Race rookies shine in Crow Pass Crossing

Mike Nesper
Matt Shryock keeps his eyes on the rugged trail 3 miles from the finish of the Crow Pass Crossing, a nearly marathon-length wilderness running race that starts in Girdwood and finishes in Eagle River. The 31st annual race was held on July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Matias Saari navigates the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Kenneth Brewer runs the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Christy Marvin navigates the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Adam Jensen hops over a damaged part of the trail during the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Bill Pearson, left, navigates the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Soren Wuerth runs the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Brian Pautzke smiles at the sight of an aid station 4 miles from the finish during the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Guerin Platte runs past the Perch, an outlook four miles from the finish line of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Volunteers point towards snacks and drinks as Lia Slemons arrives at the Perch, an outlook four miles from the finish line of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
A muddy Greer Gehler navigates the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Thomas Nenahlo jumps over a rock during the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Shawn McTaggart runs the last few rugged miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
A runner finishes the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Runners cross soggy ground on boards during the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Chester Gilmore, left, and Chris Dankmeyer run the last few rugged miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Nathan Zeigler runs the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014. The Crow Pass Crossing is a marathon-length wilderness race that goes from Girdwood to Eagle River.
Loren Holmes / ADN
Bob Heinrich runs the last few miles of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Preston Szymanski, age 5, watches runners from inside the stump of a tree while Justin Hone runs the last mile of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News
Gabby Kern, age 7, left, and Gideon Kern, age 5, climb a tree while they wait for their dad near the finish of the Crow Pass Crossing on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News

Knowing the trail benefits those who attempt to tackle the grueling 24-mile Crow Pass Crossing. 

After ascending 2,000 feet over the first four miles from the trailhead near Girdwood, racers descend into the valley, making their way toward the finish line at the Eagle River Nature Center. 

In the valley, the trail is fraught with overgrown vegetation, which hides a racer’s feet as well as loose rocks and roots waiting for unsuspecting victims. Even veterans typically take a few spills each year. 

That’s what made Christy Marvin’s performance Saturday all the more impressive. She torched the women’s field, winning her first Crow Pass race by more than 23 minutes. 

It was a day for rookies. 

Along with Marvin, two of the top three men’s finishers were also first-timers. 

Marvin finished in 3 hours, 26 minutes, 44 seconds — the second-fastest women’s time in the race’s 30-year history. She was just 24 seconds off the course record (3:26:20) set by nine-time champion Nancy Pease in 1990. 

Allan Spangler claimed his first men’s title in 3:01:44.

Jessica Vetsch finished second among a field of 36 women in 3:49:59. Vetsch shaved 10 minutes off her time from last year, when she also took second as a rookie. 

Jamie Bronga placed third in 3:52:04 and was the only other woman to break the four-hour mark. 

Race rookies Silas Talbot (3:06:50) and Matt Shryock (3:09:26) placed second and third, respectively, in the men’s race. 

Marvin, 33, was unaware how close she was to the record until she reached the Perch, a short, steep climb about four miles from the finish line. 

“From there, I made a run for it,” Marvin said. 

Marvin wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the course. She hiked it a few days after her second-place performance in Mount Marathon — she finished less than three seconds behind Holly Brooks at the annual Fourth of July race in Seward. 

“I took a couple short wrong turns,” Marvin said. “Nothing major.” 

Marvin wasn’t alone on the trail too often. She finished 14th among all racers and just 40 seconds behind her husband, Ben. 

“I was catching people most of the race,” she said. 

Saturday wasn’t the first time Marvin won a mountain race as a rookie — the former Glennallen running standout won her Mount Marathon debut two years ago. 

“The challenge for me is training for Mount Marathon and Crow Pass,” Marvin said. 

This year, she trained hard for both races — a strategy Marvin said hindered her ascent on the 3,022-foot behemoth in Seward but helped her for Saturday’s backcountry race.  

Spangler, a 2005 Colony High graduate, has been focused on Crow Pass all summer. 

“This is my main goal for the whole season of training,” he said while sipping a beer outside the Eagle River Nature Center while congratulating other finishers and talking about this year’s course. 

Spangler took the lead at the top of the mountain pass and held it the rest of the way. 

“I was just comfortable with the pace,” said Spangler, who now owns the race’s fifth-fastest time. 

Racers were met with fog in Girdwood for the 7 a.m. start and a rain-soaked trail made for some tough wipeouts. 

