Gunnison’s Eberly, Texan Persyn win Aspen Backcountry Marathons
Kelsey Persyn went to eBay for the backpack she used in Saturday’s Aspen Backcountry Marathon. Living up to its price tag — about $4 — it was essentially unraveling at the seams in the sunny, warm weather.
Of course, she bought it not knowing how this trail running thing would go. Now, she might have to use her winner’s check on some nicer gear.
“Time to upgrade now,” the native Texan said with a laugh. “It feels pretty cool. It’s something I didn’t expect, but I’m really happy that it happened. It kind of fueled my fire. I really want to get more into trail racing.”
Persyn, 22, was the top female finisher in Saturday’s full marathon, which was essentially a 26-mile loop around — and up and over — Red Mountain, finishing at Rio Grande Park. She completed the race in 3 hours, 57 minutes, 55.71 seconds, which was good for 10th overall.
Heidi Strickler was second among women in 4:39:32.85, while Amy Baker was third in 4:47:32.65.
This wasn’t Persyn’s first win in Aspen, as she also won the 2016 Aspen Valley Half Marathon, a road race, in 1:24:31. She ran track and cross country at Texas A&M before graduating this past May. She has been working as a park ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, and plans to make the move to Colorado more permanent.
Running the trails around Estes Park helped her adjust to the altitude in Aspen. Saturday’s race also happened to be her first full marathon. She hopes to race in the New York City Marathon in November.
“I was kind of nervous in the beginning,” Persyn said of Saturday’s trail marathon. “Knowing you can overcome something like that is a really, really awesome feeling. It was just amazing. Trail running is great because time flies by, there is amazing scenery. It’s just a really cool experience.”
Gunnison’s Joshua Eberly, 37, was the top overall finisher in the Aspen Backcountry Marathon, coming in with a time of 3:24:33.88. He held off David Roche of Boulder, who finished in 3:25:03.51. Aspen’s Michael Barlow, who won the Power of Four 50k on July 29 in Snowmass, was third in 3:33:14.42.
Last year, Eberly finished second in the full marathon to Roche, who won in 3:23:24 to beat Eberly by about eight minutes.
“Terrex puts on awesome races in this valley and I run for Terrex, so it’s a no-brainer to come here,” Eberly said of what was only his second time racing this event. “Last year I was just kind of getting my feet wet with the distance. I just wanted to do a good trail marathon. This year I came in a little more in shape. This is my last sort of race of the summer, so I wanted to push hard and go for it.”
Eberly, who coaches the trail running team at Western State, is a frequent competitor in the Aspen area. He was among the frontrunners in the Power of Four 50k a few weeks ago before he and another runner accidently veered off course and were disqualified. So, naturally, he was very complimentary of the directional system for Saturday’s backcountry marathon.
“The course markings were brilliant. … They did an amazing job,” Eberly said. “As an athlete the last thing you want to do is rely on your watch and technology. You want to rely on marshals and volunteers. But ultimately it was my fault a couple of weeks ago.”
Saturday’s half marathon went to a pair of siblings out of Fort Collins. Finishing almost in stride with each other, Lauren and James Gregory went 1-2 with a time of 2:04:16. Officially, Lauren, 19, won by .08 seconds over her younger brother, who is 16.
Lauren Gregory was a three time cross country state champion in high school, and a four time state champion in track with Class 5A Fort Collins High School. She signed with the University of Arkansas, finishing her first outdoor season with the Razorbacks by taking seventh in the cross country national championships last year. She was named the league’s freshman of the year in cross country.
Full results were provided by http://www.sportstats.us.
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Aspen again is led by senior Christian Kelly at No. 1 singles and Alex Mosher at No. 2 singles. The pair held down those same spots last season, when the Skiers finished sixth overall.