Hot on the trail

Steamboat bids for track and field championship

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— Steamboat Springs has hosted the country's best athletes in numerous winter national championships. Now, John Chapman believes the community is fit to host one in the summer as well.

Chapman, the 2006 Steamboat Springs Running Series director, is spearheading an effort to bring the USA Track and Field 10K Trail National Championship to Steamboat on either June 23 or 30.

"The numbers (of participants) are not as big as some of the other races we have in town, but the organization and staging is a whole new level," Chapman said of setting a course and bringing in timers and an official judge for the sport's national organizing body to determine a national champion.

"With trail running, you have to be fast, and you have to climb - these may not be the fastest runners, but you'll certainly see the country's strongest runners."

Vail has hosted the event for the past two years. But when Chapman found out that Vail would not renew its bid, he began organizing Steamboat's proposal.

Having lined up SmartWool as a primary sponsor and gathered numerous endorsements from the Steamboat Ski Area, the Chamber Resort Association and Yampa Valley Medical Center, Chapman is confident the bid he sent this week will be approved.

A USATF committee meeting on Dec. 2 will determine Steamboat's approval as a host site.

If chosen, the race will not only constitute a national championship with a $5,000 prize purse for USATF member racers, but also it will be a qualifying selection race for the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team. Nancy Hobbs, chair of USATF's Mountain/Ultra/Trail sport council estimated that no more than two men and one woman would earn automatic berths to the team from the championship, but that she would not be certain until a meeting Dec 2.

Chapman reassured locals that not all participants in the race will be sponsored semi-professionals vying for a spot to compete at the 2007 World Mountain Running Trophy race in Ovrannaz, Switzerland. Anyone will be able to sign up for the elite division and the 10K will also be open to amateur runners as part of the 2007 Steamboat Springs Running Series. Chapman estimated that, between the elite and amateur running participants, the event could draw 300 to 400 people.

Pending approval, Chapman plans to put the course at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area and finalize the dates and race logistics.

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