“The bridges were a hazard,” Spangler said. “The rocks were really slippery.” 

Running faster and harder makes navigating those obstacles even more difficult.   

“I don’t think I’ve fallen so hard so many times,” Spangler said. 

When the trail opened up, Spangler said he took advantage and quickened his pace.  

“If the trail gives you an inch, you have to take a mile,” he said.

Shryock is visiting Alaska while on summer break from nursing school, which he attends in his home state of Montana. He’s done mountain races in the Lower 48 and decided to give Crow Pass a go. 

“I’m looking for wild trail runs — and I think I found it,” he said. 

A couple weeks ago, Shryock completed a run-hike preview of the trail in about five hours. A top-five performance would be great, he thought, but Shryock had no expectations for race day. 

“I’m stoked to be on the podium,” he said.

Shryock, 27, occasionally lost the trail, which dropped him a few spots temporarily. He was able to get back to fourth place before passing Sam Tilly (3:11:40) late in the race to claim third. 

Talbot, a Service grad who runs for Dartmouth, finished about 2½ minutes ahead of Shryock.

Shryock, who recently ran a 50-kilometer race in Wyoming, said Alaska’s mountains are nothing like what he’s used to running. 

“These are just super technical,” he said. “There’s more moisture, more rocks, more roots.

“I was definitely out of my comfort zone,” Shryock said, “but I was loving it.” 

Reach Mike Nesper at mnesper@adn.com or 257-4335. 

Crow Pass Crossing 

Saturday’s results 

Women’s race 
1) Christy Marvin 3:26:44.4; 2) Jessica Vetsch 3:49:59.7; 3) Jaime Bronga 3:52:04.3; 4) Jane Boer 4:01:10.1; 5) Christie Haupert 4:01:51.0; 6) Lia Slemons 4:07:28.1; 7) Greer Gehler 4:10:22.3; 8) Guerin Platte 4:11:42.5; 9) Ginny Kinnebrew 4:22:29.3; 10) Chrissy May 4:24:18.0; 11) Shawn McTaggart 4:26:22.7; 12) Maya Radonich 4:26:50.4; 13) Melanie Stiassny 4:30:53.2; 14) Amber McDonough 4:33:03.6; 15) Laura McDonough 4:37:18.5; 16) Mariah Graham 4:37:29.0; 17) Hannah Brown 4:43:02.9; 18) Tammy Weaver 4:45:54.9; 19) Kristina Eaton 4:46:50.9; 20) Jennifer Baker 4:48:45.6; 21) Emily Evans 4:54:11.8; 22) Michelle Dickson 5:00:53.9; 23) Ellyn Brown 5:01:33.6; 24) Nina Schwinghammer 5:14:51.8; 25) Shannon Casey 5:15:31.8; 26) Susan Casey 5:15:32.1; 27) Margaret Williams 5:16:56.7; 28) Michelle Fabry 5:18:03.4; 29) Clare Cook 5:21:09.8; 30) Beth Paynter 5:21:47.5; 31) Amara Liggett 5:22:46.0; 32) Juli Adelman 5:35:56.7; 33) Kristin Wood 5:35:57.0; 34) Kristen Hansen 5:45:46.9; 35) Michelle Suber 5:50:01.4; 36) Amy deSchweinitz 6:20:10.6.  

