Incline Village resident wins 31st Annual Squaw Mountain Run |

Incline Village resident wins 31st Annual Squaw Mountain Run

Courtesy of Keoki Flagg / www.gallerykeoki.comHundreds of runners head up Mountain Run at the 9 a.m. start of the 31st Annual Squaw Mountain Run this past Saturday.

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. and#8212; On snow or dirt, JP Donovan is tough to beat to the top of a mountain and#8212; particularly when Squaw Valley USA is the race venue.

The 2005 Incline High grad raced to a first-place finish in the 31st Annual Squaw Mountain Run this past Saturday, four months after outpacing all Nordic skiers and snowshoers to win the Billy Dutton Uphill in running shoes.

Donovan held off Galen Burrell of San Francisco to take the win in 29 minutes and 52 seconds. Burrell finished runner-up in 30:14, while Michael Collins of Carnelian Bay placed third overall in 30:21. Andrew Cobourn of Minden took fourth in 31:09 and Wade Meddles of Gardnerville was fifth in 32:21.

The win did not come easy for Donovan. The 24-year-old said he battled back and forth with several other runners the majority of the way up, swapping leads on multiple occasions as they climbed Mountain Run toward High Camp. He originally planned to stay on the heels of the lead pack before making his move near the top. But after finding himself in the lead shortly into the race, he changed his mind and decided to let his opponents chase him.

A minute or so into the race, Meddles passed the lead pack and proceded to extend the gap before Donovan and others reeled him back in about a mile later, Donovan said. Once they did, the race kicked into high gear as the frontrunners fought it out for the lead.

and#8220;We went back and forth the whole rest of the way until about the third mile, and then I was able to pull away a little bit,and#8221; said Donovan, whose winning time was about a minute off the course record of 28:50, set in 2008 by Shiloh Mielke of Weaverville, N.C.

and#8220;It was pretty awful. We pretty much destroyed each other.and#8221;

Exhausted, Donovan said he took about two steps past the finish line before stopping dead in his tracks and resting.

and#8220;I was pretty much done right at the finish,and#8221; Donovan said. and#8220;I was out of it.and#8221;

The annual race and#8212; which serves as a fundraiser for the Auburn Ski Club Junior Nordic Team and the Tahoe Forest Cancer Center and#8212; consists of a 3.2-mile run or walk that climbs 2,000 vertical feet up Mountain Run. It starts at the 6,200-foot base of the mountain and ends near High Camp, at 8,200 feet.

Standout Junior Nordic skier Austin Meng, who recently graduated from the Sugar Bowl Academy, finished sixth in 33:31, Casey Jones of Truckee was ninth in 34:23, and Ross McMahan of Incline Village rounded out the top 10 in 34:32.

Kristin Walstad of Alta won the women’s race while placing 14th overall with a time of 35 minutes and 52 seconds. She was trailed by Liz Gottlieb, who finished second among women and 20th overall in 36:43, and Kari Rust of Portola Valley, who finished 26th overall in 38:08.

Unlike the past three years of the race, when three different men from North Carolina won it, no athlete from across the country garnered a top finish in front of the regional competitors. Spencer Eusden, who traveled from South Paris, Maine, posted the highest finish among those from out of the area, placing eighth overall.

The Squaw Mountain Run is part of the nationwide La Sportiva Mountain Cup Trail Race Series, which is why it has attracted elite runners in past years.

Among other top local finishers, Martin Benes of Soda Springs was 16th (36:19), Alex Kopytko was 21st (36:56) Jim Telling of Incline Village 23rd (37:22), Patrick McElravey of Tahoe City 27th (38:11.2), Bill Haupert of Tahoe City 28th (38:11.4), Evan Vomund of Incline Village 29th (38:18), and Ben Grasseschi of Truckee 30th (38:24).

Del Wichelman of Oakland, at age 88, again was the oldest finisher. He came in 422nd place in a time of 1 hour and 15 minutes. A total of 524 people participated in the run.

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