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Texas women prevail in Aspen Valley Marathon, Half-Marathon

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Gary Krugger of Flagstaff, Arizona, approaches the finish line in Basalt on Saturday morning as he wins the 2016 Aspen Valley Marathon. The veteran marathoner won the race for the third time.
Dale Strode / The Aspen Times |

Don’t mess with Texas women, especially at the Aspen Valley Marathon and Half-Marathon.

A pair of Lone Star ladies won their respective divisions at the sixth annual races Saturday, finishing in downtown Basalt with a celebratory glass of Champagne.

Nora Colligan of Austin, Texas, a veteran marathoner, prevailed in the women’s 26.2-mile run from Aspen to Basalt in three hours and three minutes, unofficially,

Kelsey Persyn of San Antonio, a collegiate runner at Texas A&M, controlled the women’s half-marathon, winning in 1:23.

“We’re just up here vacationing,” said the 33-year-old Colligan, who is training for the Chicago Marathon in the fall. “We vacation here all the time; we planned it for the same weekend as the race.”

A high school and college runner, Colligan moved up to marathons, and she’s never looked back.

She’s won major marathons in San Francisco; she recently was 134th in the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston in February.

“I’m training … for the Chicago Marathon. I went to school in Chicago, so it’s sort of a hometown race,” Colligan said. “I’m hoping for a fast time.”

The Aspen Valley Marathon, she said, provided a great training step.

“It’s beautiful. I love the river next to the path,” she said.

Her Texas colleague, who won the half-marathon, also picked the Aspen Valley Half-Marathon for the scenic views as well as training opportunities.

“I have an internship this summer in Monte Vista,” Persyn said. “I was looking for some half-marathons. I saw the one was here; I knew it was beautiful. I wanted to try this one out.”

Persyn, a standout Texas prep runner, is on the track and cross country teams at Texas A&M.

“This was my long run (for the week),” the 19-year-old said in the finish area, passing on the complimentary Champagne.

She said she started on cruise control.

But her competitive spirit kicked in once she saw some runners out in front of her.

“I just said, ‘I’m going to catch the next girl. Then the next girl and the next,’” said Persyn, who is majoring in wildlife and fisheries science.

She finished ahead of second-place Abbey Ehlers, a Glenwood Springs teacher.

Men’s races

In the men’s races Saturday, marathon master Gary Krugger of Flagstaff, Arizona, won the Aspen Valley Marathon for the third time.

Krugger, who ran a marathon in Bozeman, Montana, last month, is 3-for-3 when he finishes in Basalt. He previously won in 2012 and 2013.

His time of 2:47 on a hot Saturday morning approached his own course record of 2:42.

He did however break his own record for the longest ponytail in the race.

“This is exceptionally good, considering,” Krugger said as he cooled down in the shade. “I haven’t had too many fast races. But the last couple weeks, I’ve started to feel better.”

The professional runner battled Achilles injuries of late, cutting into his training miles and slowing his race times.

“But I finally started to improve. I’m getting better and better each week,” he said. “That means I can get more miles in and I can get faster. … I’m happy.”

Krugger, who doesn’t drink, managed a sip of the celebratory Champagne.

He did struggle late, he said.

“I wasn’t running well the last 10 miles,” he said. “I kept looking back.”

Defending marathon champion Matthew Drake of Fort Collins finished second.

Krugger, 31, next is schedule to race in Anchorage, Alaska, next month.

Krugger is one of a handful of runners who have posted a Boston Marathon-qualifying time in all 50 states.

In the men’s half-marathon, Kory Cool of Manhattan, Kansas, cruised to victory in the 13.1-mile race that started at the W/J Ranch in Woody Creek and finished at Basalt Lions Park.

“I actually wanted to do the full, but I’ve been injured most of the year. So I dropped to the half to try to save my legs,” said Cool, a former distance runner at Kansas State.

He said he started at a modest pace, measuring the effects of running at a higher elevation.

But midway through, he accelerated.

He ran a 6:22 for mile 6.

“Then I ran a 5:25 for mile 7, so I kicked it up and tried to maintain to the finish,” said Cool, the 2014 winner of the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins.

Active also in the Kansas City Smoke track club, the 29-year-old Cool just last week competed in the USATF national club championships in Philadelphia. He ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the club championships.

The Aspen Valley Marathon, he said, had been on his race calendar all year.

He was looking forward to racing against his friend Gary Krugger.

Maybe next year.

“Now I’ve got to come back next year and do the full (marathon),” Cool said.

Some 500 runners registered for Saturday’s half-marathon; another 400 signed up for the full marathon. About 125 ran in the 5K.

Results of the Saturday races will be available online at http://www.aspenvalleymarathon.com.

dstrode@aspentimes.com


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