Men’s results  
1) Allan Spangler 3:01:44.5; 2) Silas Talbot 3:06:50.0; 3) Matt Shryock 3:09:26.5; 4) Sam Tilly 3:11:40.0; 5) AJ Schirack 3:13:23.8; 6) Matias Saari 3:15:05.8; 7) Cody Priest 3:16:51.1; 8) Evan Hone 3:18:30.1; 9) Willie Stoll 3:18:46.4; 10) Kenneth Brewer 3:21:08.2; 11) Jonathan Kreiss-Tonkins 3:22:42.7; 12) Harlow Robinson 3:25:15.1; 13) Ben Marvin 3:26:04.5; 14) Christopher Clark 3:28:22.1; 15) Laron Thomas 3:28:48.5; 16) Patrick Stinson 3:31:41.3; 17) Derek Gibson 3:33:32.7; 18) Brad Benter 3:34:42.4; 19) Tom Bronga 3:34:54.0; 20) Jim McDonough 3:34:58.3; 21) Adam Jensen 3:36:54.6; 22) Miles Knotek 3:38:26.7; 23) David Apperson 3:38:35.6; 24) Joe Nyholm 3:38:55.3; 25) Andrew Dougherty 3:39:50.4; 26) Nathaniel Knapp 3:40:44.5; 27) Bill Pearson 3:44:09.2; 28) Alan Adams 3:45:15.3; 29) Soren Wuerth 3:46:37.3; 30) Lance Kopsack 3:47:47.3; 31) Matt Green 3:48:55.4; 32) Robert Witter 3:49:29.6; 33) Tully Labelle-Hamer 3:49:54.4; 34) Brian Pantzke 3:54:43.0; 35) Scott Gage 3:56:03.1; 36) Travis Peltier 3:56:29.2; 37) John Naylor 3:56:41.8; 38) Ben Spies 3:57:10.3; 39) Aaron Ostrovsky 4:02:15.2; 40) Joshua Allely 4:02:25.0; 41) Nicholas Goura 4:03:51.4; 42) Dorian Gross 4:05:03.4; 43) Mike Brock 4:06:34.7; 44) Mike Heatwole 4:06:46.5; 45) Kevin Knotek 4:09:19.7; 46) Justin Hickel 4:10:43.3; 47) Mike Schroeder 4:11:40.5; 48) Michael Gjere 4:15:03.5; 49) Jeremey Weber 4:18:10.4; 50) Shaun Debenham 4:19:08.0; 
51) William Timmons 4:19:56.5; 52) Derek Nottingham 4:20:23.8; 53) John Wirum 4:23:05.5; 54) Fred Hveding 4:24:05.6; 55) Gavin Kentch 4:24:49.9; 56) Garrett McKee 4:25:48.6; 57) David Stanfield 4:26:10.1; 58) Michael Quimby 4:27:27.3; 59) Thomas Nenahlo 4:27:43.0; 60) Michael Bourdukstky 4:29:11.3; 61) Mark Brady 4:31:22.2; 62) WT Stille 4:31:25.8; 63) Jordan Bancroft 4:32:31.3; 64) Braun Kopsack 4:32:43.4; 65) Rick Hansen 4:34:07.7; 66) Matthew Anderson 4:35:02.8; 67) Bryan M. Anderson 4:35:54.6; 68) Mike Michner 4:36:55.6; 69) Jeremy Weaver 4:37:33.1; 70) Jeremy Felson 4:38:23.9; 71) Joel Brandt 4:38:47.4; 72) Chris Dankmeyer 4:41:24.3; 73) Chester Gilmore 4:42:14.6; 74) Joni Earp 4:42:52.8; 75) Peter Lamb 4:44:28.3; 76) Kevin Taylor 4:44:44.3; 77) Alexander Hone 4:47:04.9; 78) Ricky Pico 4:47:15.2; 79) Frederick Schlereth 4:47:20.1; 80) Mike Wahlig 4:48:17.7; 81) Marti Lindeke 4:49:18.1; 82) Connor Priest 4:49:23.2; 83) Patrick Lovely 4:50:27.9; 84) Leo Brown 4:51:39.7; 85) Nelson Priddy 4:54:12.6; 86) James Benkert 4:54:23.7; 87) Nathan Zeigler 4:55:54.9; 88) Matt Soule 5:00:26.3; 89) Jeff Dickson 5:00:37.9; 90) Sean Zumwalt 5:00:55.4; 91) Alex Hildebrand 5:05:33.0; 92) Bob Heinrich 5:06:55.0; 93) Brian Flemming 5:12:44.1; 94) Justin Hone 5:13:12.1; 95) Samuel Chamberlain 5:15:59.4; 96) Jose Gross 5:18:37.5; 97) Douglas Debenham 5:19:33.3; 98) Jared Kern 5:20:10.5; 99) Tom Paynter 5:21:47.3; 100) Jeffrey Stelter 5:22:54.9; 
101) Scott Jones 5:23:09.1; 102) Jeffrey Kern 5:25:33.7; 103) Mark Malagodi 5:28:17.7; 104) Asher Heirley 5:35:19.4; 105) Keith Cook 5:37:14.1; 106) Jeff Maillovx 5:37:53.2; 107) James Ewing 5:42:26.4; 108) Daniel Ray 5:47:18.4; 109) Evan Steinhauser 5:48:17.6; 110) Roger Kemppell 5:50:37.6.