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Who will win Wednesday’s Mount Marathon races? Take your pick

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: July 4
  • Published July 3

Mount Marathon is Alaska's Super Bowl, and you can't have a Super Bowl without predictions.

So here you go, courtesy of Matias Saari, the 2009 Mount Marathon men's champion and a board member for Alaska Mountain Runners.

Saari, who works as the event coordinator for Healthy Futures, knows the race and he knows the runners, so his top-10 predictions for Wednesday's men's and women's races come with credibility.

Saari made his picks for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame fame blog. Here is a condensed version of those picks.

Women

1. Allie Ostrander, 22 (PR 49:19, defending champion)

If she decides to race, it's hard to imagine anyone beating her. The Soldotna native and Boise State standout won the junior girls' race six times, is the defending women's champion and boasts the 2nd (49:19) and 3rd fastest (50:28) times in women's race history.

Ostrander climbed the mountain last year in 36:58, a time no woman in this year's field can come close to matching. Then she descended in 12:21, thirty-four seconds faster than Christy Marvin.

If she shows up, it would take a rough day for Ostrander and a career day for Marvin or someone else for Ostrander to be dethroned.

2. Christy Marvin, 37 (PR 51:02, two-time champion)

Marvin registered dominant wins this year at Crazy Lazy, Knoya Ridge and the 30-mile Kesugi Ridge Traverse on June 23. But she showed a chink in her armor when Jessica Yeaton edged her by 11 seconds at Bird Ridge. Her advantage on the downhill should keep her ahead of anyone who fails to considerably gap her while climbing.

3. Jessica Yeaton, 26 (rookie)

Yeaton gained confidence by pulling away from Marvin in the final minutes at Bird Ridge to post that race's second fastest time by a woman ever. A member of the APU ski program, she has dual citizenship and represented Australia at this year's Winter Olympics. She'll need a decent downhill to hold her place from the climb.

4. Rosie Frankowski, 26 (rookie)

Another Olympic skier from APU, Frankowski is a late addition to the field by virtue of her impressive victory at Government Peak. Like most skiers, she is expected to excel on the climb but her descending skills are unknown.

5. Denali Foldager-Strabel, 28 (PR 53:40)

Her mother, Patti Foldager, and her husband, Eric Strabel, are both Mount Marathon champions, and Denali longs to join that club. Fourth last year, she had her best race so far this summer at Bird Ridge (3rd place) and is among the fastest downhillers. If she can stay within striking distance of Yeaton and Frankowski on the climb, she could pick them off on the descent.

6. Anita Ortiz, 54 (rookie)

This Colorado runner has been to Alaska at least once before. In 2002, she raced Wolverine Peak, a qualifying race for the U.S. Mountain Running Team, and defeated Nina Kemppel by five minutes. Kemppel was in good form, too, having competed in her fourth Winter Olympics that winter and was a few weeks shy of winning her eighth Mount Marathon. Sixteen years later, Ortiz is still achieving solid results, meaning Sheryl Loan's 50-59 age-group record of 59:23 is in serious jeopardy.

7. Najeeby Quinn, 38 (PR 54:07)

A long-time mountain and trail racer who also competes in ski mountaineering events, Quinn was second at Knoya and fourth at Bird Ridge. But Mount Marathon's field is much deeper, so she'll probably need to crack 55 minutes for a shot at the top 5.

8. Allison Barnwell, 26 (PR 55:08)

Barnwell, who grew up in Seward, was second in 2013. The field is stacked this year, so unless she can improve on her typical result of 55-57 minutes, Barnwell will be relegated to the bottom half of the top 10.

9. Hannah LaFleur, 30 (PR 56:41)

The Colorado runner finished an impressive seventh in her debut last year, and with a strong race she could exceed this prediction.

10. Abby Jahn, 25 (PR 59:31)

Jahn broke an hour for the first time last year and continues to improve.

Top 10 hopefuls

— Mackenzie Barnwell, 24 (PR 1:00:55)

— Julianne Dickerson, 30 (PR 1:06:17)

— Rachel Dow, 39 (PR 58:07, 8 top 10s)

— Heather Edic, 26 (MM rookie)

— Lauren Fritz, 30 (PR 54:47)

— Sarah Glaser, 29 (PR 1:00:27)

— Ruby Lindquist, 18 (2nd junior girls, 2017)

— April McAnly, 36 (PR 59:08)

Signed up but not racing

— Anna Dalton, focusing on Berlin Marathon (PR 59:13)

— Ann Spencer, recovering from injury (PR 55:11)

Top 2017 finishers not returning

— Morgan Arritola, 2nd in 51:09

Guest picks

Holly Brooks (two-time women's champion) — Ostrander, Yeaton, Marvin, Frankowski, Quinn, Foldager-Strabel, Ortiz, LaFleur, Jahn, McAnly.

Scott Patterson (defending men's champion) — Ostrander, Marvin, Yeaton, Foldager-Strabel, Quinn, Barnwell, Frankowski, LaFleur, Jahn, McAnly.

Harlow Robinson (veteran racer) — Ostrander, Marvin, LaFleur, Frankowski, Yeaton, Barnwell, Foldager-Strabel, Jahn, Ortiz, Quinn.

