Highlands Sky 40 Mile –Wild, Wet and Wrocky
Dan Lehmann, Race Director
June 14, 2003
“This course is sick!! I love it!!” called Andras Bucsinszky as he rolled into Aid Station #3 near the end of the second major ascent. With his great Eastern European/Long Island accent, he had the aid crew in stitches. Then up the hill he scrambled toward the next section of rocky ridgeline. So went the day for the 102 starters of the inaugural running Highlands Sky.
The Highlands Sky is the first event sponsored by the recently organized West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners and it was truly a success. Without familiarity with the course, the runners faced unknown challenges. The course is tough; but the incessant spring rains had the earth saturated and the rocks slick, which made it even tougher. Clark Zealand (Ont.Can) took the lead early. At Station #2, mile 10.1 after a 2300’ ascent, he had 7 minutes on second place Eric Grossman (KY) and 20 minutes on third place Mark Lundblad (NC). Zealand held that lead to win in 6:09:11. The race for second was exciting with Grossman coming off a five-year hiatus from ultra running, and Lundblad running his first ultra distance! At Station #6, 26.6 miles, the gap between the two was still 12 min. The next 5.5 mile “big muddy” section slowed Grossman; and Lundblad checked through #7 1 minute behind. Sensing he was being pursued, Grossman was able to push and maintain the 1 min edge for the final 8 miles to finish in 6:32:37 with Lundblad crossing the finish at 6:33:40.
Anne Riddle (NC) and Bethany Hunter (VA) were also close at Station #2 with Riddle leading Hunter by 2 minutes. Riddle maintained a 2 min lead to the half way mark and the beginning of the 7.3 road section across Dolly Sods. Here Riddle extended her lead by 10 min. She went on to win the female overall in 7:10:32 with Hunter crossing the finish at 7:28:34.
Tom Nielsen (VA) took first place in the male Masters category with a time of 7:13:49, and Rachel Toor (NC) the female Masters with a time of 8:24:34. Male Grandmasters went to David Horton (VA) crossing the finish in 8:04:15, and the female Grandmaster was Debbie Miller (KY) with a time of 9:20:08.
A real congratulation goes to all who took on the Highlands. This is a very challenging course and all are commended. Next year the race will have a 12-hour limit and an adjusted cutoff of 8 hours at Station #6. Mark your running calendar for Fathers’ Day weekend, June 19, 2004.