Soroco freshman leads 5K pack in second Steamboat Running Series race |

Soroco freshman leads 5K pack in second Steamboat Running Series race

Austin Colbert
Oak Creek's Ben Kelley competes in the 5K portion of the Steamboat Springs Running Series Spirit Challenge on Saturday near Steamboat Springs Middle School. Kelley won the 5K race with a time of 18 minutes
Austin Colbert

— It was only a week ago when Soroco High School freshman Ben Kelley was collecting medals at the state track and field meet in Lakewood. A good distance runner for the Rams — he took sixth in the 1,600-meter run and seventh in the 800-meter run at state — Kelley kept his offseason short and sweet when he decided to compete in Saturday’s Spirit Challenge, part of the Steamboat Springs Running Series.

“It’s pretty sweet. This is one of the first running series events I’ve actually trained for,” said Kelley, who has competed in the series for a few years. “Took a couple days break from state, and then I got back to running for this running series. But it’s really special. Right off the bat, I thought I was behind. I was behind by probably 40 meters for a while there, but was able to catch back up and win. So it’s pretty cool.”

Compared to the pressure of state track, Saturday’s run was nothing more than a walk in the park for Kelley, who was the overall 5,000-meter race winner with a time of 18 minutes, 16 seconds. His younger brother, 12-year-old Jeremiah Kelley, finished 13th overall.

“We run together sometimes. It’s nice to have someone to push you on,” the older Kelley said of running with his brother.

Eddie Rogers was second in the 5K race in 18:30, and Derek Leidigh third in 19:02.

Watkins Fulk-Gray was the overall winner in the 10K race with a time of 37:51, with Brad Reidhead taking second (38:14) and Josh Smullin, third (38:25).

The races, the second of the summer for the series, were held near the Steamboat Springs Middle School. The route was partially paved, with a section taking the runners onto Butcherknife Trail before finishing up at the middle school.

While race director Pam Wooster said the courses were “pretty flat all the way out and back,” it was still more than Lori Walker had bargained for.

“It was a lot tougher of a course than I was expecting,” said Walker, who was the top female finisher in the 5K race, taking fourth overall in 19:30. “No, it’s not flat at all. Did they say it’s flat?”

Walker is from Reunion, near Denver International Airport, an area with relatively flat courses. It was clear her definition of flat is much different from the runners in Steamboat, but that didn’t stop her from making the most of her impromptu trip out west.

“We came up for Memorial Day weekend. My husband was supposed to do a triathlon in Windsor, and it got cancelled. So I was just like, ‘Let’s get out of here and find a race to run,’” said Walker, a former all-American in cross country for Western State Colorado University. “I guess I’m just used to racing in Denver. They have fast courses. We are not used to running in the mountains or the hills … I was hurting.”

Her husband, Patrick, also had a good showing, taking sixth in the 10K race in 41:06. Penelope Freedman was the top female finisher in the 10k race, taking eighth overall in 43:51. Freedman also was the top overall female finisher in the 8.4-mile race during the Hayden Cog Run earlier this month.

At the end of the day, Wooster couldn’t have been happier with the results. This is the only race of the series she directs, and runners were greeted with perfect weather for the morning races, which included a kids’ 800-meter fun run around the middle school track and an improved turnout over last year’s race, which had approximately 100 runners. This year, there were 79 runners in the 5K race and 44 in the 10K race.

Most importantly, Wooster believes the races raised “a nice sum of money” for the Yampa Valley Autism Program. The final tally of money raised won’t be known until Monday at the earliest, according to Wooster.

“The weather was perfect, and we had a lot of runners turn out,” Wooster said. “The sun was out, and it wasn’t rainy. If we had rain, I think it would have kept many away this morning.”

The Steamboat Springs Running Series will hold its third event of the summer season on June 7 with the Steamboat Marathon. For more information on all upcoming running series races, visit

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