Ortiz, De La Cerda win Vail HillClimb
Sunny skies and perfect temperatures greeted runners Sunday morning for the 25th annual Vail HillClimb.The event, which was part of the Vail Mountain Trail Running Series, would also crown the first ever National Mountain Running Champion in United States history.The field of more than 500 runners of all ages and nationalities was left in the dust by Peter De La Cerda, of Alamosa, who crossed the finish line in 47 minutes, 42 seconds. De La Cerda got out of the gates quickly and pushed the pace, turning in a first-mile-split time of 4:45, a strategy he hoped would lead him to victory.”I was trying to get out fast and then maintain a good rhythm going up the hill,” said De la Cerda. “There was a little group that stayed together at first, but once we hit the switchbacks it was pretty much just me and Simon (Gutierrez).”Guttierez, who won the Teva Vail Spring Run Off in June, would cross the finish line in second with a time of 48:47. He, De La Cerda, and fifth-place finisher Eric Blake, are part of a group of trail runners from Alamosa who train together.”Simon, Eric and I all train together,” said De La Cerda. “It’s fun for us to come out and be able to all do well.”Anita Ortiz of Eagle finished first on the women’s side of the draw with a time of 1:01:19. Ortiz, who has been battling injuries which have kept her out of some events this year, battled Littleton’s Kelly Ryan all the way up the front-side of Vail Mountain. Ryan would come in second in a time of 1:01:55.”It felt good to not have any injuries,” said Ortiz. “I pulled it out where I needed it, and I needed it because Kelly was fast. We kept trading back and forth the whole way and I kind of hate that. At about the six-mile mark I saw her start to slow down and I just jammed it past her.”Besides the overall winners, the record field for the Vail HillClimb turned in some other impressive finishes on the day. Vail local Blondie Vucich, who recently got a top ten in her age group in the Boston Marathon, took first place in the women’s 50-54 age group.The seniors were well represented with 71 year-old Don Hayes making his way up the course in 1:48:35 and 83-year-old Gwen Ottenweiler coming across in 1:19:21.Mike Ortiz, husband of women’s winner, Anita, and director of the Vail Recreation District sports department, was very happy with the event at race’s end.”We had over 500 runners for the first National Mountain Running Championship,” said Ortiz. “Our field was unbelievable, the temperature was good and everyone made it to the finish.”Many of the runners had to make their way back down the mountain immediately following the finish to jump on bikes to compete in the mountain bike hill climb at noon, proving once again that we live in a town with some extraordinary athletes and competitors.The Vail Mountain Running Series will continue later this month with the Vail Half Marathon on July 20th. Those interested in competing should contact the VRD at 479-2279.USA Mountain Running Championships, Vail, Colo.MEN1. Pete De la Cerda, 29, Alamosa, 47:42, $425; 2. Simon Gutierrez, 38, Alamosa, 48:47, $200; 3. Joshua Eberly, 22, Gunnison, 50:00, $100; 4. Paul Low, 29, Amherst, Mass., 50:10; 5. Eric Blake, 24, Alamosa, 50:31; 6. Mark Werner, 29, Boulder, 50:48; 7. Bill Raitter, UNK, Colo., 51:46; 8. Nelson Laux, 25, Gunnison, 51:52; 9. Greg Winter, 24, Colorado Springs, 52:18; 10. Scott Creel, 41, Bozeman, Mont., 53:04WOMEN1. Anitz Ortiz, 38, Eagle, 1:01:19, $425; 2. Kelly Ryan, 34, Littleton, 1:01:55, $200; 3. Cindy O’Neill, 41, Manitou Springs,, 1:03:11, $100; 4. Kari Distefano, 43, Telluride, 1:03:55; 5. Melody Fairchild, 29, Boulder, 1:05:28; 6. Kelli Lusk, 33, Manitou Springs, 1:06:36; 7. Renee Frazee, 36, Salida, 1:07:10; 8. Jeanette Heimbaugh, 37, Boulder, 1:08:19; 9. Laurie Edwards, 33, Boulder, 1:08:30; 10. Anne Riddle, 37, Ashville, N.C., 1:08:49.David L’Heureux is a freelance writer based in Vail.