MONTANA CUP

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2006 Montana Cup Summary

 

The Long Green Line

 

Butte’s Piss & Moan Runners hosted a record crowd of 148 finishers in the fifteenth annual Montana Cup cross-country meet on the arid Bureau of Land Management property amid the boulder-strewn hills of Pipestone.  The day was calm and warm with temperatures around 15 ◦C, but in a more autumn-like spirit of Halloween, race officials and volunteers were costumed in a “hillbilly-hunter-white trash” dress theme. Meet organizers wanted to have fun with it, and they did, with a lot of hoot’n, and holler’n and carry’n on. Runners may have noticed several scroungy looking course monitors and camera men along the race route who were dressed in theme.

 

The women’s race started the meet at exactly the stroke of noon with a black-powder pistol pop, fired by the “grisly old hunter” who was played by local Waterloo rancher, Dean Hunt. Pipestone’s narrow trails made it necessary to split the starting line into three sections, with each section holding roughly one-third of the runners. The three groups merged less than 50 meters into the 7.4K race, sending a large bolus of 61 runners down the skinny, double-track trail like a pig through a python.

 

The race was run on a loop course, and Helena’s Jennifer Thomas, who wanted to run free of the clog, bolted into an early lead with Butte’s Nicole Hunt in tow. The course sloped gently downward over a forgiving, decayed granite surface for the first 2.5 kilometers before turning sharply off a ridge and twisting precipitously downward through the nightmare known as the “Spin Cycle.” The Spin Cycle began a 1.4K section of trail that lead runners down, down, up, down, down, up, and down again, ending with a net elevation drop of 158 meters with several pitches of 10% or greater. The drop was great enough that several runners later reported sensing a warmer ambient temperature at the bottom than they had at the course’s highest point, which was the start/finish area at 1681 meters altitude.

 

By the Spin Cycle, Thomas had been swallowed up by a seven-woman chase pack. Hunt, however, had remained out front, and had stretched a 9 second lead over second place Megan Lerch of Missoula, and Bozeman’s Dani Salois-Shahan. Hunt continued to pull away from the others throughout the race, and finished with a commanding 2 minute 29 second margin of victory in a time of 31:08. This was Hunt’s sixth individual title in her thirteenth Montana Cup. Most of Hunt’s lead developed over the latter portions of the race where all of the lost elevation was regained. Salois-Shahan stayed closest to Hunt, finishing in 33:37.

 

In September, Hunt was the leading finisher on the gold-medal-winning Team USA at the World Mountain Running Trophy which was run in Turkey. Hunt, who was also the co-director of today’s meet, compared Turkey’s rugged Trophy race course to today’s Cup course saying “before I went to Turkey, I would have thought this course was hard, but the Turkey race changed my perception … On a scale of one to ten, I would call today’s race a 6, and Turkey’s was a 9.5.”

 

Hunt is currently in a heavy training phase in preparation for the “Worlds Richest Mountain Run” at Obudu Ranch in Nigeria. The race, which will be held during our country’s Thanksgiving, earns its name by offering $240,000 in prize money.

 

Today at the Spin Cycle, a long green line of Butte runners began to emerge near the lead, with seven Butte females in the top seventeen. If the race had been stopped there, Butte would have won with a score of 35 points, and little changed after that. Butte’s winning score ended up being 31, nineteen points better than second place Helena. The Butte women’s victory was their first ever team Cup title. Butte’s team was fortified with youth, with their 2nd, 4th, and 6th finishers being teenagers. Butte High’s fab freshwoman, Keli Dennehy, finished seventh overall and first among youth (0-19 years) at 34:50. Other Butte scorers (Vaia Errett, Kala Jauquet, and Kathy Peterson) finished in places 8, 9, & 10. Butte master, Susan Kaluza added a third individual title for the home standing team, finishing first among her 40+ age division. Kaluza’s time of 38:09 was twelve seconds faster than second place Kathie Perrins of Billings.  The Helena master’s team prevented Butte from claiming both female team titles, when they strung together five of the top eight scoring positions to defend their Masters’ Cup title with a 25 to 32 victory over Butte. Debbie Magilke of Billings won the Super Masters’ (50+) division with a time of 40:46.

