Nation’s top trail runners headed to Central Oregon

It is no secret that Central Oregon features some of the best running trails in the country. In 2006, the editors of Outside Magazine named Bend “America’s Best Trail Running Town.”

But is Central Oregon home to the top trail runners in the United States?

That question could be answered in a little more than a week, when Bend will host the 2008 XTERRA Trail Running National Championship.

The race is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 27.

“It’s funny; I think the best runners will be coming from Bend,” said Trey Garman, vice president of XTERRA, this week from the company’s headquarters in Honolulu.

Elite runners Max King, Damon Kluck, Kami Semick and Lisa Nye — all from Bend — will go stride for stride against members of the U.S. Mountain Running Team and some of the best trail runners and multisport athletes from across the country in a half-marathon (13.1-mile) race.

The course starts and finishes in Bend’s Old Mill District and takes runners along the Deschutes River Trail and other trails and dirt roads southwest of Bend.

The half-marathon race is open to anybody, and registration is open through Sept. 26.

The event is the culmination of the yearly XTERRA U.S. Trail Run Series, which since last October included 50 races staged in 15 states. Several regional champions from the series are expected to compete in Bend. National champions will be crowned in a number of age groups, from as young as the 9-and-under class.

XTERRA has staged a trail-running national championship race in each of the last three years, but it has been held in conjunction with the XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon National Championship at Lake Tahoe. The race in Bend marks the first time the trail-running event will stand alone at its own venue.

“This is our fourth year hosting a trail-run national championship race,” Garman said, “but really the first legitimate one. Now it’s branched off into its own unique series.”

Garman said he expects about 300 or more runners from 20 states to race the half-marathon and about 150 more to take part in the 10-kilometer and 5K runs, staged at the same time as the half-marathon.

Half-marathon runners will race for a share of a $5,000 prize purse, $1,000 of which will be awarded to both the men’s and women’s winners.

“Because it’s the last race in the series, it’s getting a lot of people from out of state,” Garman said. “They’ll get the full atmosphere, how you can get to those magnificent off-road trails in just a matter of miles.”

From the Old Mill District, the championship course runs along the paved trail on the east side of the Deschutes River and crosses over the foot bridge from Farewell Bend Park onto west-side dirt trails. The middle portion of the course includes the dirt and gravel Haul Road. Runners then head toward the river from Entrada Lodge and turn around at Meadow Camp to run along the river. They will head back via the lodge and the Haul Road to the finish at the Old Mill District.

— Excerpt from The Bend Bulletin, September 19, 2008

Reed, Ertel Win USA Triathlon Elite National Titles

Matt Reed and Julie Ertel each used a strong run leg to pull away from the competition and win USA Triathlon Elite National titles on Saturday.

It was the second national title for each athlete. Reed won his first in 2004, while Ertel defended her 2007 crown. The wins also guaranteed Reed and Ertel the overall titles in the 2008 USAT Haul to the Great Elite Series.

The elites had a built-in crowd for their races, thanks to more than 1,000 age groupers who had competed on the 1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run course for their national championship earlier in the day. It’s the first time the age groupers and elites have raced for national titles at the same venue since 1992 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Just 17 women were on the start list, but it was a star-studded field. Olympians Sarah Haskins and Ertel led the competitors out of the water, with current U.S. No. 1 Sarah Groff, and two-time U23 Worlds silver medalist Jasmine Oeinck close behind. Former junior national champion Jennifer Spieldenner was also in that front group, with Olympian Laura Bennett, Olympic team alternate Becky Lavelle, and Mary Beth Ellis forming the chase pack, 30 seconds behind.

By the time the first of eight bike loops was completed, the front pack was down to Haskins, Ertel, Groff and Oeinck, with Lavelle, Bennett and Ellis chasing hard close to a minute back. That spread remained steady throughout the remaining bike laps, but once the run started, the two Olympians up front controlled the pace and steadily put distance between themselves and their competitors.

