Mountain and trail runners leave their mark on Alyeska and the Resurrection Pass
The Crow Pass Crossing was meant to be the big summer run for 22-year-old Tracen Knopp. He focused his training on the wilderness marathon, but his run ended when he injured his knee while descending the 3,550-foot Corbeau Pass at the start of the race.
It was July 24th. A week later, the knee was feeling good enough for another run, so Knopp took part in his first ultra-run – the Resurrection Pass 50, a 50 mile run from Copper Landing to Hope on the Resurrection Trail.
“It’s definitely the longest I’ve ever run,” said the Colony High graduate.
And now he’s in the record books.
Knopp was among three mountain and trail runners who broke course records in two different races over the weekend, while a 19-year-old from Anchorage notched two top-8s at the World Championships of skyrunning for young people in Italy.
Nowelle Spencer led the United States in two women’s races in Italy, placing fifth in the sky race and eighth in her division’s vertical race.
Closer to home, Knopp and Meg Inokuma set course records in the 50 mile Resurrection Pass race and Scott Patterson and Sophia Laukli set course records in the Alyeska Circus mountain race in Girdwood.
At Resurrection Pass, Knopp finished in 6 hours, 9 minutes, 16 seconds. He broke the all-time course record of 6:10 set by Geoff Roes of Juneau in 2007.
Inokuma was second overall and leading in the women’s race in 7:28:28 to surpass the all-time record of 7:59:44 set by Julie Udchachon of Anchorage in 2004.
That same day at Alyeska, Patterson and Laukli set course records in the grueling Alyeska Circque, which goes from the bottom of Mount Alyeska to the top and back. The race is 5.9 miles long with 3,890 elevation gain.
Patterson, an Olympic cross-country skier, finished in 1:05:27 for his second big win in two weekends – the week before at Crow Pass, he broke the course record by over four minutes.
As was the case at Resurrection Pass, Roes was the runner whose record fell. One of Alaska’s all-time great ultrarunners, Roes still holds the Resurrection Pass 100-mile record of 17:33, set in 2008. No one has ever come close to that mark.
This year’s winner, Lara Zoeller, finished in 23:49:17 and led a brace for women in the round trip from Hope to Cooper Landing and back. (Laura McDonough’s all-time female record is 21:51 in 2011.)
Teri Buck was second in 25:53:35, and Tony Covarrubias was third overall and first for the men in 25:53:36.
There have been two course changes over the years at Resurrection Pass. The most recent, in 2013, put the 50 mile entirely on trails – no dirt or paved roads – and put everything but 4 miles of the 100 mile entirely on the trail.
This year, Cirque Alyeska also experienced a change of course. It was diverted to bypass a section at the end of the descent where there are ropes to help hikers keep their balance on the steep incline. The change added three tenths of a mile to the total distance, making this year’s two automatic course records.
Patterson took the overall victory in 1:05:27 and Laukli topped the women in 1:14:55. Patterson beat Lars Arneson by over two minutes and Laukli beat Giselle Slotboom by over three minutes.
The previous fastest time in the four-year race came in 2018 from Ryan Phebus of Colorado, who clocked 1:04:35, followed closely by Patterson in 1:04:58.
Laukli, a member of the US ski team from Maine who spends the summer in Alaska, topped the fastest time in women – 1:17:50 by Jessica Yeaton from 2018.
A field of 365 runners took on the Alyeska Challenge, part of the National Circus Series, a six-race series at ski resorts in Alaska, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. At Resurrection Pass, a peloton of 69 riders competed. Of the 19 who started the 100 miles, nine finished.
Knopp was a late entry into the 50 mile race. He ditched the Raven Pass after hypertensive his knee during the transition from a patch of snow to shale, but within days the knee felt good and he was running again. So he looked for a race to register.
“I knew I was in good shape and wanted to jump into something big,” he said.
The late registration fee for the Alyeska race was out of its price range, but the price was right for Resurrection Pass, which requires a donation instead of a registration fee. And that’s how he took part in his first ultra-marathon.
Knopp searched for the course record before the race and thought he might be able to challenge it if things went well, but that wasn’t his main concern.
“The first goal was to cross the finish line,” he said. “I was afraid to explode up to a mile before the finish.”
At a checkpoint 10 miles before the finish line, Knopp checked his watch. Roes’ record seemed achievable.
“I thought I just had to run at a certain pace for the next 10 miles and I’ll get it for sure, so I ran faster than that,” he said. “I definitely had (the record) in mind for the last half hour.”
In Italy, Nowell Spencer took on consecutive challenges in the Women’s Youth B division at the World Junior Skyrunning Championships.