 

In keeping with the Halloween festivities, race organizers had secretly planned to have several costumed actors at various locations along the secluded course. The first actor was Jock Holmes of Whitehall who played a drunken and loudly obnoxious hunter at the top of the Spin Cycle. Holmes, surrounded by empty beer cans and blasting his music, rudely chastised passing runners for spoiling his “hunt’n groun’s."  Jock polished some other one-liners on passers by such as “Hey, lil’ gal… you're a box of dynamite,” “I got me a smorgesborg of little ladies com’n right at me,” and “I’ve herded old cows fastr’n that in my day.” 

 

The next actors were stationed at 4.7K near the base of the remote climb labeled “Monster Hill.” That name was originally decided on due to the monstrous nature of the incline which climbed for 600 meters at 10% grade. The name became even more apt when two Bigfoot monsters (one was a yearling) were recruited to hide in the bushes and to frighten runners at that spot. Mark Bausch and son Kaleb of Waterloo played the Bigfoot roles. Bigfoot’s instructions were to “scare but not to impede, and to do whatever else Bigfoot would do.”

 

Standing 2.14 meters in his platform based big feet, and with a menacing sneer on his latex Bigfoot mask, it was feared that Bigfoot might scare some of the younger female racers into leaving the course. To prevent this, Bigfoot was asked to stay back a little more from the young girls. Bigfoot’s post-race report refuted those fears. In a strange study of the affects of fear, Bigfoot noted that “males tended to scare about 20% more than females,” and age seemed to play a role in potential for fright too. He recalled that older females tended to scream, but teenaged girls were more likely to give him a rejecting sideways glance, like he “hadn’t seen since asking girls to dance at high school dances.” Bigfoot’s best scare of the day was on Don Tamietti, who ‘swept’ the course on his four-wheeler after all the women went through. “That guy just about crapped himself.” Littlefoot added "people say bad words when you scare them."

 

After the Monster Hill, racers’ quadriceps muscles were allowed to recuperate briefly while running through Woody’s Alley, which was a flatter and winding single-track through a forested boulder patch. The path’s name was derived from the wooden man who stood next to the trail there. The tranquil nature of this section may have led runners to hope and believe that their hardest climbing was behind them, but upon emerging from the trees, they saw the gargantuan climb ahead known as Angel’s Landing. If they listened closely at this point, they could have heard distant music from a flute floating down upon them. On the jutted ridge above, stood a flute-playing “Angel of Mercy.” That character, costumed in flowing white silk, was played by Kayla Hunt of Waterloo. Kayla got a lung burning workout, playing flute for two times 30 minutes. The ascent of Angel's landing was mercilessly steep and winding through 400 meters of immense boulders. The angel’s music signaled a merciful end to the climbing, but then there was still the matter of making the legs and lungs pump for another flat kilometer before the finish.

 

The men’s race got pumping at 1 p.m., and Butte High senior Hobie Beigler took the initial lead with a surprising burst of speed away from the starting line, but as his legs began to lose their rhythm, more proven speedsters emerged from the crowd behind. Bozeman’s Keith Kimmons was the first to pass Beigler, with Alan King of Billings and Missoula’s Casey Jermyn and Scott McGowan in pursuit. Kimmons continued to stride out on the downhill, building an eleven second lead by the spin cycle. At that time, McGowan was floating in fourth place, 14 seconds off the lead.

 

2006 Montana Cup champion Scott McGowan trails Missoula teammate Casey Jermyn at the 4.5K mark.

McGowan was running the Montana Cup against his coach’s better judgment. Despite (or perhaps due to) the tradition of secrecy surrounding the exact route of the Cup course, Coach Tom Raunig of Missoula had heard that this year’s Cup course was “dangerous,” and that made him worry about the safety of the running conditions for his most talented charge.  As Montana’s first and only sub-four miler, McGowan has earned the label of “world class,” and he has a sponsorship contract with New Balance to show for it. Montanans’ hopes for a representative in the 2008 Olympics likely go where McGowan goes, and Raunig knows it. Raunig also knows that a huge obstacle between McGowan and a ticket to the Olympics is McGowan’s health and injury status for the next two years.

