SEWARD -- Alaska has a new queen of the mountains.
Sweden's Emelie Forsberg, 28, destroyed one of Alaska's most revered sports records on Saturday in Seward, slashing nearly three minutes off Nancy Pease's 25-year-old mark by winning Mount Marathon in an astounding 47 minutes, 48 seconds.
"I'm super surprised and so, so happy," Forsberg said after breaking Pease's mark of 50:30 set in 1990. "I had a really good day."
She wasn't the only one. Second-place Allie Ostrander, 18, also broke Pease's record, crossing the finish line in 50:28 in her senior race debut.
"I kinda wish the record was mine but I have a lot more years in me," said Ostrander, the best female high school runner Alaska has ever produced. "Some people are racing at 70 so I've got, oh, 50 more shots at it."
The race was expected to be fast, with the six-time junior champion Ostrander and professional mountain runner Forsberg on a collision course ever since Forsberg announced she planned to enter the race earlier this spring. But nobody had any clue just how fast until stunned race fans saw the affable Swede's smiling face appear on Fourth Avenue with the clock ticking not seconds but minutes below Pease's record time.
"Emelie was a wild card, I didn't know exactly what to expect," said Ostrander, a Kenai Central High grad who is heading to Idaho in the fall to run collegiately at Boise State. "Well, she showed up and showed us Alaskans what a real hiker is."
Christy Marvin of Palmer was third in 52:59, Anchorage's Najeeby Quinn, 35, was fourth in 55:34, followed by 25-year-old Denali Foldager-Strabel of Anchorage in 56:17.
Forsberg's peers found the record-wrecking performance almost unbelievable.
"Insane,'' said Quinn. "Freakin' insane.''
Forsberg and Ostrander dueled over the first half of the race until the 28-year-old stunned her younger rival by breaking into a jog on the steep slope after racers left the treeline.
"I know why she's world class now," said Ostrander, who made history in 2014 by becoming the first girl to win the overall junior title.
Forsberg powered up the lung- and leg-busting pitch -- the course averages 34 degrees as it climbs to a turnaround point at 3,022 feet above the picturesque seaside down on Resurrection Bay -- then kept her foot on the accelerator all the way down, leaving a cloud of dust and the competition in her wake.
Ostrander said once she saw Forsberg switch gears she knew she was in trouble.
"It was defeating to see someone running," said Ostrander, incredulous.
Forsberg said had no idea she was on record pace even as she sprinted toward the finish line with the massive holiday weekend crowd screaming its approval.
"I didn't want to look at my watch, I was just trying to absorb all of the energy," she said.
Competitors were universal in their praise of Forsberg, an acclaimed pro who lives in Chamonix, France, and has several prestigious international titles under her belt.
"For someone to go and beat a Nancy Pease record by two minutes? Wow," said Marvin, 34, the 2013 champion.
Marvin said she could tell from the early going that Forsberg and Ostrander were operating at a different level.
"Those girls are out of my league," she said.
The race was held in ideal racing weather, with cool, cloudy conditions and just a hint of rain sprinkling the 350 racers and thousands of competitors who turned out to witness history.
"It was good actually, it wasn't wet at all," said Forsberg.
While everyone in the finishing chute was marveling at Forsberg's mastery of the mountain, the champion herself was heaping effusive praise on her closest rival.
"I'm so impressed by that little girl, she's amazing," she said.
Holly Brooks, the 2014 champion who sat out this year's race, agreed, saying the teen phenom was a worthy standard bearer for the Alaskan contingent.
"She represented us very well," Brooks said after congratulating both Forsberg and Ostrander in the finish chute.
Pease's record wasn't the only new record set Saturday. Ellyn Brown, 62, broke her own age group record by finishing in 1:08:11 cutting 47 seconds off the mark she set two years ago. And eight women broke the one-hour mark, equaling last year's record.
And the best news for race fans of all? Next year's race should be another doozy: Both Forsberg and Ostrander said without hesitation they plan to duke it out again on Independence Day in 2016.
"I will be back," Forsberg said.
Ostrander said she'll be waiting.
"I have 364 days to get better for next year."
Contact reporter Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top 20 -- 1) Emelie Forsberg, 47 minutes, 48 seconds (new course record; old record 50:30 by Nancy Pease in 1990); 2) Allie Ostrander, 50:28; 3) Christy Marvin, 52:29; 4) Najeeby Quinn, 55:34; 5) Denali Foldager-Strabel, 56:17; 6) Aubrey Smith, 57:08; 7) Rachel Dow, 59:44; 8) Heidi Doner, 59:46; 9) Lydia Blanchet, 1:00:20; 10) Wendy Sailors, 1:00:26; 11) Hallidie Wilt, 1:00:50; 12) Sarah Glaser, 1:00:54; 13) Gyongyver Schilling, 1:01:54; 14) Christie Haupert, 1:01:45; 15) Sheryl Loan, 1:02:01; 16) Angela DiBernardino, 1:02:08; 17) Anna Widman, 1:02:28; 18) Karol Fink, 1:02:58; 19) 1:03:02; 20) Kelsey Coolidge, 1:03:11
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