Wednesday, February 9, 2005

A great ride for the Boulder bunch

Arritola, 18, a strong second among women

Morgan Arritola, this year?s Boulder Tour women?s runner-up, poses at the finish line. Photo by David N. Seelig

Bells were ringing at the finish line, where the blistering pace of Saturday's 30th Wells Fargo Boulder Mountain Ski Tour produced the second-fastest finishing times in the long history of the 32-kilometer (19.8-mile) race.

"They're just flying with a tailwind behind them," said race announcer Jody Zarkos, describing the leaders as they approached the finish line at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters eight miles north of Ketchum.

Course record holder Eric Meyer, 26, of Minnesota and the Subaru Factory Team set the pace the whole way—leading by as many as nine seconds at Baker Creek—then he held off two strong rivals for a photo-finish victory in 1.09:43.3.

Meyer set the record in 2003 at 1.06:27.6, so he was about three minutes behind that—but who was quibbling? The sunny morning and hard-pack course, backed by the tailwind, made it fast for all 830 finishers. There were 922 registered.

Reigning American Ski Marathon Series champ and two-time Olympian Patrick Weaver, 35, was second in 1.09:43.7. Last year's Boulder king Nathan Schultz, 33, of the Subaru team was third with a time of 1.09:44.2.

Top local men were Jon Engen, 47, seventh in 1.11:42.4 and John King, 30, eighth in 1.11:42.8.

Fast was the word for the top two women.

Last year's women's runner-up and 2002 Boulder Tour queen Suzanne King, 40, of Bend, Ore. made it two wins with a time of 1.17:36.9—nearly 13 minutes faster than last year, good for 43rd overall.

The big story from a local standpoint was the second-place women's finish posted by 18-year-old Morgan Arritola from Fairfield (1.18:40.6, 55th place), skiing for only three years.

It wasn't even her type of course.

Slight in physical stature but very determined, Arritola said at the finish, "It was fun and a beautiful day, but it's not my kind of course. I like uphills, and I had to work a little harder on the flats because I'm small."

Arritola, skiing on Alpina/Madshus, had never done a race as long as 30k. Her big breakthrough was a fourth-place overall in the U.S. National women's 15k freestyle race Jan. 3 in Utah. She said after the Boulder, "It was a good experience—good to practice mass starts, too."

Arritola will continue to train with the Sun Valley Junior Nordic ski team at Lake Creek through February. March will be busy, as she goes to Junior Nationals in California then heads off to World Juniors in Finland.

The 2004 Community School graduate was born in Bend, Ore. and moved to Boise with her family as an 11-year-old soccer enthusiast in 1997. The family built a house on the road to Soldier Mountain Ski Area in 2001 and Arritola started attending the Sun Valley independent school.

Morgan's mother, Donnale Brown Arritola, said, "Morgan has always been gifted athletically. I've never expected anything—I always say to have fun—and she's been phenomenal in what she's done. The big person to thank is Rick Kapala, her coach and mentor.

"Her first goal skiing was to make Junior Nationals, and she did that. Her second goal was to win at Junior Nationals, and she did that. Her third goal was to make World Juniors, and now she's done that as well."

Sun Valley skiers did well in claiming age group titles Saturday, on a day when finishing times were generally 15 to 30 minutes faster than last year. The age range was 10 to 78.

Local class winners were Jenny Busdon, Gabriele Andersen, Adrienne Leugers, Darla McRoberts, Barb Jones, Arritola, Norman Clark, Joe Csizmazia, Del Pletcher and Jon Engen.

This year's race was distinguished not only by the presence of three-time women's winners Gabriele Andersen and E.J. Harpham, but also by the 1976 Boulder Tour queen Kristina Hindert, now 53 of Salt Lake City.

Check upcoming Local Life sections for more Boulder Tour photos from the fast 2005 race.

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