INDIANAPOLIS - For the seventh year in a row on Saturday, the White River 50 Mile in Crystal Mountain, Wash., was the site of the USATF 50 Mile Trail Championship. The course, sporting spectacular views along the White River and on the Noble Knob Trail in the Norse Peak Wilderness, claims a total of 17,600 feet elevation change.
This year's record field included 238 starters, which is a reflection of the excellent job done by race director Scott McCoubrey and his staff of volunteers and associates from the Seattle Running Company.
This year's race saw the early men's field packed tightly. At 17 miles at Corral Pass, Jason Bryant (Elkin, NC) led the charge, feeling that the pace was relaxed. Bryant most recently represented the United States at the NACAC Mountain Championships in Mexico. In tow were a "Who's Who" of trail ultra running including 2008 50 km and 100 km U.S. National Champion Michael Wardian (Arlington, Va.), 2007 50 km and 100 km U.S. National Champion Greg Crowther, and a host of others, all highly credentialed and deserving of front pack attendance. The split for the first 10 runners was about 3 minutes.
At the 27 mile aid station, Wardian appeared first, coming through the aid station 3 minutes ahead of Jasper Halekas (Oakland, Ca.). Wardian, the fastest marathoner in the group, used his superior leg speed to catch and break away from the field during the long four-mile descent down the Ranger Creek Trail.
After a long climb to Sun Top, with the massive Mt. Ranier in the backdrop, Wardian fought his way up the rugged single track trail and to the aid station at the top. This time he was followed closely by Adam Lint (Indiana, Pa.), just a minute back. Lint worked hard climbing, closing the distance on Wardian.
Wardian gained the final choke hold on the field on the long downhill from Sun Top to the turn at Skookum Flats, a 6.4 mile dirt road, where he opened up and let his leg speed dispose of the field, building an additional 5 minutes on his lead over Lint.
Wardian charged up the rocky trail over the final six miles to seal his win by just under seven minutes. His time of 6:52: 50 was 3rd fastest in race history. Lint finished a strong second in 6:59:36, with Jasper Halekas (Oakland, Calif.) finishing third in 7:04:25.
The women's race turned out to be a slugfest between marathon specialist Susannah Beck (Eugene, Ore.) and Kami Semick (Bend, Ore.). At the same time the men's lead pack formed a train and pulled up the hill to Corral Pass, Beck was the caboose of the men's lead pack, coming through the 17-mile mark just 2 minutes 35 seconds behind the men's leader. Semick was seven minutes back of Beck. While Beck appeared to be working hard but running strong, Semick looked relaxed and stayed on a pre-planned pace for a prescribed finish time she believed would be good enough for the win.
By the 27-mile aid station, Semick had cut the lead to just under two minutes, as she used her great downhill technique to make up ground on Beck. On the climb up to Sun Top, Semick caught and passed Beck. It took Beck nearly ¾ of the 6.4 mile descent to catch and pass Semick again. At the turn on to Skookum Flats and into the final six miles along the White River, Beck had a minute lead over Semick. At that point, Beck ran hard along the rocky trail all the way to the finish, building over a 10-minute lead over Semick.
Beck's finishing time of 7:32:12 was a new women's course record by seven minutes, eclipsing that of Nikki Kimball set at the 2007 race. Semick's second place 7:42:52 turned out to be the fourth-fastest women's time in race history, and also Semick's fastest on the course in her three White River appearances. Annie Thiessen (Tacoma, Wash.) finished third in 8:29:45.
The race also served as USATF Master's National 50 Mile Trail Championship and awards were given to age group winners in five-year increments from 40+. William Emerson (Portland, Ore.) won the men's master's age division in 7:30:21, while women's overall winner Susannah Beck was crowned women's master's champion.
For more information on the 2008 50 Mile Trail Championship, visit www.usatf.org.