Haskins and Ertel had been in these head-to-head matchups with each other before, and Ertel always seemed to find the little bit extra that put her one top. This race was no different, as the 2007 champ began a strong push as the fourth lap began to pull away from Haskins and claimed the win.

“I really liked this course. I liked the rolling hills. There was really no flat section where anyone can rest. Everyone in the group was having to work,” Ertel said. “Sarah fell off on the third lap, so I went by her and realized at that point that I could go faster. So I took off, made a bit of a gap and put a little more time on the fourth lap.”

Haskins finished 10 seconds back, with Groff grabbing third another 30 seconds behind. Bennett made a hard charge for fourth and Lavelle was fifth, 2:30 back.

Oeinck finished sixth to grab her first U23 National title.

Ertel had taken more than two weeks off from training after Beijing and was even contemplating not competing at nationals, but once she got on the course, she knew she had made the right decision. “It was really hard for me to rally after the Olympics coming off that high,” said Ertel. “I just decided to go out and have fun. The thing that really fueled me today was having so many supportive spectators on the course. Every time we came around, there were at least four or five massive packs of people cheering us on. That was really special to all of us. We haven’t had that for the past couple of years at nationals. These guys [age groupers] are troopers out here. They race this morning and then stuck around to support us.

She was also impressed with the venue centered among the hills and trees of the Pacific Northwest. “It was absolutely gorgeous scenery. It was one of the most beautiful races I’ve ever done,” she said.

Heading into the men’s race, Olympians Matt Reed and Jarrod Shoemaker had to be considered the favorites among the 39 racers, especially after Hunter Kemper (injury) and Andy Potts (training for Kona) pulled out late in the week. But when Shoemaker failed to make it out of T1 on Saturday, it set the stage for the powerful Reed to grab the title, and he didn’t disappoint.

The 2008 Olympic Trials champion was with a group of four, including Matt Chrabot, Joe Umphenour and Brian Fleischmann, early on the bike, but Reed and Chrabot pulled ahead and easily distanced themselves from the chasers for the remaining bike laps.

“I wanted to do the first part of the bike hard and see if we could break it up a bit. I saw Matt Chrabot, who’s probably the best biker in the field – apart from myself,” said Reed. “Once I saw him in there, I knew we were going to get away.”

Farther back, a large pack that included Tim O’Donnell, Brian Lavelle, John Dahlz, Matt Seymour, Dave Kuendig, Ethan Brown and Steve Sexton was in pursuit but couldn’t make up much time on the two leaders.

Out on the run, Reed made it clear that this was his race, putting more time onto Chrabot and the rest of the field each of the four laps. By the time the 6-foot-5 Reed neared the finish and grabbed the American flag, he had more than a minute on his nearest competitor. He took his time over the final few meters and savored the finish after a frustrating last month.

“I kind of lost motivation after the Olympics, but I’ve got a family to support. I love to race and I wasn’t going to stop after the Olympics,” said Reed, when asked if he considered not racing after a 32nd place finish in Beijing in August. “It’s the national championship and I’m not going to let a chance for a national title go to waste. I won the title in 2004 and I wanted another one. I wasn’t going to miss it for the world. In a way, it means you are the best in the U.S. It was important to have a solid race today and show everyone that the Olympics wasn’t normally how I race. I’ve had a great year, and I just want to continue it.”

In a great performance, 39-year-old Joe Umphenour made a phenomenal last-lap kick to earn second – his first national championship podium in his 12 years of elite competition.

“It’s nice to finally get on the podium at nationals. I was kind of disappointed I couldn’t go with the front pack on the bike,” said Umphenour. “But maybe sitting in that pack was what allowed me to catch up. I was redlining it the whole way, good in water, good on the bike, good on the run. Age-wise I’m 39, but I still feel like I’m 25.”

Ethan Brown also closed hard to finish third and capture his second straight U23 National title. Chrabot held on for fourth and Fleischmann finished fifth.

