Women sweep Eagle River Challenge championships

Saturday, August 10, 2019 - 15:22
  • Eagle River Challenge 10K winner Julie Johnson nears the finish line at the Eagle River Nature Center on Saturday, August 10, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Eagle River Challenge 5K winner Kathleene Simonson smiles after crossing the finish line at the Eagle River Nature Center on Saturday, August 10, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Eagle River Challenge kids’ race winner Jonah Bennion reacts after crossing the finish of the 1-kilometer race at the Eagle River Nature Center on Saturday, August 10, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Competitors in the Eagle River Challenge wilderness race make their way down the Dew Mound trail near the Eagle River Nature Center on Saturday, August 10, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Eagle River’s Dayton Denter leads the Eagle River Challenge wilderness race on Saturday, August 10, 2019. Denter finished second in the 10-kilometer race behind Julie Johnson (in blue hat). (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Competitors in the Eagle River Challenge wilderness race make their way along the Dew Mound trail near the Eagle River Nature Center on Saturday, August 10, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

Saturday’s Eagle River Classic was an uphill battle — and that was just fine with Anchorage’s Julie Johnson.

“I just keep going on the uphill,” Johnson said after becoming the first woman to win the 10-kilometer wilderness race through the rolling hills of the Eagle River Valley in in its 15-year history.

Eagle River’s Dayton Denter led the race for the first 15 minutes or so, he said, until Johnson powered past on a long, steep hill.

“We’re going up a big hill with a bunch of rocks,” said Denton, who finished second and won the men’s division. “I could hear her keep coming up behind me and I was like, ‘Yeah, she’s definitely passing me, there’s no way I’m staying in front of her.’”

After that, it was all Johnson.

“She was cruising,” said Denter, who grew up in the neighborhood and said he walked from his home to the starting line.

Wilderness women dominated Saturday’s races, with Anchorage’s Kathleen Simonson joining Johnson as first-time female winners by claiming the 5-kilometer title in 26 minutes, 57.3 seconds. Adam Frazier was second overall and won the men’s 5K in 28:32.7.

Johnson has had a strong summer of trail running, placing 10th in the women’s division in the 23-mile Crow Pass Crossing between Girdwood and Eagle River and winning the women’s sport division (and taking 5th among all women) at the burly Cirque Series race on the steep slopes of Mt. Alyeska just a week later.

“I like the gritty stuff,” she said.

Saturday’s race didn’t have nearly as much climbing as Crow Pass or Alyeska, but it did feature a trail Johnson said was technical and challenging.

“There was a lot of boulders and roots,” she said.

Though she’s one of the top female mountain runners in Alaska, Johnson said she didn’t expect to come away from Saturday’s race as the overall champion.

“I just wanted to come out and have fun,” she said.

Rather than winning, Johnson said the best part of the race for her was getting to run the scenic trails near the Nature Center, which overlook the Eagle River Valley and include sweeping vistas of the Chugach Mountains.

“It’s so beautiful out there and the weather couldn’t be more perfect,” she said.

5K race winner Simonson said she loves trail running, but doesn’t do as much as she’d like because she’s worried about running into rogue wildlife.

“I like to go to races like this because there’s a lot of people,” she said.

Simonson almost ran too fast Saturday, finding herself running alone through bear country at the front of the 5-kilometer pack.

“I was kind of hoping there would be other people with me,” she laughed.

The event is an annual fundraiser for the Eagle River Nature Center, a nonprofit facility that serves as a gateway to Chugach State Park.

A total of 63 runners hit the trails Saturday under sunny skies, with 33 completing the 10-kilometer race and 30 running the 5K. Another 15 children ran the 1-kilometer children’s race, which was dominated by the Bennion family of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. 9-year-old Jonah won the overall title, while younger sister Eve, 7, won the girls’ race.

Jonah made quick work of the course, crossing the finish line in just 6 minutes, 11.5 seconds. His sister finished about 50 seconds later in second place.

“It was hilly but it was fun,” said Jonah, who promptly sat down in a lawn chair after winning the race. “That last part was really a challenge, it was a little harder than I thought it would be.”

Mae Bennion said her favorite part of Saturday’s festivities was getting to run alongside the other 5-to-11-year-olds who took part Saturday.

“I like when you get to race people,” she said.

For complete results, visit racesplitter.com

Eagle River Challenge

Saturday, Eagle River Nature Center

10-kilometer race

Women — 1) Julie Johnson, 52 minutes, 23.4 seconds; 2) Amie Wu, 1:01:09; 3) Andrea Kissova, 1:05:10; 4) Kathryn Helfrich, 1:06:46; 5) Andrea Everett, 1:10:34; 6) Kinsey Levin, 1:11:39; 7) Deann Denter, 1:16:47; 8) Marliese Von Huene, 1:17:49; 9) Kristen Bearden, 1:19::19; 10) Learen Wolfe, 1:20:51; 11) Roberta Graham, 1:22:42; 12) MJ Motta, 1:25:57; 13) Gina Bastian, 1:34:26; 14) Lisa Burkhart, 1:35:45; 15) Anita Moore-Nall, 1:38:00; 16) Jody Stewart, 1:40:56; 17) Deanna March, 1:52:58; 18) (tie) Kelli Sampson and Joan Nelson, 1:53:09; 20) Adrienne Keck, 1:59:56

Men — 1) Dayton Denter, 56:17.3; 2) Tylere Vinciguerra, 1:00:31; 3) Barry Benko, 1:00:41; 4) Christian Voigt, 1:02:20; 5) Conner Von Huene, 1:04:08; 6) Dean Denter, 1:04:24; 7) Bob Eder, 1:08:06; 8) Matt Eberhardt, 1:12:21; 9) Adam Cochrane, 1:16:09; 10) William Griffith, 1:16:58; 11) Paul Klockow, 1:18:24; 12) Peter Ramirez, 1:31:51; 13) Mike Barrett, 1:42:21

5-kilometer

Women — 1) Kathleene Simonson, 26:57.3; 2) Jen Novobilski, 23:18; 3) Lisa Ramstad, 35:05; 4) Jennifer Meyer, 36:25; 5) Kaleinani Rupp, 37:28; 6) Veronica Griffith, 38:48; 7) Skyler Harty, 40:21; 8) Maddy Larson, 40:22; 9) Donna Kenison, 41:23; 10) Annie Luck, 42:12; 11) Katie Everett, 42:54; 12) Emily Daley, 42:56; 13) Christina Lewis, 44:16; 14) Laura Doughty, 44:38; 15) Lisa Land, 45:28; 16) Sarah Paulus, 46:17; 17) Kari Clark, 47:39; 18) Tonya Roe, 48:08; 19) Joan Galt, 48:24; 20) Kayleigh Spradlin, 49:26

Men — 1) Adam Frazier, 28:32; 2) Adam Solano, 29:47; 3) Bret Baughman, 30:39; 4) Craig Paulus, 46:17; 5) (tie) Jade Pagala and Heath Patronas, 47:47; 8) Bob Land, 59:29

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