Unknown Holguin wins Silverthorne Swift Skedaddle
SILVERTHORNE – The field at Saturday’s Swift Skedaddle snowshoe race was stacked: national champions, internationally renowned mountain runners, world-class adventure racers who thrive on endurance events and dismiss pain.And then there was Avon resident Antonio Holguin. A 40-year-old construction worker, Holguin (pronounced Ole-geen) immigrated to America from Durango, Mexico, and has lived in Colorado for the past eight years. He is humble, softspoken, unknown. He races to win.In fact, after he left the rest of the touted men’s 10K field in his sugar snow wake Saturday at the Raven Golf Club, Holguin said he had planned on nothing else.”I feel very positive in this race because I’ve been doing good workouts,” Holguin said. “My goal was to win this race. Not second, not third, just first place.”Holguin, who has been a competitive road runner since he was 16, used his slight build (5-foot-8, 135 pounds) to move swiftly through the deep, energy-draining snow that the Swift Skedaddle races are known for. His victory earned him an automatic berth at the snowshoe national championships, set to take place in March in Vermont.
Holguin got excited about the prospect of equaling Saturday’s result with a national title on the line. But he is more concerned with getting more Hispanics involved with a sport he’s grown to adore.”My friend, he told me, ‘Don’t you feel proud to be the only Hispanic people that runs in these races?’ And I told him, ‘No, I don’t feel proud, I feel shame.’ I feel sorry, because I would like to see more Hispanic people running in these races,” Holguin said. “Most Hispanic people, they think (snowshoe racing) is only for white people. And that’s totally wrong. It’s a beautiful sport, and running races is for everybody, not only the white people.”Estes Park’s Bill Raitter – an exotic species biologist who was a member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team in 2003 – took second in the men’s 10K race, more than a minute and a half behind Holguin’s winning time of 57 minutes, 19 seconds. “I’ve got to learn to start out a little faster,” Raitter said. “On courses like this, it’s just impossible to pass. I tried to pass once and I went down to my waist.”Silt resident Bernie Boettcher, one of the snowshoe racing deans and last year’s North American masters snowshoe champion, finished third in 1:00:22.Boettcher said Holguin’s performance surprised him, but the perennial contender wasn’t shocked with his own third-place finish.
“I just finished a snow-sculpting contest in Aspen at 1 a.m. this morning,” he said. “It was basically just 48 hours of snow shoveling. I didn’t get any sleep, except for three hours this morning.”Breckenridge’s Hal Clark, in fifth, was the lone local to crack the men’s top five.In the women’s 10K race, 17-year-old Anna Lieb of Golden won with even more ease than Holguin. Lieb, a high school senior who took fifth last fall at the Class 4A state cross country meet, earned her automatic berth at nationals in 1:08:23, more than two minutes ahead of runner-up Keri Nelson (1:10:30). Nelson may have been feeling the effects of the three-hour drive from her hometown of Gunnison. She said she must travel to faraway races like Saturday’s Swift Skedaddle because there are none in or around where she lives. “I think I’m probably the only snowshoe racer in Gunnison,” she said, smiling.Eagle County’s Katie Mazzia finished third, while Frisco resident Martha Lunsky led the locals in fourth.
In the 4K distance, Rob Claus of Louisville won by two seconds, in 24:15, after passing Avon’s Rick Schmelzer with 50 yards to go.Breckenridge’s Michelle Lyman won the women’s 4K race in 27:09.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13630, or at email@example.com.Vail, Colorado