Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Filer?s Berndt makes a winning return

Repeats as Backcountry Run champ, 20 years later

Women?s 10-mile winner Gretchen Grindle of Ketchum finished a lofty sixth of 183 10-mile runners. Photo by Willy Cook

Last July Community School graduate Michael Tobin, 41, made a winning encore performance in The Elephant Perch's Backcountry Run.

The course record holder from Boise returned to the 16.5-mile trail race for the first time in 15 years and trampled Father Time into the ground, outlegging his nearest pursuer by eight minutes. It was Tobin's third 16.5-mile win, a record.

Last Saturday, Chard Berndt of Filer turned back the clock.

Berndt won the Backcountry Run 20 years ago, in 1986 as a lad of 18. Since then he has studied at Gonzaga University, taught Bible courses for 14 years, written a book on the biblical classification of life and become a high school teacher at Lighthouse Christian School in Twin Falls.

In the hills north of Ketchum Berndt got a little closer to his creator Saturday and won the 16.5-mile men's race by nearly five minutes with a time of 1.55:40. "It was pretty fun winning it again, 20 years later," said Berndt, 38.

Berndt joined Grant Folske and Michael Carlson as two-time winners of the 16.5-mile race. Meanwhile, Boise ultrarunner Joelle Vaught, 31, won her third consecutive women's 16.5-miler in 12th place overall in 2.13:42, her best time in the last three runnings.

Vaught joined Boise's Michelle Jensen (1995-97) as the only women to win three straight 16.5-milers. Bellevue's Cindy Mann is the only six-time winner. Jensen has five wins, Vaught, Gabriele Andersen and Abbi Fisher three each.

In all, 63 runners completed the long course including 52-year-old Hailey resident Will Raff, who completed his 21st Backcountry Run—20 on the long course and one at 10 miles. Raff has now finished 16 straight Backcountry Runs and has done it every year by placing among the top 10 or 15 runners. He was 16th this year.

Competing well at 10 miles were the top two men of 183 short course runners. They are cross-country skiers at prestigious New England colleges.

The winner was Colin Rodgers, 25, one of this country's top Nordic sprinters from Vermont and Middlebury College. Rodgers came home in 59:40 just a second ahead of Ketchum product Mike Sinnott, 21, of Dartmouth College.

Women's winner at 10 miles was Gretchen Grindle, 28, of Ketchum in 1.06:27, good for sixth place overall.

The local age class winners at 16.5 miles included Katie Walker, Larry Burleson, Jeff Roth, Ryan Still and Miles Fink-Debray.

Local age class winners at 10 miles included Jenny Busdon, Carol McLaughlin, Susan Crist, Kathy Morell, Leigh Morse, Mali Noyes, Dale Closner, Jim Bradford, Matt Morell and 16-year-old Taylor Sundali, who ended up fourth overall.

Fifteen members of the Tamalpa family from the Bay Area of California once again comprised a good number of the 246 runners finishing the courses on a warm morning.

The 26th annual Backcountry Run sponsored by The Elephant's Perch was part of the Ketchum store's 30th anniversary. Complete results for all 246 runners, plus a history of race winners dating back to 1981, can be found on this week's Express Web site.

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