Mount Marathon age group records seem vulnerable

Doyle Woody

A new women's champion will be crowned Thursday at Mount Marathon and the past two men's winners, reigning champion Matt Novakovich and Eric Strabel, figure to headline that field, but those titles aren't the glory at stake in Seward.

Girls record-holder Allie Ostrander of Soldotna will be seeking her fifth consecutive junior championship, which would make her the winningest junior (17 and younger) in race history.

The boys field, meanwhile, will crown a new champ. Miles Knotek of Moose Pass, who won titles in 2012 and 2011, has aged out of the junior competition, which goes halfway up the 3,022-foot mountain and back down, and will make his debut in the men's field.

And on a day when thousands of spectators jam the town on the shores of Resurrection Bay to watch the 86th edition of the spectacle that is Mount Marathon, at least a few age-group records seem in jeopardy.

Of course, record-setting on the steep, unforgiving slopes of Mount Marathon is often subject to conditions. For instance, heat tends to make many runners wither and a wet course makes it hard for runners to find purchase, which slows times.

Ostrander, 16, has twice run girls record times and her 2011 clocking of 30 minutes, 32 seconds remains the standard. She holds all three girls age-group records, in the 11 and under age group, the 12-14 and the 15-17.

In the women's race, stalwart Ellyn Brown, 60, of Anchorage, figures to deliver a serious revision to the 60-69 age-group record. Brown, a former record-holder in the 50-59 age group, in the last five years has produced an average time of 1:05:38, which makes her almost a lock to take down Elaine Nelson's 60-69 record of 1:19:36, set in 2007.

Sheryl Loan, 54, is back after she last year stormed to the women's 50-59 record group, clocking 59:23 in her Mount Marathon debut. That not only slashed 2:02 off Carmen Young-Dunham's previous standard, set in 2006, but earned Loan a seventh-place finish.

Given that experience on the course helps runners slash their personal bests, Loan is a threat to lower her mark, especially if she improves on her downhill. Last year, Loan's uphill time of 42:26 was fourth-fastest among women, but her downhill of 16:56 tied her for 39th in the field.

The seemingly ageless Barney Griffith, 55, remains a constant threat to lower an age-group standard. His 10th-place finish in 48:09 last year trimmed 14 seconds off his 2008 record in the 50-59 age group. Griffith on four occasions broke the 40-49 age-group record.

In the boys field, Lyon Kopsack, 17, of Palmer, is coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes to Knotek. Also entered is Michael Marshall, 16, of Seward, who finished third last year and finished fourth in both 2011 and 2010. Marshall's time of 28:48 in 2010 is the record in the 12-14 age group.


Downhill demons

Strabel has always been a blistering downhill runner, and after a sub-par uphill last year, he knocked off the downhill from the peak of Mount Marathon to the finish line at Fourth Avenue and Washington Street -- roughly 1.75 miles -- in an astonished 10 minutes, 8 seconds.

Strabel, the 2010 champ, was one of six men to complete the downhill in less than 11 minutes last year, when he finished eighth overall. The others in the sub-11 club: second-place finisher Trond Flagstad and 11th-place finisher Ryan Cox (10:33 for both); third-place finisher Matias Saari (10:45), 16th-place finisher Brad Benter (10:51) and ninth-place finisher Rory Egelus (10:54).

In the women's race last year, third-place finisher Laura Brosius clocked the fastest downhill with her 12:18. The other two sub-13 downhillers were fourth-place finisher Allison Barnwell (12:45) and runner-up Lauren Fritz (12:53).

For an extreme example of how much a wicked-fast downhill can catapult a runner up the final standings, consider the race run last year by Casey Volk of Eagle River. Volk's uphill time of 51:51 was the 127th fastest among men, but his downhill of 12:53 was tied for the 45th fastest. That downhill allowed him to pass 24 runners and finish 103rd overall.


Mr. Longevity

Seward's Fred Moore, 73, will be racing in his record 44th consecutive Mount Marathon race.

He owns the 70-79 age-group record of 1:07:09, set in 2010.


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