Wednesday September 22, 2010

BEND, Ore. -- As a light rain fell, so did the competition, as Tim VanOrden continued his summer of dominance at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Running National Championship on Saturday, Sept. 18.

Bennington’s own VanOrden, 42, won his third U.S. Masters Trail Running title of the summer on a scenic 13.99-mile course along the Deschutes River in Bend, Ore.

He now owns U.S. Master’s (40-and-over) titles at 10k, 15k and the half marathon. VanOrden’s time of 1 hour, 20 minutes, 8 seconds earned him eighth place overall in the elite field, just 18 seconds shy of a fifth-place spot on the podium.

"I previewed the course the day before and I knew it was going to be a lot faster than I like. I prefer bigger climbs and more technical, challenging trails," VanOrden said. "This race really suited the fast road guys."

Despite the deep, talented field running the race, VanOrden rose to the occasion, besting Master’s runner-up Bret Kimple of Portland, Ore., by more than two minutes.

"I really didn’t think I’d get this one," VanOrden said. "My goal was to run 5:50 pace (per mile), but I felt great right out of the gate and found myself running with the lead pack and clocking a 5:18 for the first mile.

"The pace was comfortable so I just stayed with the lead guys."

VanOrden kept in contact with the lead group for the first eight miles - and 1,100 feet of climbing - before the top four began to pull away.

"I really surprised myself today," the Bennington native said. "I didn’t know I could run that fast for that long."

But VanOrden was not the only three-time champion at the event. Overall winner Max King won his third consecutive XTERRA National Championship, completing the course in 1:15:57.

In addition to his three national titles, King is also the 2008 and 2009 XTERRA World Trail Running Champion. King, who resides in Bend, used his knowledge of the course to break away from the field late in the race.

"When you have good competition and you pull out a win like that, it always feels good, mentally and physically," said King, 30. "I tried to be relaxed in the first half of the race and see if I could open it up in the second half to get the win, and that’s what I did. It wasn’t easy. This was a very difficult win for me."

Fellow Oregonian Greg Mitchell and California’s Mario Mendoza pushed King the entire route. Mitchell finished second with a time of 1:16:52. The 55-second margin was the closest any runner has come to King at the XTERRA National Championship race in the past three years.

Mitchell had the lead for the first half of the race, but King passed him during a flat section along the Deschutes River with around three miles to go. Mendoza also held the lead for a brief stretch before settling for third place in 1:17:16.

Rounding out the top eight were Kalpanatit Broderick in fourth (1:18:58), Tyler Davis in fifth (1:19:50). In a true sprint to the finish, Derick Williamson was sixth (1:20:05), John Ngigi was seventh (1:20:06) and VanOrden was eighth (1:20:08).

Three-time NCAA 5,000-meter champion and U.S. 5,000-meter champion Lauren Fleshman, from Eugene, Ore., also relied on a late surge to win the women’s national championship for the second consecutive year. Fleshman, 29, finished with a time of 1:24:24.

The women’s race was also supposed to be close, but Fleshman ran away during the final miles. For most of the race, Fleshman and Michele Suszek of Colorado ran head to head.

"I just tried to keep pace," Fleshman said. "Then probably with around five (kilometers) left, I really picked up the pace to make it uncomfortable for the other girls in the race. My specialty is 5k, so once I knew there was 5k left, I felt comfortable picking it up."

More than 400 runners from around the world participated in the event. The runners were greeted by light rain and temperatures in the 50s. King and Fleshman each received $1,000 and roundtrip airfares to Hawaii courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines.

In addition to the overall titles, 24 age-group national champions were crowned. Zoe Allen from Hillsboro, Ore., who is 7 years old - and the youngest runner to ever compete in the XTERRA Nationals - finished in 3:03:37 to win the female under-9 division.

With another Master’s title under his belt, VanOrden has also been invited to compete in the XTERRA World Championships in Hawaii in December. But first he hopes to keep his winning streak alive overthe next few months. Next up is the U.S. Masters 5k Championships in Syracuse, N.Y. on Oct. 3, the U.S. Masters 5k Cross Country Championships in Vancouver, Wash., on Oct. 23 and finally the U.S. Trail Marathon Championships in Ashland, Ore. on Nov. 5.

"It’s been a long few months of training, travel and competition," said VanOrden. "When it’s over in December, I’m going to sleep for weeks."