Squaw Mountain Run: Preparing for an uphill battle | SierraSun.com

Squaw Mountain Run: Preparing for an uphill battle

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Sylas Wright / Sun File PhotoRunners and walkers head up Mountain Run toward High Camp at the start of the 2010 Squaw Mountain Run. This year's 31st annual run returns to Squaw Valley on Saturday at 9 a.m.
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OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. and#8212; The question is, will someone not from North Carolina win the 31st Annual Squaw Mountain Run on Saturday?

Recent history suggests not.

It hasn’t happened since 2007, anyway, as a different athlete from the Tar Heel State has captured victory in the uphill race each of the past three years.

Last year it was Ryan Woods of Boone, N.C., who covered the 3.6 miles and 2,000 vertical feet from the base of Squaw Valley to High Camp in a winning time of 29 minutes and 20 seconds. Jason Bryant of Eltin, N.C., took the win in 2009, and Shiloh Mielke of Weaverville, N.C., won in 2008, establishing a new course record in 28 minutes and 50 seconds.

The fundraising race and#8212; which also attracts hundreds of recreational runners and hikers and#8212; is part of the nationwide La Sportiva Mountain Cup Trail Race Series, thus drawing elite competition from throughout the country.

That’s not to say the local Tahoe-Truckee contingent won’t hold its own. Area runners represent the region well every year, posting multiple top-10 finishes in the lung-burning race. But there’s no telling who will show up until the day of the run.

Gia White of Kings Beach, who won the women’s race last year and placed 13th overall, posting a time of 34:55, is currently out of the state and will not return to defend her women’s title. Peter Fain, author of the weekly Running on Dirt column that appears in the Sierra Sun, often finishes among the leaders but is injured and also will not compete.

Truckee’s Paul Sweeney, who finished ninth overall last year, Ross McMahan of Incline Village, who was 10th, and Truckee’s Patrick Stinson, who was 11th, were not registered as of Thursday. Neither were Chelsea Holmes of Truckee, who was the second-place woman a year ago, Kari Rust of Portola Valley, who was third, or Julie Young of Truckee, who was fifth.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t race, as many people register the morning of, said Sally Jones, program director with the Auburn Ski Club. Same goes for the North Carolina runners. None have signed up just yet, although Jones said that Woods, Bryant and Mielke all waited until the morning of the race to register in past years.

Galen Burrell of San Francisco, who was the last person not from North Carolina to win the race, back in 2007, is registered and could contend for another victory. He finished runner-up last year in 30:03.

The Squaw Mountain Run kicks off Saturday at 9 a.m. at the base of the mountain. At the crack of the starting gun, hundreds of participants and#8212; there were 540 last year and#8212; head up Mountain Run toward High Camp, where they will be greeted with awards, a raffle, music, food and beer. They may run or walk, or opt for a guided Flower Walk, which can be accessed by the Tram.

The race serves as a fundraiser for the Auburn Ski Club Junior Nordic Team, with 20 percent of the proceeds also going to The Tahoe Forest Cancer Center. Jones said the 2010 Squaw Mountain Run netted more than $12,000.

Cost for pre-registration is $35 for adults and $20 for participants ages 18 and younger. Morning-of registration is $45 for adults and $30 for those 18 and younger. Downloadable entry forms are available at http://www.squawmountainrun.com or http://www.active.com.