Running back for more

Jason Saitta hopes for a repeat of his first-place finish in the Steamboat Marathon

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— Before arriving for today's Steamboat Marathon, returning champ Jason Saitta had a prediction to make.

"I expect to win it," Saitta said. "Not because I'm cocky or anything, but I expect that of myself. It's a local race that doesn't really attract a lot of people nationally. I don't think the field will be something I can't compete in like Boston."

Saitta, a 23-year-old long-distance runner from Northglenn, is the returning back-to-back champion of the marathon.

In 1998, he finished 141st at the Boston Marathon a race that draws more than 15,000 competitors annually.

Saitta will trek just more than 26 miles today, starting at Hahn's Peak Village and ending at the courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs. Starting elevation is 8,128 feet and finishing elevation is 6,728 feet.

Five hundred runners are signed up for the full marathon, said race director Paul Sachs.

Nine hundred individuals will compete in the half-marathon and 700 to 800 will do the 10K, Sachs said.

Saitta figures his toughest challenger will be Steve Krebs, a 38-year-old Wheat Ridge runner who took second last year despite cramping up near mile 18.

He was 4 minutes and 16 seconds behind Saitta who won in 2:46:16.

"I ran stupid," Krebs said. "I ran too fast in the beginning and he ran me down at the end.

"The thing about (Saitta) is that he's really, really young and fast so he is going to do nothing but get better. That guy has a huge future in front of him."

Krebs, who has been running for more than 20 years, is relying on his experience to spoil Saitta's shot at making it three in a row.

He finished 134th at the Boston Marathon last year, and was third at the Bolder Boulder last fall.

Saitta said he knows he will be in for a tough challenge, but he feels being injury-free is a big plus for him. Last year, Saitta had torn his Achilles about two months prior to the race.

Cindy Enochs, who won the women's portion of the Steamboat Marathon the past two years, will not race this year because she has an injury, Sachs said.

Steve Frasier, registration chairman, said none of the top five women's finishers from last year is returning.

In the 10K Race, local favorite Tenadore Dean will be gunning for first place, as defending champion Hector Hernandez is not signed up, Frasier said.

Dean, 27, was second in the 2000 Steamboat 10K at 34:47:00. He was more than two minutes behind Hernandez who completed it in 32:25:00.

Dean was a last-minute register this year.

"Up until Friday, I thought I was going to be in a wedding in Las Vegas this weekend," Dean said. "My plans kind of fell through there at the last minute."

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