Complete Results will be posted here:

Past U.S. Elite National Champions

2007 – Andy Potts & Julie Swail (Ertel)
2006 – Hunter Kemper & Sarah Haskins
2005 – Hunter Kemper & Becky Lavelle
2004 – Matt Reed & Courtney Bennigson
2003 – Hunter Kemper & Laura Reback (Bennett)
2002 – Seth Wealing & Barb Lindquist
2001 – Hunter Kemper & Karen Smyers
2000 – Marcel Vifian & Joanna Zeiger
1999 – Hunter Kemper & Barb Lindquist
1998 – Hunter Kemper & Siri Lindley
1997 – Cameron Widoff & Sian Welch
1996 – Jeff Devlin & Susan Latshaw
1995 – Jeff Devlin & Karen Smyers
1994 – Scott Molina & Karen Smyers
1993 – Bill Braun & Karen Smyers
1992 – Mike Pigg & Karen Smyers
1991 – Mike Pigg & Karen Smyers
1990 – Scott Molina & Karen Smyers
1989 – Ken Glah & Jan Ripple
1988 – Mike Pigg & Colleen Cannon Kaushansky
1987 – Mike Pigg & Kirsten Hanssen
1986 – Scott Molina & Kirsten Hanssen
1985 – Scott Molina & Linda Buchanan
1984 – Scott Molina & Beth Mitchell
1983 – Scott Molina & Sylviane Puntous

Haul to the Great Wall Elite Series
With the race worth double points in the Haul to the Great Wall Elite Series, the win locks up the overall titles for both Ertel and Reed. It is the second straight series title – and third overall – for Ertel, who has won three of the four races thus far in 2008. With just one race left on the schedule, her 100 points are too much for second-place Haskins to overcome. On the men’s side, Reed has won two of the four events for 75 points and Fleischmann has one win and 50 points.

The five-race, draft-legal Olympic distance series is giving triathlon fans a chance to see athletes who have qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team and those up-and-coming athletes who have their sights set on London in 2012. Each race also includes a stellar international field of competitors.

The series features more than $800,000 in prize money.

The schedule concludes with the Series Championship at The San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island on Nov. 8.

Athletes must compete in a minimum of three events to be eligible for the overall series title. If athletes compete in more than three events, the top-three results will be included in the points total. Overall Series Prize Purse $20,000: Three Deep – 1st $5,000, 2nd $3,000, 3rd $2,000.

Swimwear and sports apparel giant Speedo is also providing $5,000 in bonus money for each race on the five-city tour. American men and women who finish in the top three in their respective races are eligible for the bonuses, with $1,500 going to the top finisher, $750 to second, and $250 to third.

In addition to the individual race bonus pool, Speedo is providing a $15,000 end-of-the-season bonus to be split if U.S. athletes finish first or second in the series. First place will receive $5,000 and second place will take home $2,500 in both the men’s and women’s categories.

Age Group National Champions Crowned in Oregon

More than 1,000 triathletes competed in the pinnacle event of the season — the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship on Saturday at Hagg Lake.

The age groupers shared the spotlight with the elites, who competed in the USA Triathlon Elite National Championship later Saturday.

The first of 17 waves jumped into Hagg Lake at 7:15 a.m. and the action didn’t stop all day. The weather was ideal for endurance sports with temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to low 60s with cloudy skies and little to no wind. Jason Schott, 37, of Dahlonega, Ga., was the overall male winner with a time of 1:54:08.
Brooke Davison, 37, of Boulder, Colo., finished in 2:05:52 to win the women’s overall championship.
The athletes soaked up the atmosphere in the post-race zone and later in the expo tent for vendor presentations and contests, the awards ceremony and the post-race dinner.

The event, USA Triathlon’s version of the “Super Bowl,” attracted athletes from 45 states ranging in age from 18 to 78. Many of these athletes have trained all season in preparation for the event, some hoping to earn a spot on Team USA by finishing in the top 16 in their age group.

With the top talent present at Hagg Lake, prestigious age group and overall honors were on the athletes’ minds.

“This is the best of the best – that’s why it’s nationals, said Adam Webber, who finished second overall. “I put a lot of focus into preparing for this race, and the goal was to be the national champion overall.”

