th annual Alaska Run for Women road race, held over Anchorage streets and bike trails this past Saturday. Randall led the field of several thousand women to the finish in 28:41, a pace of 5:44 per mile for the 5-mile, largely flat-road course.
Mid-5:40s for five miles (in June) is nothing to sneeze at on its own, but let’s let the 34-year-old Randall put it in context: “I’m in the best shape of my life now,” she told the Alaska Dispatch News. This is so even though Randall was a few seconds per mile off her previous best on this course, a 28:18 that she clocked while winning this race in 2012. That winter, she went on to win her second of three consecutive Sprint Crystal Globes.
“I’m in the best shape of my life now.” — Kikkan Randall in a recent interview with the Alaska Dispatch News
Finishing just over a minute back for second place on Saturday was recent local high-school graduate and multi-time state track champ Briahna Gerlach, who will race Division I track and cross-country running this fall in the Lower 48. “I didn’t even know it was Kikkan Randall,” Gerlach told the Dispatch News of her competition over the first mile before Randall pulled away. “When I found out I said, ‘OK, she can go.’ She’s crazy. She didn’t even look tired.”
Other skiers in the top 10 included Mandy Vincent-Lang (formerly University of New Hampshire) in third, Becca Rorabaugh (APU) in fourth, and Lauren Fritz (APU) in 10th.
— If it’s summer, the rest of the APU Elite Team must be running up mountains. APU skiers took nearly every race in the seven-stage Alaska Mountain Runners Grand Prix last summer, highlighted by David Norris setting the course record at Mt. Marathon, the insanely steep climb and descent outside the harbor town of Seward, Alaska, that was first run as an organized race in 1915 and is believed to be the oldest mountain race in the country. (Norris took the record back from Kilian Jornet, a man widely acclaimed as the world’s best mountain runner.)
This summer, they’re at it again. On the evening of Thursday, May 25, Norris took first place in Kal’s Knoya Ridge Run, ascending an uphill-only course in the Chugach foothills on the eastern edge of Anchorage. (Runners had to descend under their own power, but the clock stopped when they crossed the finish line.) Norris weathered an early-summer snowstorm to cover 8.5 kilometers, and 4,500 vertical feet of elevation gain, in 58:08 for a substantial margin of victory. First place among the women went to Jessica Yeaton (APU/Australian National Team).
In a shorter version of the race (5.6 k and 2,900′ of climbing), APU skier Forrest Mahlen was the first across the line. Marine Dusser (formerly University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), currently affianced to USST skier Erik Bjornsen) was the first woman, less than 90 seconds behind him. Other top-10 skiers included APU junior Maggie Meeds in third, APU junior Aubrey LeClair in fourth, and Jaime Bronga (formerly UAA) in seventh. In the long race, Kate Fitzgerald (formerly APU) was fourth among the women, while Kenny Brewer (formerly University of Alaska Fairbanks) was third and Mark Iverson (formerly APU) was sixth.
— Nine days later, on the morning of Saturday, June 3, it was newly minted U.S. Ski Team member Scott Patterson edging out his APU teammate Erik Bjornsen (also of the USST) by the slimmest of margins, 0.3 seconds, after slightly more than 42 minutes of racing up 3 miles and 3,500′ of elevation gain in the uphill-only Government Peak Hill Climb outside of Palmer, Alaska. “I led the whole thing till maybe a minute to go, then we duked it out as I tried to come up with a little bit of a sprint,” Patterson told the Alaska Dispatch News after the race. “With three feet to go, Erik would have won. Even with two feet to go. He seemed to stumble a little when it was down to one step and I got him.”
APU junior Hamish Wolfe was 8th.
Dusser once again took the victory in the women’s division, in a time that would have placed her 12th among the 105 men in the field.
— So who’s still skiing? More people than you might think, thanks to an epic winter in the western U.S. that brought dozens of feet of snow to the High Sierra and has the Squaw Valley alpine area making noises about running at least one chairlift all summer long. For example, here’s fresh grooming (!) on the Auburn Ski Club trails on June 6 (!!):
Here’s Paul Kovacs (Australian National Team) on the ASC trails on the morning of June 7:
Here’s FasterSkier contributor Jon Schafer with a Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club junior camp, driving up to the nordic trails at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Ore., in a June 10 snowstorm:
Finally, farther north, the APU Elite Team arrived at Eagle Glacier earlier this week for their first Glacier Camp of the summer:
– And earlier this month in Albuquerque, N.M., the University of New Mexico (UNM) announced that athletic director Paul Krebs will retire on June 30. The university’s press release did not indicate a reason for his departure, but the news came two days after the state auditor informed UNM Interim President Chaouki Abdallah that its athletic department would be the focus of a special audit, according to Deadspin.com. The Office of the State Auditor reportedly “received information raising concerns related to athletic fundraising activities and expenses of the University of New Mexico.” Krebs, who was UNM’s athletic director for 11 years, was criticized for spending nearly $65,000 dollars in taxpayer money on a 2015 golf trip to Scotland and was at the heart of the heated proposed discontinuation of the UNM ski team.
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This article has been updated to reflect the correct historical status of the Mt. Marathon Race as believed to be the oldest mountain race in the country, not as “the second-oldest footrace in the country behind the Boston Marathon.”