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Making history: Allie Ostrander becomes first girl to win overall junior Mount Marathon title

Beth Bragg
Allie Ostrander nears the halfway point in the junior Mount Marathon race on Friday. She came from behind to become the first girl to win the overall junior title. Loren Holmes

SEWARD -- As Allie Ostrander reached the bottom of the mountain in the Mount Marathon junior race on Friday, she saw the police car that traditionally escorts the winner to the finish line.

Then she saw race leader Michael Marshall.

Then she hit the pavement, and Marshall's bid for victory was toast -- and Ostrander was the toast of the town.

Ostrander, a 17-year-old from Kenai, became the first girl in race history to capture the overall victory in the junior race.

She used speed honed on track ovals to chase down Marshall in the final stretch of the race, a distance of about 1,000 meters on city streets that lead from the mountain to the finish line on Fourth Avenue.

"I saw the police car and I saw Michael right behind it, and I thought, 'I can catch him. I can do it,' '' Ostrander said.

"I thought, 'It wouldn't be too bad to be beaten by one boy,' and I said, no, it would be a mistake not to push it.''

Ostrander beat Marshall by 42 seconds and finished seven minutes ahead of the second-place girl, Ruby Lindquist.

The victory was the sixth junior girls title for Ostrander, who in May shattered the Alaska high school track records in the 3,200 meters and 1,600 meters.

While separate races are offered for senior men and senior women -- racers 18 and older -- the juniors all race together.

Since girls became a regular part of the junior race in 1986, none has threatened to win it all. But never has there been a girl with Ostrander's blend of mountain mastery and blazing footspeed.

This was Ostrander's sixth Mount Marathon junior girls title, a streak that started when she was 12 years old and schooling girls five years older than her.

Ostrander finished the race, which goes halfway up 3,022-foot Mount Marathon, in 28 minutes, 54 seconds -- about 90 seconds faster than her previous best.

Marshall, a 17-year-old from Seward, placed second in 29:36. He, too, earned a spot in Mount Marathon lore. He will be remembered as the first -- and, who knows, maybe the only -- junior boys champion who wasn't also the overall winner.

"Maybe I'll get a picture of me on the front of a magazine, behind Allie," Marshall said with a grin.

Third place overall, and second place among boys, went to Anchorage's Luke Jager, who outsprinted Chugiak's Roan Hall. Jager finished in 29:42, Hall in 29:43.

Jager reached the top of the mountain first, followed by Ostrander and Marshall, in that order.

Mitchell surprised himself by passing both runners on the descent.

"I was first off the mountain. I got to the road -- and you guys know Allie," he said, referring to Ostrander's running prowess.

Ostrander said Marshall was about 25 meters ahead of her once she hit pavement. Within 200 meters, she had claimed the lead, and spent the next 800 meters or so extending it. She was all alone at the finish line, a result she said she never dreamed of.

"The thought never crossed my mind, honestly," she said of winning it all.

Marshall was limping gingerly upon finishing and soon had a white bandage wrapped around his right foot, where a blood blistered developed during his downhill run.

It was his 11th time running -- he did his first junior race at age 7 -- and has been in the top five several times. He was the runnerup to Lyon Kopsack last year.

"It's kind of funny that the year I was the top boy, I lose to Allie," he said.

He said he might take a break from the race after this, but he said Mount Marathon will always hold a special place in his heart. Seward loves all of the races, but it especially loves hometown racers like Marshall.

"I love it," he said. "You come off the mountain and you hear, 'Michael! Go Michael!' I don't necessarily do this race for the run. People love it, and they love to see me and my friends do it."