September 30, 2004
USA 50 Mile Championship Set For October 2 at Tussey Mountainback
State College, PA — Local ultrarunner Morgan Windram was just out for a good run last fall when she won the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon for the second time in a row and set a new women's course record. The Penn State graduate student in geography will have more than that at stake when she comes up against national talent at this year's race on Saturday.
Windram's record of 7:46 for the hilly 50 mile course will certainly be challenged this year. The field of 40 ultramarathoners from the United States and Canada includes at least two other women worth watching: Laura Nelson, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, has won the John F. Kennedy 50 Miler four times, with a best time of 6:59 for the distance, and Nelson won last year's Umstead trail 100 miler. Laurel Valley, of Parsonsfield, Maine, outpaced all but one man to log a 7:05 at the Maine Track Club 50 Miler in 2002.
Participants in the men's race include Greg Loomis, who logged a 6:24 at the 2001 JFK 50 Miler. The current men's record of 7:23 on the Tussey course was set in 2002 by Steve Thorne, a linguistics professor at Penn State. In the race's four years, only three men have bested Windram's mark on the course. Last year the men's contest was won by Dennis Koch, a graduate student in physiology at Penn State. Neither Thorne nor Koch is scheduled to run this year's race.
The Mountainback gained national stature this spring with the announcement that U.S.A. Track & Field had selected the event for the USA 2004 50 Mile Road National Championships. The course consists of a single loop through central Pennsylvania's Rothrock State Forest. A championship purse in the 50 mile ultramarathon division of the event will provide cash awards to the first, second and third male and female in both open and master's (age 40 and over) competition.
Primary sponsors of this year's Mountainback include the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau and Centre Medical and Surgical Associates.
The event also has a popular relay division, in which runners from communities throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states take part. Fifty-six teams will compete in the relay division.
Observers will be able to catch Saturday's action from several vantage points, including Whipple Dam State Park, Alan Seeger Natural Area, Colyer Lake, and the start and finish located at the Tussey Mountain Ski Area. The ultramarathon race will start at 7 a.m. The relay race will start in two waves at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.
Contact: Mike Casper