December 10, 2011
2011 RRCA Colorado State Cross Country Championship
By Dan Shaw
The December race for the Colorado Masters Running Association served
again as the 2011 edition of the Road Runners Club of America Cross
Country Championship for the state of Colorado. For 2011, the race moved
from the Aurora Sports Park/Coal Creek Arena locale used in previous
years to Stapleton Central Park, about 7 miles downstream.
The new venue offered many enhancements over the old venue. Located
a few blocks off I-70 in northeast Denver, Stapleton is easy to find,
with plenty of space in its paved parking area, and instead of a chilly,
overused port-o-let Stapleton offers heated, well-maintained bathrooms.
The race course is similar in many ways to the Sports Park course,
with some grass lawns, single track trails, dirt roads, and re-grown
prairie fields. Unlike the Sports Park, Stapleton also offers some pea
gravel trails and small, man-made hills in the finished sections of the
park that lend variety and a playful feel.
November and early December this year brought a relatively heavy load
of snow to the Denver area, and cold temperatures ensured that several
inches remained on the ground the day of the race. For the first time
in over a week, temperatures on race day rose into the fifties. By the
time the race kicked off at 10:00 a.m. the thaw was on.
The race consisted of 2 laps of a 6K loop, the first half mile of which
crossed grass lawns across the park, difficult for running because of 6
inches of crusty snow and noisy at times from honking Canada geese which
call the park home in the winter months. The second section of the loop,
across the north side of the park, was composed of pea gravel trails
which wind over man-made hillocks, easier to run on than snow covered
grass but more than a little goofy and artificial, giving this stretch
a surreal feel. The second half of the course ran down to Sand Creek,
then followed trails along the south bank up to Havana Street where it
turned around and rose onto the top of the creek bank and angled back
to the park.
By the end of the first lap the snow was softening. The second lap got
a little muddy and slick in places, a lot muddier in others. In sum, the
track proved to be more difficult than the old Aurora course, reflected
in slower times compared with past years. Rob Mandje, three-time
defending overall champion, was unable to defend his title this year.
In his absence, 25-year old Omar Martinez claimed the open title in 51:43.
Molly Smith, 31, collected the women's open title with a time of 59:53.
In the Masters division (over age 40), David Rothenburger took the award,
clocking 56:11. Jill Sellars won for the women, in 68:37. Keith "War
Horse" Johnson, after leading much of the first lap, finished second
overall in a time of 52:30 to take the Grand Masters plaque (age 50+),
and Teresa Jockers took the women's Grand Masters award in 67:00.
In the Senior Grand Masters division (60+), Bob Cooper's winning
time was 65:34, and a time of 80:11 brought victory to Kathy Kirsling.
Our oldest competitor was Ken "Stonewall" Green, 82, who completed
the race in 107:09.
Co-director Rob Fisher and I would like to say thanks to the volunteers
who helped with this year's event: prize maven Vici DeHaan; David Wise
who picked up bread from Great Harvest; Connie Ahrnsbrak and Tom Chambers
who helped hand out awards and prizes; registration coordinators Connie
and Rosalia Murch [Happy 71st Birthday, Rosalia!]; timing, finish line
and scoring by Joe Baird with able assistance from Ken Simons and Mike
Vanoni; Joe also helped out bringing equipment; coffee, soda, snacks,
and water stop brought to you by my lovely wife Lu; course marshals
Larry Ashton and Ed Ewing; and special thanks to Adam Feerst without
whose guidance many more people would have headed off course in the
confusing backstretch from the creek up to the park. Special thanks go
to our sponsors who provided prizes to give away: Great Harvest Bread
(bread), Boulder Running Company (gift certificates) and Runners Roost
(more gift certificates). Thanks also go to the City of Denver, without
whose gracious cooperation we could not begin to put on this event.