Steamboat awarded world mountain-running championships

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— A town known for exporting champions across the globe will bring some of the world's best to Steamboat Springs in 2009.

On Friday, Steamboat Springs Running Series director John Chapman met with the World Mountain Running Association Congress in Ov-ronnaz, Switzerland, to present a U.S.A. Track & Field-approved bid to bring the World Mountain Running Trophy to Mount Werner from Sept. 17 to 19, 2009.

After Austria declined to submit a rival bid, voting representatives from about 30 nations approved the United States' submission, Chapman said.

"We got it," Chapman said by phone Tuesday during his return trip.

The event has been held only once before in the U.S. (2003 in Girdwood, Alaska).

"The acceptance is still subject to a couple things," Chapman said about stipulations to provide transportation from Denver International Airport and an increased number of beds for the estimated 400 athletes who will compete.

Chapman secured a $25,000 grant from the city's 2008 budget to help cover the $228,470 projected cost of hosting the race, and he estimates the event could generate nearly $70,000 in sales tax revenues.

It will also generate a showcase of global running talent.

"This is a big event for Steamboat, with runners coming in at a whole new level," Chapman said.

One of the runners who understands the level of competition is Laura Haefeli. After finishing second and failing to qualify for the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team at the June 30 10K Trail Championships at Mount Werner, Haefeli was awarded an at-large bid to the four-member women's team. During Saturday's world championships in Switzerland, Haefeli helped the U.S. women repeat as gold medalists and won the United States' first-ever individual medal, taking third overall on the "up/down" 8.1K course (world championship courses switch yearly between uphill and up/down, with Steamboat's course serving as the latter).

"I can't believe everyone will be coming here, just up north of here," said Haefeli, a 39-year-old beekeeper from Del Norte who coaches the Del Norte High School cross-country teams. "This is like having the Olympics in your town for mountain and trail running. : I hope to still be running by that point."

Haefeli was joined by scoring female runners Chris Lundy, 36, from Sausalito, Calif., in eighth and Rachael Cuellar, 25, from Albuquerque, N.M., in 12th to edge out the Czech Republic for the win.

Moffat County High School graduate Clint Wells helped the U.S. men's team to a ninth-place finish. The Colorado-heavy lineup was led by Boulder's Payton Batliner in 25th, Shiloh Mielke of Weaverville, N.C., in 37th, and Boulder's Rickey Gates and Wells, in 57th and 58th, respectively.

Visit www.usmrt.com for more detailed results from the weekend's race.

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