By Paul Kirsch
PINKHAM NOTCH — Shannon Payne has special memories of the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race. After winning it in 2014, she struggled with injuries for a year. While she did race in the 2016 edition of the famed race to the summit, she was not 100 percent back yet. This year, she dominated the race in warm conditions, taking the lead in the first mile from fellow Coloradan, Brandy Erholtz and leading the rest of the way. Payne finished in 1:11:19, four and a half minutes ahead of Erholtz.
"This was my first big mountain race ever when I ran it in 2014. To come back and win it again this year was such a great feeling. Mount Washington will always be special to me," noted Payne.
Just behind Erholtz was New Brunswick, Canada's Shelley Doucet, who finished in 1:16:33 in her first big mountain race ever. Doucet just started running three years ago and followed up an impressive finish at this year's Boston Marathon with today's strong result.
Rounding out the top 10 for the women was Apryl Sabadosa (Westfield, Mass.) in 1:19:24, Amber Ferreira (Concord) in 1:21:12, Laura Brustolon (Littleton, Mass.) in 1:22:46, Kim Nedeau (Leverett, Mass.) in 1:23:01, Kelsey Allen (Wendell, Mass.) in 1:26:07, Kristin Barry (Scarborough, Maine) in 1:26:43 and Ashley Busa (Portsmouth) in 1:26:55.
In the men's race, it was the Joe Gray show for the fourth year in a row. Gray (Colorado Springs, Colo.), who was the 2016 World Mountain Running Champion, led the race the whole way. In the first mile, Kenyan Francis Wangari matched Gray step for step. They were followed by 2012 winner Sage Canaday (Boulder, Colo.), 2014 Nordic Olympian, Noah Hoffman (Park City, Utah and training in Hanover) and former winner Eric Blake (New Haven, Conn.). As the race continued, Wangari began to fade and was overtaken by Canaday who kept the pressure up on Gray for the next few miles.
As the runners reached Mile 5 of the race, Gray began to increase his lead, with an unrelenting pace in the day's heat, finishing in 58:58. Gray is one of a small group of runners who has broken the one-hour mark on the Auto Road. Canaday finished in 1:00:45 in second place, followed by Blake in 1:01:36, Wangari in 1:07:03 and Hoffman in 1:07:13.
The rest of the top ten for the men were Drew Best, (Amherst, Mass.) in 1:08:36, Brandon Newbould (Nottingham) in 1:08:48, Nick Aguila (Manchester) in 1:09:18, Nacho Hernando-Angulo (Bay Shore, N.Y.) in 1:09:38 and Simon Gutierrez (Alamosa, Colo,) in 1:10:14.
There were 1,047 runners that finished this year's race, with the end of the field brought up by 97-year-old George Etzweiler, who finished in a time of 4:05:27. Etzweiler, of State College, Pa., continues to break age records at the race as he returns each year. This year his grandson accompanied him.
Local finishers included: Kevin Tilton, Conway, 31st, 1:19:05; Andrew Drummond, Center Conway, 37th, 1:20:18; Leslie O'Dell, Albany, 112th (15th overall for women), 1:33:28; Hilary McCloy, Madison, 162nd (20th woman), 1:38:45; Mitch Alden, Tamworth, 182nd, 1:40:46; Dawn Heinrich, Wolfeboro, 222nd, 1:43:26; Kimberly Proulx, Conway, 280th, 1:47:10; Kim Stephan, Freedom, 356th, 1:51:42; Susanna Boone, North Conway, 390th, 1:52:24; Andrew Clear, Fryeburg, 443rd, 1:55:10; Emily Wirling, Center Conway, 445th, 1:56:03; Robin Allenburke, Wolfeboro, 470th, 1:56:37; Bethany Fisher, Chocorua, 506th, 1:58:42; Andrew Fisher, Chocorua, 507th, 1:58:42; Colyn Pineo, Wolfeboro, 548th, 2:02:27; Marc Ohlson, Conway, 599th, 2:06:13; Will White, Jackson, 602nd, 2:05:40; Laura Holtby, Conway, 634th, 2:07:32; Christopher Meier, Intervale, 635th, 2:07:37; Frank Holmes, Eaton, 640th, 2:08:44; Michael Pelchat, Gorham, 677th, 2;10:49; Alan Sparn, Sweden, Maine, 705th, 2:12:35; Chris Ballou, Conway, 795th, 2:19:45; Allan Aldrich, Jackson, 910th, 2:30:48; Margie Riforgiato, Conway, 1,001st, 2:47:38;
and Travis Day, Brownfield, Maine, 1,035th, 2:56:50.
Complete results for the race can be found at http://tinyurl.com/y7p55o6n
Fifty percent of all proceeds from the race will be donated to the Coos County Family Health Services in Berlin.