There were three local winners and one stalwart women's champion from Boise when The Elephant's Perch of Ketchum staged its 30th annual Backcountry Run Saturday, July 17 from Hulen Meadows Park.
Saturday's popular trail run attracted the third-biggest field since the event began in 1981—284 finishers which came close to the record 300 in 2000 and the 295 the next year, in 2001. Of the 284, 67% arrived here from outside the Wood River Valley.
Joelle Vaught, 35, of Boise won her fifth women's 16.5-mile Backcountry Run in seven years with her best-ever finishing time of 2.09:47, over seven minutes ahead of the next-best runner in the 43-female field. She improved by 2:28 over her victory in the race in 2009.
Hailey's Brad Mitchell, 40, captured his first men's 16.5-mile championship in the closest finish of all four separate events Saturday along the Adams Gulch and Fox Creek drainages north of Ketchum.
Mitchell (1.52:41) was a 23-second winner over last year's 10-mile champion and the 2008 16.5-mile winner Mike Sinnott, 25, of Ketchum. There were 61 men finishing the long course and six Wood River men placing in the top 12 Saturday.
Saturday's racers ranged in age from 12 to 81, but the youth movement really showed up in the 10-mile races that brought out 180 runners on a sunny and mild mid-July morning.
In the men's 10-mile race, for instance, 18 of the top 28 finishers were 20-and-under—many of them high school runners and cross-country skiers doing some of their dry land training. Among the women, four of the top seven were 24-and-under.
U.S. Nordic Ski Team racer and 2010 Olympian Morgan Arritola, 24, of Fairfield won her third consecutive women's 10-miler in her best-ever time, 1.03:21. It was over two minutes faster than the runner-up racer and just a minute off the course record of 1.02:21 established in 2004 by Johanna Olson.
Arritola improved by 3:44 over last year's win and had the fourth-fastest women's 10-mile time since the new course came into play in 1995. Locals Alexa Turzian, Angenie McCleary, Corinne Prevot and Kitty Marcroft finished 3-4-5-6.
In the men's 10-mile race, renewing their spirited high school rivalry that covered the 2009 cross country and 2010 track and field seasons were Ketchum's Chase Caulkins, 18, and Boise's Eric Fitzpatrick, 18.
Saturday's win, by nearly two minutes, went to recent Wood River High School graduate Caulkins—who is eagerly looking forward to a college running career at University of Portland in Oregon.
Caulkins, seventh at the 10-mile distance last year at Hulen Meadows, speeded up 5:55 compared to last July and grabbed the 2010 title in 57:41. Caulkins' first Backcountry triumph was 2:27 off Noah Hoffman's 55:14 course mark of 2008. Fitzpatrick was clocked in 59:34.
Wood River incoming senior James Paris, Caulkins' running mate the last two years, had an excellent third-place finish in 1.01:10, which was 5:05 faster than last year's 11th place. Another Wolverine runner, Ben Stout, got 7:20 faster and moved up from 20th place to seventh.
Among Saturday's best time improvements were Ted Stout's 14:55 and Edward Blair's 10:56 in the men's 16.5-miler; Tizz Miller's 6:04 in the women's 16.5-miler; and Tanya Greenwood's 7:11 and Cyndy Garvin's 6:50 in the 10-miler.
Complete results and run history are listed on Express today's Web site.