Californians victorious at USATF 50 km Trail Championships

Tollefson (pictured above) earns second USA Track & Field 50 km Trail title; Moreno wins her debut at the distance.

Storm clouds overhead, intermittent rain showers, and temperatures below 40 degrees greeted runners arriving at Overlook Park in Auburn, California — dubbed the Endurance Capital of the World –for the 7th annual FOURmidable 50K host of the USATF 50 km Trail Championships on Saturday, February 16. This was the second time the event hosted the championships, the first was in 2017.

Dani Moreno looking relaxed at 5 miles into the race.

Several weeks of rain in the area had left the trails saturated, muddy, and turned normally small dry creeks into waist-deep water crossings. With those conditions in store, over 250 intrepid souls, which included more than 80 USATF members, bolted from the starting line, knowing that this was the only time on the course that their clothing and feet would be dry.

The 50 km featured 6000 feet of climbing and descending as runners ran in and out of canyons carved by waters of the North Fork of the American River inside the Auburn State Recreation Area. Race director Paulo Medina said, “I love hosting the championships. I think it’s a great opportunity for us, and a great opportunity for the town of Auburn to showcase our beautiful trails.”

After a short 5.4-mile loop south from Overlook Park, runners passed by the first aid station within spitting distance of the start/finish area giving spectators an early look at the race unfolding. The men’s field strung out quickly with Tyler Wolfe (Mill Valley, CA) taking an early lead followed by Craig Curley (Tucson, AZ), Sam Salhi (Boulder, CO), David Roche (Boulder, CO), Evan Williams (Seattle, WA) and Tim Tollefson (Mammoth Lakes, CA).

Unlike the men, three of the top women ran in a pack with Taylor Nolin (Flagstaff, AZ) leading Corey Conner (Longmont, CO) and Rachel Drake (Portland, OR) followed 30 seconds behind by Dani Moreno (Santa Barbara, CA) and Chessa Adsit-Morris (Santa Cruz, CA).

Dani Moreno (left), Corey Conner (center) and Rachel Drake (right) on No Hands Bridge (mile 9.6).

Aid Station #2 was situated at the east end of No Hands Bridge at 9.6 miles into the race and just before a big climb up from the river. Our ATRA team missed the top men but caught a pack of three women splashing across standing water on No Hands Bridge, this time Rachel Drake and Corey Conner leading Dani Moreno with Taylor Nowlin trailing just 10 seconds back.

Situated alongside a park road surrounded by open meadow and scattered oak trees, Aid Station #3 & #4 provided a brief respite before runners charged off the pavement onto waterlogged, muddy single track trails. Swapping places at Aid #3 (13.4 miles), Sam Sahli now led Tyler Wolfe by 30 seconds and David Roche had moved up into third place as he splashed across ankle-deep muddy puddles. Also moving up was Tim Tollefson who passed Evan Williams and Craig Curley.

David Kilgore glides across the mud at mile 13.

By Aid Station #3, the women’s pack was no more. Dani Moreno put the hammer down followed 15 meters behind by Rachel Drake and stringing out Corey Conner, Taylor Nowlin and Chessa Adsit-Morris behind them.

Aid Station #4 (18 miles) was a repeat of Aid #3 except approached from a different direction. A half mile past Aid #4 runners ran downhill on technical trail, to the Knickerbocker Creek crossing. A dry creek in summer, this trickle had turned into a waist deep-torrent that runners crossed at a careful walking, or sometimes stumbling pace.

David Roche heads into Knickerbocker Creek at mile 19.

Sam Sahli hit the water crossing first and almost fell as he tried to run through the creek. During the previous 5 miles David Roche moved up to second place at the creek crossing with Tyler Wolfe falling back to third followed closely by a charging Tim Tollefson. Also moving up was 2018 USATF 50 km Trail Championship bronze medalist David Kilgore who hit the creek in sixth place.

In the women’s race Dani Moreno had stretched her lead at Knickerbocker Creek and was followed about a minute later by Rachel Drake. The gap was also opening back to third place woman Corey Conner and again back to Chessa Adsit-Morris (4th) who had now passed Taylor Nowlin (5th).

From the creek, runners looped the southern border of the Auburn State Recreation Area before turning north to parallel Highway 49, passing the mile 23 aid station at the Cool Fire Station. From Cool, runners made their way across soaked meadows and forests to No Hands Bridge for the final four mile section along the Old Mountain Quarries Railroad right-of-way before climbing 600 feet steeply back up to Overlook Park and the finish line.

Tim Tollefson emerged from the woods and power-walked up the final steep pitch to the finish in a winning time of 3:43:18. Tollefson’s strategy was to let the young guns go out and sit back at the start. “Coming from Mammoth, I’ve had a hard time running (with all the snow),” said Tollefson. “I was happy sitting back early in the race. I grew up in Sacramento so these are my home trails and I’ve run them a lot, so I knew that it was a strength race. After the 20 mile mark, I was really comfortable and I knew I could smell home and victory.”

Tollefson was one of the six runners tested on site by the US Anti-Doping Agency and he applauded the inclusion of drug testing. “It’s wonderful. It’s a step in the right direction to promote clean sport. By having testing, it clarifies that it is important to us in this community.”