 

McGowan does have a history of down time from training. During the summer of 2005, he experienced a string of maladies that included a neuroma in his foot, a common cold, and then a bout of influenza that left him in the hospital where he said he “lost fifteen pounds, when I couldn’t afford to lose three.” McGowan stands 1.93 meters, and he normally weighs 70 kg. After recovering from all of those ailments, McGowan started training seriously again but soon developed a stress fracture in the S.I. joint of his low back. He said that he has only recently begun to regain his previous fitness and training level. He did run one-hundred miles during the week of the Montana Cup, and despite his history of medical issues remains confident in his body’s ability to handle running in places like Pipestone, stating that “The course was hard, but I do runs like that in the Rattlesnake [Wilderness near Missoula] all the time. Tom [Raunig] worries too much about stuff like that. I liked the [Pipestone] course. It’s better than running on a golf course. Anybody who didn’t like that course is being a ‘wuss’.”

 

New Balance plans to ensure McGowan’s well being, and their plan requires McGowan and his new bride to move to Utah to join a new mid-distance training enclave. The newly formed group will offer coaching and medical support. With these plans and thoughts of his preservation dancing in his head, McGowan pranced effortlessly down through the boulders of the Spin Cycle, at “time trial” effort, as prescribed by Coach Raunig.

 

2006 Men's Montana Cup champions, Missoula. Scott McGowan and Casey Jermyn finger the Cup.

McGowan’s cautious approach continued as he followed closely behind teammate Casey Jermyn, who was last year’s individual Cup champion. McGowan and Jermyn are both products of class-B Montana high schools and of Montana universities, and they have raced each other many times, but in all those years McGowan had never beaten Jermyn in a cross country race before. The two Missoula runners trotted along with Kimmons still eighteen seconds ahead until the Monster Hill. Jermyn and McGowan agreed that they maintained their tempo up the Monster Hill, while Kimmons slowed, allowing his lead to dissolve within the next kilometer. McGowan was the first to get by Kimmons and he asserted himself a little more to gain a lead over Jermyn as well. McGowan said that he hasn’t ever been a good downhill runner, but he feels that he is much better at uphill running, despite what people might guess due to his long thin legs. His legs were powerful enough to propel him to a 26 second victory over the final uphill 2K on this course. McGowan finished in 26:55, and Jermyn was second in 27:21.

 

The Missoula teammates’ one-two finish also propelled Missoula to the team victory, with a 50 to 69 margin of victory over defending champion, Kalispell. Jake Roske was Missoula’s third finisher in sixth place overall, winning the youth title with a time of 29:25. Thomas Jodoin (16th), and Anders Brooker (25th) were the other scoring runners for Missoula.

 

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Butte hillbilly, Ray Hunt, hoot'n and holler'n and carry'n on about his team's repeat victory in the Masters' Cup.

The Masters’ Cup went to defending champion Butte, which scored with the first two finishers and five others in the first 13 places. Butte’s score of 29 was 16 better than second place Bozeman. The fourth member of Butte’s masters team was super master, Don Sundberg, who finished in 32:43 to defend his individual title in the 50+ age division.

 

-- Ray Hunt, Race Director

 

 

In Other Cup News:

The 2005 Montana Cup hosts, from the Kalispell region, donated their entire $84 profit from that meet to Butte as seeding money for the future of the Cup. That money was used to purchase a computerized timing system from Perfect Timing out of Bozeman. Immediately after the purchase, Chris Wareham of Butte set to work creating a complimentary program that takes data from the timing system to score cross country meets using Montana Cup scoring rules. In fact, the scoring program is so highly tailored for the Montana Cup, that Wareham named the program Montana Cup Scoring or MCS. Both programs are easy to use, and are available for use by subsequent meet hosts, at no charge.

 

The three members of the Montana Cup Hall of Fame considered one new nomination this year, and after some discussion they voted to accept former Missoula ace runner and team organizer Robert Sowers among their ranks.

 

Diamond Jim holding the Montana Cup

Co-meet founder, Diamond Jim, came up missing at the end of the day. This isn’t the first time that Diamond Jim has just got up and left, without saying goodbye. He is probably off visiting friends again. Perhaps we’ll run into him again at next year’s Cup in Missoula, or maybe the year after that in the “evil empire.”

 

[Editorial note: On November 1st, Diamond Jim sent in his fortune cookie note (which read: "You will make a long journey.")  for entry into the Montana Cup mail-in drawing. His envelope was posted with a Flash of DC Comics stamp. The postmark on the stamp read -- you guessed it -- Helena.]

 

A veteran of eight Montana Cups, jogged through today's course before the races began and then he offered some historical perspective, observing that each Cup race director tends to design a course that is more difficult than the previous one, and he added that you can’t keep having difficult courses like this one, if the goal is to attract your average runner.

 

What others have said about this year's Cup.