Middaugh, Ortiz win snowshoe titles

Nate Peterson
Preston Utley/putley@vaildaily.comRacers in the 10K Jeremy Wright North American Snowshoe Championship take off from the starting line Saturday in Beaver Creek.

BEAVER CREEK – Local Josiah Middaugh carried his 1-year-old son Sullivan across the finish line Saturday at Beaver Creek for his third North American Snowshoe Championship.Eagle’s Anita Ortiz, who had a hard cast removed from a mended broken foot just last week, carried her spent body over the line for her second title.The 290 competitors who raced in either the 10-kilometer or 5K races at the seventh annual event carried the memory of Jeremy Wright.The championship, which was newly dedicated this year to the former Vail resident who died while on duty in Afghanistan in January, was held under a brilliant blue sky at McCoy Park atop the Strawberry Park Express.The former U.S. Trail Running Team member was a top finisher in the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series before he joined the Army in April 2002. “We are just thrilled and honored that Jeremy is recognized in this way,” said Wright’s mother, Jackie Nickel, of Shelbyville, Ind. “We really appreciate the impact that he had on so many people. He loved snowshoeing. He loved Beaver Creek and he loved the people up here and we are just thrilled that this is helping people remember Jeremy.”Nickel, along with Wright’s father, Dale, of Flat Rock, Ind., was on hand to watch Saturday with a large contingent of family and friends. Wright’s sister Alison completed the 5K in the women’s 20-29 category.

The men’s pro championship went to Middaugh for the third time in four years.The local Xterra triathlete finished the 10K course in 46 minutes, 39.56 seconds. Middaugh was so far out in front heading into the finish area that he had time to stop and then backtrack five steps to grab his baby son.After the two crossed the finish line together, the champ lifted Sullivan to the sky in celebration.”He’s good motivation,” Middaugh said, smiling.The three-time champion won his first North American title in 2002. This year’s win was his second in a row, and closed out a sweep for the local in this year’s four-race Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series.”It was probably the fastest course ever in this event just because we haven’t had any fresh snow in a while,” Middaugh said. “It was a perfect day. We still had four or five powder sections that were pretty deep powder. Also, because it’s at such high elevation, it really feels like you’ve got knives in your chest the whole time. But this time of year, it’s a good time to have it. I wouldn’t mind a little adversity, but it’s good to have the sunshine. It’s good for the spectators.”Greg Krause finished second in the 10K pro race in 47:04.85 and Bernie Boettcher was third in 47:43.14.

In the women’s pro race, local trail running ace Ortiz was a surprise winner with her time of 56:31:71.The U.S. Trail Running Team member had been in and out of casts since September after breaking her foot. She had only gone on two 20-minute training runs before Saturday’s race.”My goal was to finish,” Ortiz said. “I thought I was going to walk most of it. I couldn’t breathe, but my strength felt good.”Ortiz credited Middaugh, who plans her training regimen, for keeping her in decent shape this winter while she dealt with the injury. “I cross-trained some on the bike,” she said. “I strapped my foot to my pedal because I couldn’t click in, and I would ride. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Josiah because he gives me my workouts and keeps me at the top of my game. He kept me strong all winter. It feels good because it’s been a while.”Lindsay Krause was second in 58:11.36 and Sara Tarkinton finished third in the pro field in 59:39.04.Locals Sari Chwalk (1:00:11.56) and Lisa Isom (1:00:24.65) rounded out the top five.

In the 5K race, Fort Collins’ John Litschert was the fastest man with a time of 21:24.39. Zack Dicristino was runner-up in 21:57.70 and Benedictus Kok was third in 22:51.91.”It’s a fun event,” Litschert said. “Beautiful day. Nice course. This race was faster than all the other three (in the series), because there wasn’t any singletrack. That really surprised me, because that’s where it really slows up and it gets really tough. It was all pretty much groomed trails.”In the women’s 5K, Kim McConnell of Erie won in 23:14.19. Local Lynda Andros was second in 23:56.87 and Erica Davis was third in 25:05.47.Andros, who moved out to Vail five months ago from Philadelphia, strapped on snowshoes for the first time ever in the first Beaver Creek race this season.”I’ve ran on the East Coast,” she said. “Mostly road racing. I’ve done a little trail running. I love snowshoeing, though. It’s such a great time to get away with your friends.”For complete results, see page A25.Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at, colorado

Support Local Journalism