Ortiz named runner of the year | VailDaily.com

Ortiz named runner of the year

Ryan Slabaugh

Kansas City?

See, Ortiz will be recognized as the 2002 U.S.A. Track and Field Mountain Runner of the Year in Missouri Dec. 7 after barbecuing (it is in Kansas City) the competition all season. On the same day she is to receive the award, Ortiz will begin defending her Pedal Power Snowshoe Series championship, the first of many times she’ll be the woman to beat.

The multi-sport athlete will also have to defend Colorado, U.S. and North American snowshoe championships.

Aside from snowshoe glory, the running award shouldn’t have been a surprise. Ortiz was the top U.S. finisher at all three national mountain-running races this year, including a first-place finish at the the Vail Hill Climb, which earned her a spot on the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team. Her 11th-place finish at the World Mountain Running Trophy was the best finish by a U.S. woman since 1995, the first year the U.S. sent a women’s team to the Worlds. Criteria for the award included race accomplishments and serving as an ambassador for the sport.

“I have so much fun with it,” she said. “I get a kick out of wearing a sweatshirt that says U.S. Track and Field, and knowing I didn’t buy it at Wal-Mart.”

So on the day Kansas City is invaded by mountain runners, Ortiz will be strapping on her snowshoes at the Vail Nordic Center for a 4-mile jaunt around her home mountain. The big moment this season will come when Ortiz competes at the World Championships in Italy this January as a member of the first U.S. Snowshoe Team.

“I’m a little nervous about it,” Ortiz said. “They have a different approach to snowshoeing over there. They run on a flat golf course, and I’m not a sprinter.”

Ortiz, known for her legendary and intense training regiments, is able to carry her mountain-running career easily over to snowshoeing. Not only is running on powder easier on the body, she said, but the pressure of being the U.S. champion helps her stay busy.

“It is a lot of pressure, but it’s a good pressure,” Ortiz said. “Pressure is what motivates me.”

Since the running season’s been over, Ortiz has found some time to be a mother and relax with her husband, Mike.

“I’ve been enjoying some time off since then,” said Ortiz, the 38-year-old mother of four and a teacher at Eagle Valley Elementary School. “I’m pretty level-headed about it all. I can’t go crazy with the training because family has to come first. They probably save me in a lot of ways because I like this so much.”

Fear not, Ortiz will be busy soon. She’ll be running at least one race a week this winter and will be defending her title at the U.S. championship in Salt Lake City this spring.

The other Runner of the Year awards went to Massachusett’s Paul Low in the open category, and New Hampshire’s Craig Fram and Telluride’s Kari DiStefano in the masters category.

Low, 28, was a member of the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team, earning his spot on the squad with a second-place finish at the Vail Hill Climb and a fourth-place finish at the Mount Washington Hill Climb in Vermont.

This is the fourth year for the USATF Mountain Runner of the Year awards. Past winners include Colorado athletes Danelle Ballengee, Matt Carpenter and Kari DiStefano.

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