Novakovich fastest up Bird Ridge

Anchorage Daily NewsJune 17, 2012 

After delivering a record-breaking run on Government Peak two weeks ago, Matt Novakovich backed it up with a commanding performance Sunday morning on sun-splashed Bird Ridge, and that made him more than just the winner of the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb.

Novakovich also thrust himself firmly into the mix of serious contenders at the most prestigious mountain-running race in Alaska, storied Mount Marathon in Seward on the Fourth of July.

"If he keeps this up, you never know -- he's got to be the favorite,'' said no less an authority than two-time Mount Marathon champion and former Bird Ridge champ Trond Flagstad, who labored to a seventh-place finish Sunday.

Novakovich, a former college distance runner who was a dominant cyclist before turning primarily to mountain running in 2009, scorched the field on Bird Ridge, which sits about 25 miles south of Anchorage and furnishes breathtaking views of Turnagain Arm.

He covered the lung-busting, thigh-thumping 3,400 feet of elevation gain over a grinding three-mile stretch in 39 minutes, 39 seconds, the fifth-fastest time in a race that dates back to 1989.

Novakovich lopped 2:29 off his previous best time on Bird Ridge to beat runner-up Ben Marvin (41:33) by 1:54 and third-place finisher and defending Mount Marathon champ Eric Strabel (41:58) by 2:19.

Olympic nordic skier Holly Brooks seized the women's title in 47:17, winning the race for the third straight year and the fourth time in the last five years.

Brooks, 30, also blew away her competition -- she finished 2:40 ahead of Najeeby Quinn and Christy Marvin, who both clocked 49:57.

At 38, Novakovich knows his window of opportunity for winning Mount Marathon is closing, so he has ramped up his training in pursuit of that celebrated title.

"This might sound pathetic to some,'' Novakovich said with a grin, "but I've been thinking about Mount Marathon every single day for the last 300 days.''

In the last six months, Novakovich said, he has trained almost exclusively for mountain races, racking 20,000 vertical feet each week -- he owns a treadmill that can produce a 40-percent incline.

Novakovich's fifth-place finish last year at Mount Marathon was his best in three races in Seward -- he finished 10th in both 2010 and 2009 -- and his time of 46:44 was 5:08 faster than his 2009 debut on the slab of pain overlooking Resurrection Bay.

Strabel, who won Bird Ridge in 2010, said Novakovich's back-to-back performances on the uphill-only trails at Government Peak and Bird Ridge mark him as a serious Mount Marathon threat.

"He's been very impressive so far,'' Strabel said. "He's the guy to keep in the sights going up. I tried to do that today and blew up.''

But Mount Marathon, of course, is a race up and down that 3,022-foot peak, and the downhill last year was Stabel's salvation and Novakovich's nemesis. Novakovich was third to the top of Mount Marathon, 21 seconds ahead of Strabel, but Strabel uncorked the best downhill time of the day in 10:25, 2:25 faster than Novakovich.

"My legs were fatigued -- my legs, my butt, everything,'' Novakovich recalled.

His recent training, though, has him believing he will handle the downhill better at Mount Marathon this year.

"I feel fit, I feel fast,'' Novakovich said. "I'm excited about the downhill. The first couple years, I was scared of the downhill.''

Strabel said he assumes Novakovich will be faster on the downhill in Seward.

"He's a smart guy -- he'll figure it out,'' Strabel said. "I'm not counting on him having a slow time.''

Flagstad, who made the downhill 62 seconds faster than Novakovich last year, said it will be critical for other top racers to stay reasonably close to Novakovich on the climb of Mount Marathon.

"I think Eric and I think the same way -- try to minimize the damage going up, then try to use our downhill skills,'' Flagstad said.

Brooks, meanwhile, will likely be taking things conservatively on the downhill at Mount Marathon. Recently named to the U.S. Ski Team and aiming at a spot in the 2014 Winter Olympics, the three-time Mount Marathon runner-up doesn't want to flirt with danger, and injury, on the perilous descent.

"I'm just going to try to stay safe,'' Brooks said. "I'm not going to jump off the cliff or put myself in the emergency room. I've got little to gain and a ton to lose.''

Novakovich's goal remains Mount Marathon, and he said he'd give up plenty to win the race that draws thousands of spectators.

"I'd trade 50 wins in anything else for a win in Seward,'' he said.

Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

2012 Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb

3 miles, 3,400 feet elevation gain

Men

1) Matt Novakovich 39:39; 2) Ben Marvin 41:33; 3) Eric Strabel 41:58; 4) Wylie Mangelsdorft 42:17; 5) Ben Ward 42:39; 6) Barney Griffith 42:48; 7) Trond Flagstad 43:38; 8) Erick Romig 43:51; 9) Rob Whitney 44:34; 10) Miles Knotek 44:38; 11) Lyon Kopsack 44:54; 12) Lars Arneson 45:19; 13) Kenny Brewer 45:33; 14) Don Haering 45:58; 15) John Klein 46:09; 16) Scott Patterson 46:40; 17) Andrew Stavich 46:44; 18) Tom Bronga 47:24; 19) Tony Slatonbarker 47:28; 20) Brad Benter 47:57; 21) Mark Brady 48:27; 22) Garth Schulz 48:46; 23) Gillian Szweda Mittelstadt 48:50; 24) Karl Romig 49:05; 25) Erik Mundahl 49:26; 26) Jonathan Harvey 49:31; 27) Vin Robinson 49:49; 28) Jason Walsh 50:08; 29) Rune Christopherson 50:25; 30) James Crimp 50:33; 31) Solomon D'Amico 50:49; 32) John Weddleton 50:57; 33) Ryan Cox 51:00; 34) Todd Lowery 51:01; 35) Brian Harder 51:05; 36) Gavin Kentch 51:11; 37) Paul Butera 51:26; 38) Troy Walters 51:38; 39) Davis Dunlap 51:39; 40) Mike Bourdakofsky 51:42; 41) Pyper Dixon 51:45; 42) Kent Peterson 52:21; 43) Alex Loan 52:28; 44) Forrest Mahlen 52:52; 45) Rob Witter 53:12; 46) Conor Deal 53:21; 47) Pete McEnaney 53:21; 48) Parker Quimby 53:22; 49) Jason Hogge 53:51; 50) Lance Kopsack 54:17.

51) Christopher Kirk 54:28; 52) Mark Lindberg 54:36; 53) Dylan Robertson 54:43; 54) Bob Butera 54:46; 55) Steve Gilles 55:04; 56) Joe Pollock 55:48; 57) Mark Carr 55:59; 58) Eric Carl 56:57; 59) Matthew Kenney 57:16; 60) Boaz Sessom 57:28; 61) Frank Lahr 57:30; 62) Jeff Henson 57:30; 63) Kevin Knotek 57:30; 64) Samuel Dougherty 57:52; 65) Joey Klecka 58:11; 66) Flip Foldager 58:13; 67) Keith Weinhold 58:15; 68) Cole Deal 58:17; 69) Eric Cummings 58:17; 70) Rod Anderson 58:29; 71) Darin Marin 58:41; 72) Dan Virgin 58:46; 73) Braun Kopsack 59:06; 74) Westley Dahlgren 59:08; 75) Dave Rebischke 59:19; 76) Michael Stangel 59:51; 77) John Collins 1:00:35; 78) Fred Jveding 1:00:44; 79) Keegan Crow 1:00:48; 80) Michael Craytor 1:01:12; 81) Guy Ingrim 1:01:23; 82) Robert Arnold 1:01:28; 83) Aaron Christie 1:02:44; 84) Kenneth McInally 1:03:01; 85) Hank Baca 1:03:24; 86) Brian Stoecker 1:03:27; 87) David Kochendorfer 1:04:33; 88) Michael Westbrook 1:04:43; 89) Dylan Kearns 1:05:14; 90) Trevor McCabe 1:05:16; 91) Liam Whiteman 1:05:21; 92) Allen McLeod 1:06:23; 93) Steve Walters 1:06:43; 94) Roger Kemppel 1:07:40; 95) Peter Adams 1:07:49; 96) Alec Kay 1:08:14; 97) Michael Squires 1:08:53; 98) Ryan Mathias 1:09:48; 99) John Browne 1:10:11; 100) Brandon Hill 1:10:45.

