Community Sports

First-timers win Chuckanut Foot Race

Dillon Quintana crosses the finish line to take first place at the Chuckanut Foot Race on Saturday, July 11, in Bellingham.
Dillon Quintana crosses the finish line to take first place at the Chuckanut Foot Race on Saturday, July 11, in Bellingham. The Bellingham Herald

Dillon Quintana won the 49th Annual Chuckanut Foot Race in 38 minutes, 16 seconds. Never having run this before, he registered on race morning after deciding a few days before to compete on a whim.

He is a member of a Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage team, which is a relay from Blaine to Langley, B.C. The Chuckanut Foot Race was part of his training, he said.

"It turned out to be a really fun race," Quintana said. "The conditions were perfect.”

Recruited after graduating from Mount Baker High School, Quintana runs for Gonzaga University. His high school running career was littered with injuries, such as a broken leg and multiple stress fractures, but not running was unthinkable. Despite the hurdles, 20-year-old Quintana is in love with the sport.

"I'm still chasing the dream and trying to become a runner," he said. "I just fell in love with it from the start, that endorphin rush."

Focusing on increasing speed and distance, Quintana's running niche is anything from a 5K to a 10K right now, but as he pursues running for as long as he can, someday he hopes to go even greater distances.

The female winner was also a Chuckanut Foot Race first-timer. Actually, she moved to Washington only five days ago from Minnesota.

Ladia Albertson-Junkans, 29, was the first female to cross the finish line, after racing seven miles through the Chuckanut mountains, from Marine Park to the Larrabee campground, in 45:58.8. Until eight days ago, she was completely unable to run due to an injured Achilles tendon.

A life-long athlete and lover of the outdoors, trail running has been her way of seeing different parts of the world from an on-the-ground perspective, Albertson-Junkans said.

"What brings me back to trail running again and again is where I come from, growing up in the country," she said. "The hills, the trees, the fields are all home to me."

Running has been an activity that ties a community together for Albertson-Junkans. Before she moved from Minnesota, she had visited the Seattle area where her sister lived and fell in love with the trails. She began doing races here as an excuse to visit and less than two months ago decided to take the plunge and move permanently.

"It's almost like no matter where you are in the world, if you meet a runner chances are they know someone you know," she said. "It makes the world feel smaller."

Tucked back into the mountains and alongside the bay, the well-marked Chuckanut Foot Race course was varied enough to keep runners on their toes, but not so technical as to slow the pace.

"I could really feel getting into a good groove on these trails," Albertson-Junkans said. "Hopefully I'll have more than eight days of prep next time."

For other runners who crossed the finish line near the front of the pack, the Chuckanut Foot Race has become a tradition and this year will be remembered as a fun one.

Roberto Aguilera, 17, a soon-to-be Ferndale High School senior, has run the Foot Race four times and came in third overall this year. It is a step up from his sixth-place finish last year, which was a significant improvement from his place among the 100s three years ago.

"I felt good overall," Aguilera said. "I am happy with my place and time."

For Alma McMurty, 35, a proud mother of two, running is a way to maintain strength and youth. This was her sixth Chuckanut Foot Race, and she has placed near the very top the last few years. She was the second female finisher this year with a time of 47:12.2.

"I feel like I am fighting my age (when I run)," she said. "I run with a younger group and I feel young again."

As a mother, there is often no way to have a set running schedule but she hits the trails whenever her kids are busy with their own activities, McMurty said. The importance of training and maintaining is a high priority for her.

"I feel like I believe in myself even more," she said. "I am more well prepared for everything, and I admire the people I run with."

The 49th Annual Chuckanut Foot Race was one of the larger races. With 200 more people than last year and a wave of last-minute registrations, the check-in table lost count of participants. An estimated 600 people had signed in by the time the race began, event coordinator Melissa Kranzler said.

This year, the course varied slightly from what it has been. Trail maintenance cut off part of the Interurban and runners had to detour onto Fairhaven Parkway for a short stretch during mile two.

Over 500 people registered online, but it was the weather that likely held off some to decide on race day to participate, Kranzler said. The sixty degree weather was a welcome change and provided more comfortable conditions than the week of record-breaking heat leading up to the race.

As big an event as this year was, next year will be the 50th annual run and organizers are hoping to make it a special one, Kranzler said.

Top three men’s finishers




Dillon Quintana



Tyler Van Dooren



Roberto Aguilera



Top three women’s finishers




Ladia Albertson-Junkans



Alma McMurty



Ruby Watson