Gutierrez, Gomez win Spring Runoff |

Gutierrez, Gomez win Spring Runoff

NWS Trail Run SM 6-5 Vail Daily/Shane Macomber Lisa Isom hussles up a steep section of the Teva Mountain Games Spring Runoff 10K Trail Championships Saturday on Vail Mountain.

On the advice of her college track coach at Adams State, Zoila Gomez decided to come to Vail this weekend to run in the Vail Spring Runoff and Gore Tex 2004 USA 10K Trail Championships.”I heard about the race two days ago,” Gomez said. “I was expecting something a little bit easier. It was tough. I came here thinking I’m going to have a fun time and just go out there for a really hard workout.”Gomez got a good workout all right on the 6.2 mile course that weaved its way up and down Vail Mountain, starting and ending at Check Point Charlie. But, there was more. The Division II track standout from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, won the women’s race, creating somewhat of a dilemma for race officials.Gomez didn’t get the title of U.S. champion – that went to second-place finisher Laura Haefli, who finished in 51 minutes, 55 seconds – but she did get the $1,000 check that went to the overall winner.

“This morning I went in the race thinking, “That’s OK (if I don’t get the money), as long as I have a good run,” Gomez said. “I was going to settle for less. I don’t get the championship title because I’m not a U.S. citizen but that’s OK. I still get the money.”Gomez’s win wasn’t the only improbable ending on Saturday. The men’s race had a twist of its own as Simon Gutierrez of Taos, N.M., won for the second year in a row with a time of 42:57. The aforementioned twist was in fact a turn – in the wrong direction – taken by men’s leader Matt Carpenter, who ceded the win to Gutierrez after he went off course in the middle of the race. Local triathlete Josiah Middaugh finished in second behind Gutierrez at 44:02 while Bill Raitter of Estes Park came in third.”I thought he was ahead of me the whole way,” said Gutierrez about Carpenter’s costly mistake and his improbable win. “He put a little bit on me in the middle, so I just tried to maintain what I was doing. I thought he was ahead of me most of the way, so I took it easy the last half and he wasn’t there at the finish.””I guess he just didn’t see a flag and went the wrong way,” said Middaugh. “There’s a good chance that Carpenter would have won, but I guess that’s part of the race. It was marked well, he just went the wrong way. In a trail race, you’ve got to keep your head up the whole time and you’ve got to look for arrows. There was a big arrow there and a water station. It’s too bad that he went the wrong way, because he was leading and he probably would have won.”

More good storiesGomez’s win wasn’t the only feel-good story of the day. She had to share that distinction with Raitter, the men’s third-place finisher. A National Park biologist in Estes Park, Raitter was surprised to find out he finished third Saturday, and had won $500, after thinking he ended up fourth. “I’m real pleased,” said a smiling Raitter. “I got 500 bucks. I work 10-hour days for the National Park, so to compete with these guys is just amazing.”

Danelle Ballengee of Summit County was grimacing more than she was smiling after completing the women’s race. But, she said she still had fun.”I was paying attention to one thing, and that was my calves,” Ballengee said. “It was a really fun course. I enjoyed it. I felt OK, but my calves were so bad that I really couldn’t run the way I wanted to.”Her explanation as to why her calves hurt so bad was pretty cut and dry. On Monday, she leapfrogged the whole Bolder Boulder with a group of friends for 6.2 miles.Makes running 6.2 miles through the woods sound easy. Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at

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