Steven Smith of Granger, Ind., defended his grandmasters title with a win in the 60-64 age group. Though he had a substantial gap on second place, Smith said there was nothing easy about the race.

“This is the most challenging Olympic distance course I’ve ever done. There’s nothing flat on it – it’s just one hill right after another.”

Despite winning another national title, Smith isn’t ready to rest – yet. He’ll compete at Kona and in Clearwater and says that the challenge is what keeps him going.

“Seeing if you can beat the calendar is part of the challenge. Every October the calendar clicks over another year and I’m just trying to get my times back to what they were the year before.”

Former elite marathoners Lauren Binder (F60-64) and Ellen Hart (F50-54) knew from experience what type of effort it would take to be successful. The two know a lot about being successful on the national stage. After all, they finished second and third to Joan Benoit-Samuelson when she set an American record in the marathon.

Now, they’ve embraced a new sport.

“To give us the opportunity to race competitively at this level at this time in our lives is the greatest gift,” Hart said. “Even though we’re so into the competitive part, there were times out there that I was just plain old having fun.”

Hart also talked about the draw of triathlon.

“I’m new to the sport and I just feel so lucky to have this second chance at trying to push my limits as an athlete and pushing my comfort zone – I don’t like being wet and I don’t like being cold,” Hart said. “Some aspects of the sport are not that comfortable, but it makes me try to be more brave.”

Full results:

Men’s overall
1. Jason Schott 1:54:08
2. Adam Webber 1:54:58
3. Nathan White 1:56:03

Women’s overall
1. Brooke Davison 2:05:52
2. Cathy Yndestad 2:09:37
3. Stacey Richardson 2:09:51

Age Group Winners
F19 Under: Kelsey Markham (Collierville, Tenn.)
M19 Under: Eric Lagerstrom (Gresham, Ore.)
F20-24: Chris Tommerdahl (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
M20-24: Brian Duffy, Jr. (West Chester, Pa.)
F25-29: Lindsey Whalen (Chicago, Ill.)
M25-29: Adam Webber (Denver, Pa.)
F30-34: Cathy Yndestad (St. Paul, Minn.)
M30-34: Mark Harms (Madison, Wis.)
F35-39: Brooke Davison (Boulder, Colo.)
M35-39: Jason Schott (Dahlonega, Ga.)
F40-44: Steph Popelar (Parker, Colo.)
M40-44: Doug Clark (Morristown, N.J.)
F45-49: Judyann Cummings (Denver, Colo.)
M45-49: Pete Kain (Cupertino, Calif.)
F50-54: Kelly Molaski (Bellingham, Wash.)
M50-54: Steve Pyle (Boulder, Colo.)
F55-59: Karen McKeachie (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
M55-59: Dean Harper (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
F60-64: Lauren Binder (Portland, Ore.)
M60-64: Steven Smith (Granger, Ind.)
F65-69: Elizabeth Brackett (Chicago, Ill.)
M65-69: Robert Plant (Woodside, Calif.)
F70-74: Jan Miller (Green Valley, Ariz.)
M70-74: Jon Adamson (Alpharetta, Ga.)
F75-79: Madonna Buder (Spokane, Wash.)

Female: Steph Popelar
Male: Doug Clark

Female: Lauren Binder
Male: Steven Smith

CEO Challenge

Aaron Wallen (Honolulu, Hawaii)

eUpdate – USA Triathlon Nationals, MLS Campaign, Upcoming Events

Come support more than 1,500 triathletes from all 50 states as they compete in the 2008 USA Triathlon Age Group & Elite National Championship on September 20 at Hagg Lake. The Age Group Nationals is one of the most competitive amateur triathlons at the Olympic distance in the U.S., while the elite nationals will feature nearly 100 of the top men’s and women’s pro triathletes, including all six who competed for the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

— Click below to view the entire Oregon Sports Authority eUpdate

It’s a bull market for soccer

When Bill Manning joined the front office of Major League Soccer’s fledgling Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2000, the question he said he recalled fielding the most was: “Is this league going to make it?”

