Testing the best | SteamboatToday.com

Testing the best

Trail Championships coming to Howelsen Hill on Sunday

Luke Graham

A large field of competitors scramble off the starting line at the beginning of the 2007 USA Track & Field 10K Trail Championships held at Mount Werner in Steamboat Springs last year. This year's championship, and accompanying open race, takes place Sunday at Howelsen Hill.

— There’s no doubt the course for Sunday’s USA Track & Field 10K Trail Championships will test even the best.

The course starts at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena and takes runners to the top of Howelsen Hill then over to the Lupine Trail before making its way back down. All of the course’s stages share one characteristic.

It starts steep, gets steeper, then gets even steeper.

“This is a whole different level,” race director John Chapman said. “It does serve as a national championship for trail running. Just like indoor or outdoor track has a national championship, for those of us mountain trail runners, this is kind of the big event.”

After last year’s race went up and then straight back down Christie Peak at Mount Werner, Chapman decided to move the course to Howelsen.

Although it may not be as grueling or brutal as last year’s, the course certainly presents some challenges.

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The first hill is up a steep service road. The second hill is up the even steeper ski run. All told, runners will gain 420 feet in just a quarter-mile.

Each lap will consist of 4K of trail and approximately 805 feet of climbing. Senior women and junior men and women will complete two laps, while the senior men will complete a demanding three laps.

“We wanted to set a course that was technical and neat,” Chapman said. “Like what you’d see at a world championship.”

Laura Haefeli, who finished second in Steamboat Springs last year – and became the first American woman to win a medal at the 2007 Trail World Championships in Switzerland – also will compete.

Last year’s male winner, Rickey Gates, is expected to compete, as is Moffat County High School graduate and last year’s third-place finisher, Clint Wells.

“It’s good to have an event of this level in Steamboat,” Chapman said. “We do it because we have a passion for trail running.”

Chapman reminded local runners that an open/citizen’s division race will take place with the Trail National Championships. Both races are set to begin at 8:30 a.m. The open/citizen’s division will run the same course and those finishing will have their points counted toward the 2008 Running Series.

Registration/packet pick-up for both divisions costs $35 and can be done from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at Ski Haus or before the race Sunday up until 8 a.m. Runners hoping to compete in the national championship event and a shot at the $5,000 in prize money must have a USATF membership.

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

If you go

What: USA Track & Field 10K Trail Championships

When: Race starts at 8:30 a.m. Sunday

Where: Northwest corner of the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena

On the ‘Net

Visit http://www.runnningserie… for race information or http://www.usatf.org for membership details.