Runners cruise Howelsen's singletrack to new course records

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Derek Leidigh, 23, runs on the downhill trail as he races toward the finish line during the Howelsen Hill 8-Miler running series event in Steamboat Springs on Saturday morning. Leidigh finished with a time of 55:19 to take first place in the race.

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Patrick Hanson, 22, looks downhill as he races toward the finish line during the Howelsen Hill 8-Miler running series event in Steamboat Springs on Saturday morning. Hanson finished with a time of 56:50 to take second place in the race.

— Lisa Adams has lived and run in Steamboat Springs for seven years, but never considered the trail-running potential at Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain.

"I've never really used the trails for running, you always think about the biking, but this makes it really exciting," Adams said after finishing the shorter, four-mile trail course of Saturday morning's second annual Howelsen Hill 8-Miler. Adams stayed on the winding course to finish first in the women's division.

Derek Leidigh was hoping to do the same, until he passed last year's overall winner of the full eight-mile trail course, Ft. Collins' Patrick Hanson, and put on the blinders as he led the pack of 50 racers up the steep Emerald Mountain switchbacks.

"I just kept going up and up and was looking at my watch, thinking I must have missed" the four-mile course cutoff, Leidigh said. "At the aid station, I asked, 'where's the four-mile course?' and they just pointed down the hill. So, I took a sip and said, 'well, I guess I'm doing the eight.'"

By the time the racers hit the Emerald Mountain Quarry and headed downhill, Hanson thought he had the healthy lead, assuming Leidigh turned off on the shorter course. That is, until he saw Leidigh ahead of him at the opposite end of the Upper Meadow.

"I turned there and thought, 'we're golden, I can catch him,' and I started sprinting, but it was too hard to gauge distance in that big field," Hanson said. "I started going for it, but (Leidigh) ran well today."

Leidigh held on, winning the race in 55 minutes, 19 seconds, establishing a new course record. Hanson followed in 56:50, while 54-year-old Montrose County resident Heath Hibbard took third.

On the women's side, Craig resident Christine Knight finished first, earning her second Steamboat Springs Running Series win in a week (She won the women's Mountain Madness 10K on July 8). She also set a new course record in 1:03:37. Lori Huggard took second in 1:10:07, and Mary Schuette took third in 1:13:24.

"I've never set foot on this hill," said Knight, who has a collegiate cross-country background. "I was being cautious on the downhill - you want to let go, but you'd see a stump or something in a shadow, and there was a couple corners where it was banking and you could fall off into the thornies."

Fourth-place overall finisher Travis Mattern said "all the pain was in the uphill," and the welcoming and scenic downhill cruise was a matter of controlling speed to stay upright and to test how much his knees could take.

Derrick Huner won the four-mile course in 34:53, followed by Larry Handing in second and Shane Reichenau in third. Kylie McCaffery finished behind Adams' 37-minute, first-place time in the women's division and Devon Doyle finished in third.

The next Running Series event is the July 28 Spring Creek Memorial. Visit www.runningseries.com for more details.

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