Sam Sahli held onto second place finishing in 3:49:15. Racing in just his second 50K, Sahli said, “this was an experimental race to see if I’d like it (trail racing),” according the former Baylor University track and cross country runner. Sahli realized his love of trail running during his first 50K trail race (Devil on the Divide) and prepared a lot more prior to FOURmidable.

Sam Sahli in the final 20 meters before the finish.

“My goal going into the race was to finish in the top two (to qualify for the auto spot for the US Trail Team),” said Sahli. “I also wanted run under four hours, compete and have fun.”And compete he did. Sahli took his turn at the lead and was ahead from about mile 12 through 23. “I thought at one point I could get the win, but not this time. I stopped to refill my water bottle at the aid station (at 23 miles), and Tim passed me about 30 seconds later and there was no looking back for him. Tim put me in a coffin.”

Evan Williams moved up to third place in 3:50:56 taking the final spot on the podium. David Kilgore also moved up finishing fourth in 3:55:05. Ryan Ghelfi took a solid fifth place in 3:55:33 as he is training for longer races including the upcoming 168K Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji (UTMF).

Dani Moreno winning the 2019 USATF 50 km Trail Championships.

Dani Moreno didn’t let up over the final 13 miles and won the USATF 50 km Trail Championships in 4:12:56 – just three minutes shy of Stephanie Howe Violett’s 2018 course record. Prior to the race, Moreno’s goal for her first 50K was, “to win, or at least finish in the top two. I studied the course a lot prior to the race and wanted to make the US Trail Team,” said Moreno. “It didn’t seem like the race would be won on the uphills so I took it easier on the climbs. From mile 15 to the finish the course was pretty runnable and that’s where my strengths are. I pretty much stuck to my race plan and it worked out. I felt really good, but obviously the field was so strong I kept my foot on the pedal.”

After winning the 2018 USATF Trail Marathon Championships in Moab, UT last November, Rachel Drake added another podium to her collection taking home second place in 4:16:03.

Chessa Adsit-Morris tops out on the final climb to the finish.

While a few other women slowed over the second half of the race, Chessa Adsit-Morris hung tough taking home a third-place finish in 4:24:30. According to Chessa, “The course was messy and muddy but I enjoyed it. Having spent time in British Columbia, I’m used to running in the rain and muck, but the last five miles were really tough. I was probably in fifth for most of the race, so I was pretty proud to work my way up to third place.”

Experienced road and track elite runner Corey Conner made her 50 km debut with a solid 4th place in a time of 4:30:15. Rounding out the time five was Emily Richards (Reno, NV) who also moved up during the race.

Top runners split a prize purse of $5000 equally distributed between the men and the women. The top 10 overall and top three in age groups 40-44, 45-99 in five year increments, were awarded USATF medals.

Dani Moreno, Rachel Drake, Tim Tollefson and Sam Sahli have all earned spot on the 2019 US Trail Team slated to compete at the Trail World Championships in Mirandha do Corvo, Portugal on June 8. These athletes join Kasie Enman and David Sinclair who earned automatic team spots at the 2018 USATF 50K Trail Championships / Ragged 50K in Sunapee, NH on August 12. These six athletes have until March 1, 2019 to accept their team spots. The remaining team spots will be filled by a resume submission and consideration process in accordance with the published team selection process. The full team of 6 women and 6 men will be announced no later than March 30, 2019.

Race Photo Album Link:

Tim Tollefson winning his second USATF 50 km Trail Championship. His first win was at the 2014 Flagline 50K in Bend, OR.

Masters award winners for the 2019 USATF 50 km Trail Championships include:

USATF Male 40-44
1st – Javier Lopez – 5:14:21
2nd – Jason Reed – 5:23:45
3rd – Travis Nutter – 5:59:37

USATF Female 40-44
1st – Trisha Steidl – 4:59:14
2nd- Jing Xiang – 6:15:16

USATF Male 45-49
1st – Chris McGovern – 4:08:30
2nd – Uli Steidl – 4:16:37
3rd – Jonah Backstrom – 4:26:40

USATF Female 45-49
1st – Laura Richard, 6:21:54

USATF Male 50-54
1st – Cliff Lentz – 4:35:48
2nd – Eddie Schmidt – 5:17:09
3rd – Jon Kalin – 5:29:06

Cliff Lentz with USATF Championship Liaison Lin Gentling and fellow 50-54 age group champion Bree Lambert.

USATF Female 50-54
1st – Bree Lambert – 5:17:57
2nd – Allegra Kim – 7:41:26

USATF Male 55-59
1st – Nattu Natraj – 6:57:07
2nd – Keith Lubliner – 7:17:36

USATF Male 60-64
1st – Chuck Amitall – 6:43:13
2nd – Dan Aspromonte – 7:27:41
3rd – Stephen Strauss- 8:11:22

USATF Female 60-64
1st – Karen Bonnett-Natraj – 7:37:43
2nd – Nola Kinaston – 7:42:08

USATF Male 65-69
1st – Doug Beyerlein – 8:06:33

USATF Male 70-74
1st – Jim Magill – 8:17:57

USATF Male 75-79
1st – Tim Hicks – 8:19:03

USATF Overall Women’s and Men’s results below:

Overall race results (USATF & non-USATF) can be found on the Arrow Live Results website.

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