Friday, October 19, 2007

Ketchum ?Girls? take runner-up in the Hood

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo- Ketchum?s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was runner-up in the Hood To Coast Relay held in Oregon. Team members are (back row) Kristi Houk, Gretchen Grindle, Linda Huyck, Angenie McCleary, Hannah Ragsdale, Jess Carmona and Barley Hedinger. Front row, Robyn Wangberg, Chrissy Francek, Johanna Olson, Sara Donahue and Bree Ray.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun of Ketchum showed its true colors by running to second place in the annual Nike Hood To Coast Relay in Portland, Ore., August 24-25.

Over a 197-mile course, the 12-member "Girls" Ketchum squad finished a mere 11 seconds behind Baba Yaga of Monticello, Minn., in 21 hours, 26 minutes and 30 seconds. Baba's winning time was 21:26.19.

"Every year Girls would get second behind Baba's, but this year we were head to head with them," said team member Hannah Ragsdale. "They would pull ahead and then we would pull ahead for 21 hours. It came down to a sprinting finish along the boardwalk. It was spectacular."

Girls made up seven minutes on Baba over the final 11 miles on the last two legs of the race. Bree Ray sliced four minutes off on her leg and Kristi Smith made up three minutes over five miles on the final leg and came within a whisper of overtaking the perennial champion Baba.

"They had no idea we were catching up. Baba's girl was dying at the end, and the announcer said we were coming into the finish. The girl literally turned around and the look on her face was complete shock," team captain Angenie McCleary said.

Ragsdale concurred: "If the finish line was another 100 yards, even 50 yards, we would have won. Baba's runner was not as fast as Kristi and she was saved by the fact the finish line was not very far away."

McCleary, a Ketchum resident, has put together a squad for the last four years for the race staged in her native Oregon. The Hood To Coast, founded in 1982, is the longest major relay in North America and the largest in the world in terms of total participation. The field features 12,000 runners on 1,000 teams.

Billed as "The Largest Running Relay Event in the World," the HTC course runs 197 miles from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, through greater Portland and across the Oregon Coast Range to the city of Seaside on the Oregon Coast. Team members must run at least three legs in the 36-leg course. The legs vary in length and difficulty and a team member usually ends up traveling between 13.6 and 19.6 miles.

"It was hard to get second after being ahead and then in the end coming so close, but our team has the best attitude and is really supportive regardless of the place. In the end, it is about having fun, spending time together, camaraderie and stories to remember for a lifetime. It is more than just running," Ragsdale said.

Girls is sponsored by the Spokane-based business Runner's Soul.

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