In the vertical race – 3,389 feet of climb in 2.3 miles – she finished eighth in 57:41, far from the winning pace of 50:08 set by Spain’s Moana Kehres and about 2.5 minutes behind the pace of the bronze medal of 55:12.
In the Sky race – 4,265 feet above sea level in 10 miles – she was fifth in 2:19:51. Kehres was the winner in 2:09:03. The race took place in howling winds which led the officials to shorten the race by 4 miles.
“I got Italian sparkling water in my nose halfway through the race, almost blew myself off from several cliffs, ended up with bloody knees, but still managed to have fun with a great team while racing through the peaks, ”Spencer told US Skyrunning.
100 miles (overall results)
1) Lara Zoeller 23:49:17; 2) Teri Buck 25:53:35; 3) Tony Covarrubias 25:53:36; 4) Laura McDonough 26:04:23; 5) Eric Thomason 28:51:00; 6) Dustin Glazier 29:36:22; 7) Kate Arnold 30:08:24; 8) Josh Marshall 30:50:41; 9) Gary Dudney 30:58:42.
50 miles (overall results)
1) Tracen Knopp 6:09:16; 2) Meg Inokuma 7:28:28; 3) Miles Raney 7:37:43; 4) Shauna Severson 8:34:05; 5) Brian Glaspell 8:41:43; 6) Joe Davis 8:46:56; 7) Rachael Gano 8:53:01; 8) April McAnly 9:26:47; 9) Peter Flynn 9:45:45; 10) Martins Onskulis 9:49:52; 11) Sarah Matula 10:00:06; 12) Larry Tews 10:13:51; 13) Sam Snyder 10:42:45; 14) Melanee Stiassny 10:45:59; 15) Christy Youngblood 10:59:11; 16) Ben LaVigueur 11:00:10; 17) Michael McGuire 11:21:44; 18) Jenny Weis 11:22:51; 19) Greg Stocker 11:27:31; 20) Kayla Munday 11:30:08; 21) Claire Shea 11:30:53; 22) Jess Sedivy Gunderson 11:34:04; 23) Tammy Weaver 11:51:06; 24) Brad Jessop 11:59:01; 25) Taylor Lindsey 12:04:38; 26) Sondra Stonecipher 12:14:06; 27) Ray Hafen 12:29:31; 28) Dean Denter 12:37:2714; 29) Jen Novobilski 12:37:59; 30) Marcelle Roemmich 12:38:00; 31) Brian Burns 12:50:27; 32) James Bunch 12:56:55; 33) Jeff Pettett 13:16:59; 34) Cody Bjorklund 13:35:07; 35) Michael Miller 13:35:07; 36) Brett Johnson 13:49:13; 37) Amanda Day 14:05:01; 38) Cole Grigg 14:05:01; 39) Chris Davis 14:05:02; 40) Heather Velazquez 14:05:02; 41) Tony Gillham 14:17:17; 42) Andy Newman 14:17:20; 43) Carey Quiring 14:18:34; 44) Robert McPherson 14:58:12; 45) Julia Jones 17:04:25; 46) Nicole Cleary 17:04:25; 47) Logan Platz 19:21:00; 48) Chris Morhain 19:21:00.
5.9 miles, 3890 feet gain)
1. Patterson, Scott 1:05:27; 2) Arneson, Lars 1:07:43, 3) Zink, Simon 1:09:25; 4) Johnson, Erik 1:11:51; 5) Earnhart, Michael 1:12:34, 6) Turney, Taylor 1:12:48, 7) Gates, Rickey 1:13:49, 8) Walsh, Jacob 1:14:01, 9) Hecht, Galen 1 : 14: 34, 10) Roenning, Sigurd 1:14:45, 11) Hendry, Sam 1:15:41, 12) Ogden, Ben 1:16:12, 13) Maus, Christopher 1:18:19, 14 ) Hall, Walker 1:18:46, 15) Connelly, Michael 1:19:04.
1) Laukli, Sophia 1:14:55, 2) Slotboom, Giselle 1:18:06, 3) Frankowski, Rosie 1:20:27, 4) Kramer, Kendall 1:24:09, 5) Lindquist, Ruby 1 : 26: 01, 6) Palmer-Leger, Sydney 1:26:39, 7) Karg, Hailey 1:32:10, 8) Wedin, Brook 1:33:15, 9) Nilsson, Josefin 1:34:20 , 10) Breen, Anna 1:34:55, 11) Whitaker, Elizabeth 21:35:09, 12) Judd, Kylie 1:35:09, 13) Maus, Kala 1:37:35, 14) Blum, Hazel 1:39:10, 15) Stevens, Kendall 1:39:33.