Men

1. David Norris, 27 (PR 41:26)

Norris made Alaskans proud when he reclaimed the race record from Spanish star Kilian Jornet two years ago in his Mount Marathon debut. He's in excellent form, having lowered his own record at Bird Ridge.

He won't get a push up the hill from APU ski teammate and defending champion Scott Patterson (out with a broken toe), so unless someone like Max King hangs with him, Norris may need to self-motivate.

Joining Norris on the climb will be difficult: in 2016, he ascended the mountain in an astounding 30:35, a full 51 seconds faster than the previous uphill record.

2. Max King, 38 (MM rookie)

Max King of Bend, Oregon, is the most versatile runner in the country. Twice he placed Top 20 at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials (running 2:14 and 2:17); he was sixth in the steeplechase at the 2012 Trials; and he won $30,000 for placing first in the Warrior Dash World Championship obstacle course race. Last month he handily won the 26-kilometer Broken Arrow Sky Race in California.

King's road speed will get him to the mountain's base in the lead group. He's a light guy with a huge engine and trail-runner strength, so a strong climb is expected. His technical ability on the descent is unknown, and that's what will determine whether he can chase down Norris or hold off his pursuers.

3. Lars Arneson, 28 (PR 58:14)

The top three might be a stretch for a guy who's only raced once (taking 45th a decade ago at age 18). But Arneson is on the rise, with wins at Mat Peak last August and Knoya Ridge in May.

Tall and lean, Arneson is among the four men (joining Adam Jensen, Matt Shyrock and Peter Mamrol) who have been logging major vertical with plenty of hard workouts and intra-group competition all season.

4. Matt Shryock, 32 (PR 44:44)

He is due to excel after an exceptional debut in 2015 followed by results outside the top 10 the last two years. He's missed all four Grand Prix races so far this season so there's no gauge of his racing fitness. But he has been putting in the work and reportedly likes the heat.

5. Adam Jensen, 37 (PR 45:21)

Known more as a power climber than a runner, he put in a stellar runner-up result at Bird Ridge in 39:05.

6. Kenny Brewer, 26 (PR 46:13)

A young guy with wheels, Brewer placed third last year. He'll need to speed up considerably to hold that result this year.

7. Rickey Gates, 37 (PR 42:56)

Rickey Gates only seventh? Where's the respect for the guy who has two of the top five times in Mount Marathon history and climbed the mountain in 31:26 three years ago?

Gates, who lives in California, took nearly two years off from racing (last summer he ran across the country for fun), and his result at the Broken Arrow Skyrace Vertical K last month wasn't encouraging: 12th place and 4:37 off the win in a field that arguably isn't as deep as Mount Marathon's.

8. Erik Johnson, 41 (PR 45:22)

The Seward Parks Service employee shocked many when he emerged from the cliffs last year wearing board shorts and a big beard en route to a second-place finish. Fans shouldn't have been surprised, however, as Johnson spends a lot of time on the mountain and now has three sub-45:30 results to show for it.

9. Peter Mamrol, 25 (PR 48:02)

Mamrol and Lars Arneson smashed the 12-peak Front Range Linkup record by four hours last summer.

10. Lyon Kopsack, 22 (PR 45:39)

A member of the Kopsack clan of mountain goats, he is a fearless descender who will pass a few guys on the downhill to sneak into the top 10.

Top 10 hopefuls

— Luke Jager, 18 (Junior champion 2015-17)

— Jacob Kirk, 26 (PR 49:21; owns 3rd fastest downhill in history of 10:12)

— Ben Marvin, 37 (PR 46:14)

— Matt Novakovich, 44 (PR 44:07, 2012 champion)

— Matias Saari, 47 (PR 44:53, 2009 champion)

— Jim Shine, 41 (PR 43:11 in 2015)

— Derek Steele, 20 (PR 49:09)

Signed up but not racing

— Scott Patterson, broken toe (PR 44:30, defending champion)

— Eric Strabel, stress fracture (PR 42:55, 3-time champion, former record-holder)

— Lars Kjerengtroen, Utah (10th in 2017)

— Chad Trammell (16th in 2017)

Top 2017 finishers not returning

— Alexander Eckert, 4th

— Matthias Messner, 5th

— Allan Spangler, 15th

Guest picks

Clint McCool (veteran runner) — Norris, King, Arneson, Johnson, Jensen, Gates, Shine, Novakovich, Jager, Brewer.

Holly Brooks (two-time women's champion) — Norris, King, Gates, Arneson, Shine, Jensen, Brewer, Johnson, Novakovich, Saari.

Scott Patterson (defending men's champion)— Norris, King, Gates, Johnson, Brewer, Jager, Jensen, Arneson, Saari, Kirk.

Harlow Robinson (veteran runner) — Norris, Gates, Johnson, Arneson, Kopsack, Mamrol, King, Jensen, Steele, Saari.

Allan Spangler (veteran runner) — Norris, Mamrol, Arneson, Jensen, Johnson, Gates, King, Kopsack, Brewer, Jager.

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