Whitehorse teams run to seven titles in road relay

The Whitehorse men’s team captured its fourth-consecutive open division win at the 31st annual Klondike Trail of ’98 International Road Relay on Saturday with its fastest time to date.

Team Scarecrow is so fast, it’s, well, scary.

The Whitehorse men’s team captured its fourth-consecutive open division win at the 31st annual Klondike Trail of ’98 International Road Relay on Saturday with its fastest time to date.

Scarecrow completed the 10 legs of the 176.5-kilometre race from Skagway, Alaska, to Whitehorse with a time of 11 hours, 12 minutes and 44 seconds on Saturday, averaging a speed of 15.8 kilometres an hour.

“It’s awesome, it’s great, especially to do it faster,” said Scarecrow captain Simon Lapointe. “It’s pretty satisfying.”

Scarecrow was the last team to leave the start line in Skagway at 11:30 p.m. Friday night. They passed almost every team en route to the finish at Rotary Park in Whitehorse.

“I think by Leg 6 (with) David Eikelboom, we passed most people,” said Lapointe. “By Leg 7 we were one of the first teams.”

Not only was Scarecrow the fastest team, all 10 members – Colin Abbott, Karl Blattmann, Dave Brook, Rodney Hulstein, Logan Roots, David Eikelboom, David Greer, Logan Boehmer, Ray Sabo and Lapointe – were the fastest overall on each leg of the race.

Hulstein ran the 21.4-kilometre Leg 4 at an average speed of 17 kilometres an hour and Roots completed the 22.5-kilometre Leg 5 at an average of 16.6 kilometres an hour.

Scarecrow was the first Canadian team to win the open division in 17 years in 2010 with their previous fastest time, eight minutes slower than on the weekend.

So, going for the five-peat next year?

“Of course,” said Lapointe. “We’re in it for the fun too, but it’s really nice to win in our hometown. We have a really good core of runners … This is the first year we didn’t have to scramble to put a team together. We actually had too many runners.

“It’s amazing. It means there’s a solid core of runners and we’re certainly hoping to keep that up.”

Juneau’s C.C. Striders placed second at 14:39:24 and Anchorage’s BEER was third at 15:33:39.

Whitehorse’s Ladies Worth Freezin’ For didn’t post the fastest time for women on any leg. But they were fast enough to win the women’s division.

“We started this team last year with the idea that eventually we wanted to get on the top,” said captain Piia Kukka.  “Everyone is semi-competitive. We like to have fun, but we also want to get as far as we can with it. So every year we try to get ourselves further up in the totem pole.

“This year we were really lucky. We had a really stacked team.”

Ladies Worth Freezin’ For, who placed second last year, reached Rotary Park in 14:29:26. The defending champs, Whitehorse’s Cougars … It’s Business Time, took second this year at 15:17:03.

Though the Freezin’ For team didn’t win any legs, they came close. Kerrie Paterson came second on Leg 1, Lauren Whyte was second on Leg 2, Kukka was second on Leg 4, and Colleen Latham was second on Leg 5. Denise McHale came third on

Leg 7 and sped up to finish second on Leg 8 at 14.3 kilometres an hour.

“We knew there were a lot of amazing women Whitehorse runners, but there was no competitive team for them,” said Kukka. “That’s why we started to contact everyone we knew, even just by name.

“Hopefully this can keep going on, year after year.”

Whitehorse’s Cabriolet Xcelerators was the only team in the masters open (40-and-over) division. But a lack of direct competition didn’t slow them down.

The Xcelerators posted the third-fastest time of any team in the relay, reaching the finish in 13:05:40.

“We’re usually in the top-five,” said captain Tom Ullyett. “Last year we were in fifth and were a little bit faster actually.”

Saturday’s win marked the third in a row for the Whitehorse team and fifth time since 2008.

“Ten years ago we had a bit of rivalry with Juneau’s Smokin’ Ole Geezers,” said Ullyett. “Most years they were a bit faster than us. So one year we decided to fortify our team a bit with the purpose of beating them. And we did. We beat them quite handily, by about 20 minutes. They didn’t care for that and made some adjustments and came back and beat us.”

The Smokin’ Ole Geezers won every year between 1995 and 2007 and again in 2010.

Whitehorse’s Charlie’s Angels narrowly broke the 17-hour mark to place first in the masters women division. The Angels crossed the finish line in 16:58:13.

“The race went really well,” said captain Joanne VanBibber-Widrig. “We had to pick up two new runners because we had two injuries. So we were scrounging around, shuffling legs, but other than that it was pretty good.”

It was two in a row for Charlie’s Angles, also winning last year. Whitehorse’s Medicine Chest Pharmacy placed second at 17:33:00 and Anchorage’s Crow’s Feet – the 2011 winners – placed third at 17:49:01.

“We estimated our times that we would run in the legs and put down five dollars to see who would make our time and I won,” said VanBibber-Widrig, whose estimate was off by 37 seconds.

“It’s a great event. We look forward to it every year and we have fun.”

Whitehorse Chocolate Claim Walkers reclaimed the title in the walkers’ division on Saturday.

The four-person team completed the journey from Carcross to Whitehorse in 8:50:00.

“We all really enjoy walking and it’s the culmination of all of our efforts – we walk every Saturday,” said captain Bonnie Love. “We invite others out to join us and it’s just an extension of all the fun we have year-round.

“It’s a larger group. We often have two teams in the relay, this year we just had one.

“We’re just a whole bunch of people who get together every Saturday. We started out walking just to have fun, get away from our kids, and it’s continued on and now we’ve been doing it for more than 10 years.”

Saturday was the Chocolate team’s seventh time winning the walking division since it was added in 2004.

Last year’s winners, Whitehorse’s Slowly Heading North, placed second with a time of 8:55:11. Whitehorse’s Chafing the Dream placed third at 10:21:08.

Love was joined by Jane Haydock, John Storms and Arlene Ogden.

“This could well be her last year,” said Love of Ogden. “She’s retiring and leaving the Yukon, so we’re all really sad to see her going.”

The Blues team wasn’t singing the blues following the road relay.

The Whitehorse team placed first in the youth division, running from Carcross to Whitehorse in 5:49:36.

“It all feels good,” said Blues’ Mira Mason, 13. “I think we all had good runs and faster times than last year. It’s something to be proud of.”

The Blues are all members of the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club and they ski together in the Blue Group, hence the name.

Many of the team’s runners were on the team last year, which won under the name The Green Squad Gremlins. They cut more than half an hour off their time from last year. “More training and fitness overall,” explained Mason.

Juneau’s Batteries Not Included place second at 6:06:29. Whitehorse’s Fast and Furious 8 were third at 6:27:19.

Whitehorse Keith Thaxter and his “team” Me, Myself and I, placed first in the ultra division, running solo from Carcross in 6:33:26. Thaxter has now won the ultra division five times since it was created in 2007.

Douglas, Alaska’s Team 8 took first in the mixed division with the second fastest time in the event at 12:22:46. Two Anchorage teams placed second and third.

Inuvik’s Arctic Avengers – the only team from N.W.T. – claimed first in the corporate division at 15:01:31. Whitehorse’s NorthwesTel High Speed came second at 15:59:32.

Anchorage’s The Classics finished the race at 14:50:39 for first in the masters mixed division. Whitehorse’s The Nut Butter Runners took second at 17:14:10 and Dawson City’s Run DMC finished third at 17:48:41.

Over 1,350 runners on 147 teams took part in this year’s relay.

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