101) David Brown 1:10:55; 102) Ed Bulawa 1:11:37; 103) Roger Warren 1:11:42; 104) Michael DiFillipo 1:12:09; 105) Russ Dunlap 1:14:10; 106) Mark Ward 1:14:17; 107) Michael Rubeo 1:14:20; 108) Norm Johnson 1:14:59; 109) Chuck Paldanius 1:15:28; 110) Clinton Reeves 1:15:59; 111) David Retherford 1:16:41; 112) Ethan Tyler 1:16:48; 113) Turner Rodgers 1:19:25; 114) Doug Rice 1:19:36; 115) Scott Sims 1:19:58; 116) Michael Connelly 1:20:23; 117) James Rodgers 1:20:25; 118) Chad Lusk 1:20:27; 119) Pat Dougherty 1:21:35; 120) Bernard Sturgelewski 1:21:39; 121) Jonathan Briggs 1:23:36; 122) Evan R. Steinhauser 1:24:43; 123) Barry Bruninga 1:28:19; 124) Tim Dickman 1:28:48; 125) Chad McCotter 1:32:33; 126) William Reeves 1:33:09; 127) Mark Connelly 1:37:10; 128) Jubal Bryant 1:42:01.

Women

1) Holly Brooks 47:17; 2) Najeeby Quinn 49:57; 3) Christy Marvin 49;57; 4) Caitlin Patterson 51:41; 5) Lauren Fritz 51:55; 6) Sheryl Loan 52:44; 7) Kate Fitzgerald 54:14; 8) Ann Spencer 55:22; 9) Mira Hopkins 57:09; 10) Rachel Dow 57:12; 11) Adrienne Clingenpeel 57:39; 12) Kyle Colburn 57:42; 13) Ellyn Brown 58:00; 14) Lydia Blanchet 58:22; 15) Greta Anderson 58:26; 16) Tiffanie Novakovich 58:38; 17) Karen Williams 58:58; 18) Alyson Kopsack 59:08; 19) Jaime Bronga 59:13; 20) Susan Forbes 1:00:17; 21) Judi Kopsack 1:00:43; 22) Leah Legate 1:00:45; 23) Margaret Cunningham 1:01:11; 24) Mandy Vincent-Lang 1:01:37; 25) Paula Westbrook 1:01:38; 26) Tsaina Mahlen 1:01:40; 27) Kara Hansen 1:02:06; 28) Alina Rubeo 1:02:27; 29) Karen Bronga 1:02:27; 30) Verena Gill 1:02:58; 31) Laura Tuttle 1:03:10; 32) Wendy Sailors 1:03:27; 33) Trish Kopp 1:04:02; 34) Lauren Spinelli 1:04:08; 35) Kelsey Vrem 1:04:25; 36) Maya Radonich 1:05:34; 37) Desiree Dietz 1:05:46; 38) Bronwen Nicholls 1:06:14; 39) Jessie Westin 1:06:32; 40) Paige Brady 1:06:47; 41) Liz Butera 1:07:11; 42) Beth Fletcher 1:07: 36;43) Ana Jager 1:08:11;44) Kristy De Yong 1:08:56; 45) Donica Severson 1:08:56; 46) Patti Foldager 1:09:26; 47) Holly Grant 1:09:43; 48) Kelsey Coolidge 1:10:02; 49) Nancy Osborne 1:10:20; 50) Ginger Kane 1:10:22.

51) Amy Brumbaugh 1:11:24; 52) Kelly Paldanius 1:12:53; 53) Erin Leighton 1:12:56; 54) Annie Connelly 1:13:00; 55) Cindy Hendel 1:13:08; 56) Megan Olson 1:14:13; 57) Kai Sims 1:15:41; 58) Becky Hanscam 1:15:46; 59) Jocelyn Kopsack 1:16:05; 60) Emily Veenstra 1:16:47; 61) Jacqueline Klecka 1:17:11; 62) Alberta Laktonen 1:19:39; 63) Gretchen Hopkins 1:21:30; 64) Amara Liggett 1:22:42; 65) Denise Brown Robinson 1:24:29; 66) Taylor Way 1:30:08; 67) Arika Browne 1:30:39; 68) Michelle Hensel 1:31:28; 69) Catherine Bodry 1:31:37; 70) Kimberly McCotter 1:32:28; 71) Tara Kulin 1:32:59; 72) Mary Kemppel 1:34:56; 73) Theresa Sheldon 1:37:38; 74) Brooke Andrews 1:41:23; 75) Mary Hensel 1:42:37; 76) Julie Perilla 1:46:43; 77) Sherri Warnke 1:54:03; 78) Caitlin Martin 1:55:56; 79) Millie Spezialy 2:03:29.

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