Even though he had just run 13.1 miles, Colorado resident Andy Wacker was so pumped to win a national title he made everyone around him smile when he joyfully jump-kicked the tape in the Padden Trail Half Marathon National Championships on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Lake Padden.
“Last year (when he finished second) was my first time in Bellingham,” said Wacker, who won in 1 hour, 21 minutes, 0.2 seconds. “It’s beautiful here and it’s beautiful in Boulder but they’re a different kind of beauty. This is quintessential Northwest. There were two trees down on the trail (from Friday night’s windstorm), but that just made it more fun.”
The affable Wacker, 28, was a two-time cross country All-American at the University of Colorado. He still lives in Boulder. The runner-up was Jared Bassett, 26, of Bend, Ore., in 1:23.39, and third went to David Fuentes, 29, of Austin, Texas, in 1:25.14.
The women’s winner was a former NCAA women’s champion at Colorado, Renee Metivier, 34, of Bend, who finished in 1:34.36 in her first trail race for 14th overall among about 200 starters. Ladia Albertson-Junkans, 30, of Seattle, was a close second in 1:34.40 and Julia Webb, 33, of Beaverton, Ore., was third in 1:37.37.
The winners of the Al Coyle 5K Race were Whatcom County resident Derek Thornton, 33, in 20:03 and 56-year-old Colorado resident Nancy Hobbs, who was second overall in 24:35 among about 50 starters.
‘An ideal day’
Trail Half founder Al Coyle, in his sixth and final event and its third year as a national title race, called the day “absolutely ideal for trail running.” There was a lull between windstorms, perfect 50s temperatures for trail running and a light rain.
“We couldn’t have done this without our co-director, Tad Davis, and all our many volunteers,” Coyle said of the popular event, which he noted raised more than $50,000 in the previous five years to benefit Rebound of Whatcom County, which helps at-risk youth. “We got lucky on the wind. Nothing put a damper on spirits today.”
The event will continue under the direction of Northwest Endurance Events.
The caliber of the competition was reflected by the fact that all six of the top three men and women, all from outside the area, were college All-Americans in cross country, track or both.
Runner-up Bassett, who improved from fifth last year, was a steeplechase All-American at the University of Portland, and third-place Fuentes was a Division II cross country All-American at St. Edwards in Austin.
In addition to her NCAA Division I cross country title, Metivier won 11 All-America honors along with a national indoor 3,000 meters championship in 2010 and the 20K road race title in 2012. Albertson-Junkans was a two-time cross country All-American at the University of Minnesota, and Wells claimed 11 national Division III All-American honors at Wisconsin-La Crosse, including a steeplechase title.
‘The nicest people’
“Trail runners are the nicest people in the world,” Metivier said. “This was my first-ever trail race, and I needed help on the downhills. I learned about the downhills on the second trip around the course.”
Albertson-Junkens provided good advice, saying: “The feeling of letting yourself go on the trail downhills can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar.”
On this day, when smiles and trail running fellowship were in evidence, friendly runners seemed to be making everyone comfortable.