Nicholas Sunseri cruises toward the finish line Sunday in the 10K at 10,000 Steamboat Springs Running Series event in Steamboat Springs. Sunseri won the event, finishing in 42 minutes, 5.91 seconds.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Nicholas Sunseri cruises toward the finish line Sunday in the 10K at 10,000 Steamboat Springs Running Series event in Steamboat Springs. Sunseri won the event, finishing in 42 minutes, 5.91 seconds.

200 runners test Rabbit Ears Peak race in Steamboat Springs

10K at 10,000 a treat for Nordic athletes

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Steamboat's Erik Belshaw, 7, flies Sunday during the 5-kilometer race in the annual 10K at 10,000 event on Rabbit Ears Pass.

2011 Running Series schedule

The lofty altitude of the usually snow-covered Rabbit Ears Pass isn’t an unusual place to find the Nordic skiing athletes of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

It is rare, however, to find the team there without skis and poles, let alone without snow.

The club’s skiers could be coasting on fresh powder on the pass inside of two months, but on Sunday six of them took their training for the coming season high and far, joining more than 200 runners for the annual 10K at 10,000 Feet Steamboat Springs Running Series event.

“We enter the races when we’re here that are the appropriate distance,” said coach Josh Smullin, who finished fourth in the 10K. “It’s fun for the kids and good for them to get out there with a bib on and compete.”

Training isn’t just rolling along for the club’s Nordic team. It’s nearing its final season prep stage. The summer was filled with basic fitness work, long runs and bike rides. With school back in session, the focus has shifted to shorter, more intense workouts, the week usually split between roller skiing and running or biking.

Sunday’s run proved to be an exception. It also proved that the participating team members are close to ready for the coming snow, as several club racers filtered into podium spots in the shorter of the day’s two options, a 5-kilometer race.

“We do a lot of running, but we don’t do a lot of downhill speed work,” Smullin said. “The cool thing about being a Nordic skier, this is a part of our training. A good Nordic skier should be able to be on the podium in any of these endurance events because we do them all.”

Not all of Sunday’s runners were stretching their legs with eyes on winter. Nicholas Sunseri, for instance, is still firmly planted in summer, and once again he was firmly planted at the front of the race. He torched the 10-kilometer course, which wove around the base of Rabbit Ears peak, in 42 minutes, 5.91 seconds, breaking away early and holding the lead the entire route.

San Francisco runner Crosby Freeman, a renowned half-marathoner who was in Steamboat for the weekend, pushed Sunseri but couldn’t beat him, finishing second in 43:09.02.

Chris Grauch was third in 43:54.78.

“I took it out pretty hard, so I had a comfortable lead the whole time,” Sunseri said. “The elevation affected me a little bit, but I did OK. It was beautiful out there.”

Brooke Wells won the women’s race, finishing in 50:39.14, ahead of second-place Gretta Fosha, in 51:48.64, and Eva Hagen, third in 52:18.84.

Sam Tomerlin won the women’s 5K, beating all racers in 19:43.48. Winter Sports Club athlete Abbey Habermehl was second among the women in 23:54.02, and teammate Katie Brodie was third in 24:08.21.

Thomas Reuter won the men’s race in 20:31.27. Club athlete Tyler Terranova was second at 22:15.18, and Jerome Crowder was third in 25:41.69.

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