Two years later, the league contracted to 10 teams when the Mutiny and their intrastate rival, the Miami Fusion, folded.

In April, Manning quit his job as an executive with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles to rejoin MLS as president of the three-year-old Real Salt Lake franchise in Utah. Since then, the question he said he has been asked the most is: “Where is the expansion franchise going?”

“That’s a huge philosophical change in how people view this league,” he said. “This league is definitely thriving.”

By some measures, yes. Others no. What’s clear is that investors are lining up to bet on the league’s potential.

Portland is among eight North American locales vying to claim a stake in MLS. City leaders announced plans Wednesday to tentatively back sports executive Merritt Paulson’s bid for one of two expansion franchises that MLS plans to award by early next year.

— Excerpt from The Oregonian, September 8, 2008

Sports fans, neighborhood leaders, PSU and city officials kick off campaign for MLS, ballpark

Merritt Paulson, owner of the Portland Timbers and Portland Beavers, along with Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard and Portland State University Athletic Director Torre Chisholm, joined eastside neighborhood leaders and local soccer and baseball fans at a news conference at PGE Park today to urge public and government support for plans to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) team to Portland and to create a new home for the Triple-A Beavers.

The group unveiled visual concepts of the PGE Park improvements and new baseball stadium and launched new websites designed to share available information on the proposals and to generate community and political support for the plan: and

“Our goal is to bring Major League Soccer to the best soccer fans in America, to build an intimate new home to improve the Beavers baseball tradition and to create an even better gathering place for fans and families to enjoy Portland State University football,” Paulson said. “If you share this goal, please visit our new websites to learn more and to share your support with city officials.”

Paulson and city officials are currently in discussions about how to finance the estimated $75 million it will cost for the improvements at PGE Park needed for MLS and to build a new 8,000 to 9,000-seat ballpark at Lents Park, located in Southeast Portland at SE 92nd and Holgate. These costs do not include what Paulson would pay for the new Major League Soccer franchise.

“I love the idea, support the idea and am working to make real the idea of Major League Soccer at PGE Park and Beavers baseball at Lents Park. This is a unique chance to bring another major league team to Portland and to help bring back another great Portland neighborhood,” said Commissioner Leonard. “Over the next few months, I look forward to working with neighborhood leaders, city officials and Merritt Paulson to develop a stadium and funding plan everyone can support.”

Chisholm indicated that the improvements needed to accommodate Major League Soccer at PGE Park would also be beneficial for the Portland State football program.

Dewey Akers, chair of the Lents Neighborhood Association, said his group had not taken a formal position on the plan for a new ballpark in Lents, but that many in the community were excited about the idea. Akers said the Association has created a committee to study the idea and to work with Paulson and city officials on details of the plan. In addition, Sue Bush, representing Lents Little League, said there is already support and excitement for making Lents Park the new home for the Beavers with adjacent Little League fields.

Portland talks $75 million deal to draw Major League Soccer

Merritt Paulson, a newcomer to Oregon and sports ownership, took a gamble last year when he bet he could turn around the Portland Beavers and build on the success of the Portland Timbers.

Now the 35-year-old son of U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson wants Portland taxpayers to ante up and help him bring Major League Soccer to town — perhaps by borrowing $75 million on the city’s credit card.
The Beavers would need a new home if Major League Soccer comes to town. The most likely scenario has the city building a new, 8,500-seat baseball stadium at Lents Park in outer Southeast Portland.

Paulson will find out early next year whether Portland will receive one of two expansion teams. To make the case, Paulson and city leaders are talking about spending $40 million to turn PGE Park into a state-of-the-art soccer stadium.

That would mean finding a new home for the minor league Beavers baseball team, but Paulson and city leaders have a plan for that, too: A new, 8,500-seat boutique baseball-only ballpark in Portland’s Lents neighborhood.

— Excerpt from The Oregonian, September 4, 2008