J.P. Donovan, Anna Mae Flynn top field in Ponderosa Ridge Run | SierraSun.com

J.P. Donovan, Anna Mae Flynn top field in Ponderosa Ridge Run

Dave Price
dprice@recordcourier.com

J.P. Donovan, left, and Anna Mae Flynn of Incline Village chat with Carson City's Brett Long after the 41st Ponderosa Ridge Run on Saturday. Donovan won his third straight title at the 9.5-mile race from Spooner Summit to Kingsbury. Flynn was the overall women's winner.

With rain pouring down Saturday morning at Lake Tahoe, J.P. Donovan came to a disappointing realization as he approached the finish line of the 41st annual Ponderosa Ridge Run.

Even though his primary goal had proven elusive, the Incline Village man still became the first runner to win the challenging Ridge Run three years in a row. Donovan ran 1 hour, 3 minutes, 20 seconds over the 9.5-mile route across the mountain tops from Spooner Summit to Kingsbury, the fourth fastest ever in the race and just under two minutes off the course record.

Donovan, 28, honored as USA Triathlon Off-Road (amateur male) Athlete of the Year for 2014, was alone out front most of the way as he set out to challenge that course record of 1:01:23, set in 1986 by Rick Gentry.

"I was definitely shooting for it," Donovan said. "I was looking at my watch over the top of the hill, and then coming here, as it got closer to one hour, I was kind of getting more frantic. I kept hoping that the next turn was the turn to the finish line, but they all look the same."  

Other highlights in the race included Anna Mae Flynn, 28, of Incline Village, who finished as the second overall finisher and first woman. Her time of 1:18:13 was the second fastest by a woman in race history.

The Ridge Run also had its youngest and oldest finishers: Bryce Lehmann, 10, of Carson City and Elmer Sanborn, 78, of South Lake Tahoe. Lehmann finished the run in 1:54:00 and Sanborn in 3:32:08.

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And, for the first time in 41 years, rain fell on runners during the race. John Trent still managed to smile when he crossed the finish line and spoke to race director Austin Angell.

"You didn't tell me you scheduled a triathlon today," Trent said, laughing.

Trent, president of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run held just one week before, may not have had to swim on the course but noted that he saw heavy rain and some hail along the way.

Fortunately for the field of 29 runners, there were no sightings of lightning. And the rain did bring cooler conditions for participants on a course that starts at an elevation of 7,300 feet and climbs nearly 2,000 feet in the first 4 1/2 miles to its summit near Genoa Peak.  

"I think the rain probably made it faster," Donovan said. "The heat is a difficult obstacle. Going up a hill, you just kind of burn up and it's hard to cool off."

Flynn, who was alone most of the way in her first Ridge Run, discovered afterward that she was less than three minutes off the women's course record, which was set in 1982 by Carla Pittelkow.

"If I had known I was that close, I would have tried a little harder," Flynn said, smiling. "Maybe I can come out next year and try to beat it.

"It's good to know the course. This being my first time, I didn't know how many uphills or how many downhills there were. It was fun, though."

Brett Long of Carson City finished third in 1:19:13, Robin DeSota fourth in 1:33:21 and Trent fifth in 1:36:42. Kari Long of Carson City finished as the second woman and eighth overall in 1:46:09.

Carson High's Logan Mead was the first junior boy to finish, in 1:52:48, good for 10th overall, and Jiavanna Wong-Fortunato was the first junior girl, in 2:06:17.

Flynn, who formerly ran for Elon University (she was Southern Conference Cross Country Freshman of the Year in 2005), joined Salomon Running in January. Her next big race is a 50K vertical trail run on July 18 in Aspen, Colo.

This is going to be a busy month for Donovan, who is also preparing for another season as cross-country coach at Incline High School. His sights are now focused on the XTERRA Mountain Championships on July 18 at Beaver Creek, Colo., and the U.S. Mountain Running Championships on July 25 in Bend, Ore. A top-six finish in Bend would earn a berth on the U.S. Mountain Running team.

"I'd really like to do well there," Donovan said of the national championship race. "I don't know how competitive I will be. Some real fast people are going to be there that I've never run against before."

Looking even further ahead to next year, he added that there remains some unfinished business to take care of.

"I'd like to challenge for the (Ridge Run) record that guy ran a year before I was born," Donovan said, adding with a laugh. "I want it, I'm going to come back and get it."

Gentry, who was a standout steeplechase runner at Troy University in Alabama, had a big year at age 31 in 1986, when he clocked times of 14:34 for 5K, 46:25 for 15K and 1:39:42 for 30K. In July 1985, he placed fourth at the U.S. National Sports Festival Half-Marathon with a 1:08:44 effort in Baton Rouge, La.

Pittelkow set her women's course record holder in 1982 coming off a track season in which she earned All-America honors at 1,500 meters for the University of Utah.

41st annual Ponderosa Ridge Run results

1. J.P. Donovan, 1:03:20

2. Ann Mae Flynn, 1:18:13

3. Brett Long, 1:19:13

4. Robin DeSota, 1:33:21

5. John Trent, 1:36:42

6. Peter Harrison, 1:41:33

7. Jamie Fields, 1:41:34

8. Kari Long, 1:46:09

9. Fred Farris, 1:46:18

10. Logan Mead, 1:52:48

11. Bryce Lehmann, 1:54:00

12. Sean Lehmann, 1:54:01

13. Chris Riha, 1:55:10

14. Cheryl Lloyd, 1:56:14

15. Dave Schween, 1:57:06

16. Mark Magagna, 1:57:37

17. Craig Denney, 1:59:53

18. Jiavanna Wong-Fortunato, 2:06:17

19. Lynn Norton, 2:13:17

20. Tony Cupaiuolo, 2:25:25

21. Ken Kastseko, 2:29:38

22. Valerie Hewitt, 2:45:22

23. J. B. Lundemo, 2:45:53

24. Ted Smith, 2:50:01

25. Carol Nageotte, 2:58:47

26. Ron Nageotte, 2:58:48

27. Jill Trent, 3:03:43

28. Shelly Bryant, 3:03:44

29. Elmer Sanborn, 3:32:08