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December 20, 2004

DuPont Race Will Decide US Title
National championship off-road marathon will be held at area state forest

Joel Burgess
Hendersonville Times-News Staff Writer

The best off-road marathoners in the United States will have to get past 26 miles of rocky, tumbling Western North Carolina trails before they can claim the national podium next year.

DuPont State Forest, which hosted its first trail marathon in October, will become the site for the 2004 National Championship. The Times-News and the Henderson County Family YMCA are title sponsors for the event scheduled for Oct. 17.

Greg Walker, an organizer of this year's event, said The Mountain, Ultra and Trail Running Council selected the DuPont Forest race based on the success of the inaugural event.

"MUT Council was impressed with our organization of the event, volunteer and community support and the beautiful course," Walker said.

Organizers tried unsuccessfully to get the inaugural DuPont event designated as a national championship. Still the N.C. Chapter of of the USA Track and Field Association tapped the race as its state championship.

About 150 individual runners and 100 relay-team members hit the laurel-lined paths of DuPont Oct. 19. The day went off, by all accounts, without a hitch, the only disappointment being 50 no-shows out of 200 registered runners.

A course designed by veteran marathoner Ray McCaslin of Hendersonville offered tribulations such as water crossing, grinding hills and plummeting descents.

Loic Laforet, a French-born Hendersonville runner took first place among men with a time of 2:56. Ultra-distance runner Anne Riddle of Asheville out-distanced the second place woman runner by 20 minutes with a time of 3:14.

The men's and women's winners of next year's event will receive the title of national champions. That racheting up of the stakes promises to raise the profile of the DuPont event and generate even more interest locally, Walker said.

"It'll be great for the marathon event and also just for the community to host a national championship race," he said.

Past national championships have been held in places such as Aspen, Colo., and northwest California.

Walker said the designation should draw a top-quality field of runners, especially among the men.

Birmingham, Ala., will host the men's Olympic trials on Feb. 7. Out of 100 competitors, three will be selected for the Olympic team. That, said Walker, will leave 97 runners who might be looking for a title to cap off their season.

Park Ridge Hospital will sponsor the relay race, and Pardee Hospital will sponsor a new children's run.

McCaslin and Bruce McDonald of the N.C. Forest Service will develop the 2004 course. Registration will run March 1 to Oct.1.

For more information, contact Walker at the YMCA at (828) 692-5774, Ext. 11.





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