Steep, soggy conditions give running pair advantage in Spring Creek race
Steamboat Springs — Maybe there is a definitive answer to outpacing the pack in the Spring Creek Memorial race, one of the most grueling competitions in the Steamboat Springs Running Series, even for a 5K and 9-miler.
Gabe Small and Sarah Guhl, winners of the men’s and women’s 9-mile race Saturday morning along the popular trail near Steamboat Springs High School, have something in common.
They’re both fit and lean avid runners, clearly looking the part of what the summer series draws each season.
But they also have something else in common, a not-so-noticeable trait that gave them a leg up on the soggy, steep and treacherous trail.
They’re steeplechase runners, a track and field distance event that requires runners to clear a hurdle each lap, dunking them into a shallow pool on the other side.
So for every log in the vertical slope and the creek running through the race’s toughest stretch after a few days’ worth of rain, Small and Guhl were able to clear a gap from the competition en route to their respective wins.
“I definitely think it was an advantage,” Small, 29, said about his days as a steeplechase runner in college. “There were a lot of hurdles. There was a guy close to me, and I was able to gap him by a lot using steeple form over the barriers.”
But while Small — a repeat champion in the annual Steamboat Springs Marathon — since has retired from his competitive days on the collegiate track, Guhl is heading into her final season at Baylor University as a cross-country and track and field athlete.
Guhl’s dad, Dave, ran the race with her, both visiting Steamboat for the first time while Dave commits some time to an optometry conference in town.
“The way up was kind of muddy, but it was fun,” Sarah said. “We like singletrack. I love the dirt instead of road races. It was beautiful on the way down, too.”
Small crossed the 9-mile course in 1:07:49, nearly two minutes ahead of second-place finisher Harry Niedl, of Steamboat, in 1:09:29. Steamboat’s Eddie Rogers was third, completing the course in 1:09:42.
Guhl, who finished in 1:16:51, about a minute off the course-record pace, edged Anna Bergman (1:17:31) and Mandy Ortiz (1:19:44).
With the soggy Thursday and Friday night conditions, race director Cara Marrs anticipated some slower times but a competitive circuit nonetheless. The race also featured a famous face from Vail in Anita Ortiz, Mandy’s mother, who was just inducted into the Colorado Running Hall of Fame.
The course threw Anita off a bit, getting lost and backtracking to a finish outside the top 10 while her daughter, a World Junior Mountain Running competitor, took top three.
The race’s 5K portion featured a handful of youngsters, including 13-year-old Christopher Carrouth, who won the men’s division in 24:22, barely beating out Mark Miller in 24:30 and 14-year-old Gavin Hornung in 24:41.
Becky Heath was the women’s 5K winner in 25:36. Nikki Durkan was second in 26:53, and Jamie Rice was third in 28:57.
Next on the Steamboat Springs Running Series docket is another grueling race with the Mount Werner Classic 50K on July 26. The race begins at the bottom of the Valley View trail with more than 9 miles of steep climbing, Marrs said.
“It’s 4,500 feet of elevation gain in the first 9 miles,” she said.
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