LAUREL SPRINGS — Local runner Jason Bryant finished third in the Sixth-Annual Continental Divide Trail Race here.
The challenging course winds around the area of the Eastern Continental Divide.
“The course provides runners with a mixture of challenges as the terrain is constantly changing,” said Jason’s wife Alison Bryant who was the race coordinator with her husband. “From the start on top of the mountain, runners are continually descending then climbing all the way to the final quarter-mile climb at 22 percent up to the finish.”
The 10 km run is part of the USA Trail Championship. Jason Bryant said he wasn’t sure he would race at all as being race coordinator was so demanding. But at the last minute, he decided it would be okay to slap on a racer number and take part.
“This year an even 100 runners took on the mountain,” said Alison Bryant. “The soft conditions from recent rains added to the challenge.”
David and Megan Roche, newlyweds from Sunnyvale, California, finished first for both the men and women.
“They will also be travelling together to Italy next month to compete for the USA in the World Mountain Running Championships,” noted Alison Bryant.
David Roche started off the race at a blistering 4:15 pace, trying to open up a gap on the other runners. A large group followed closely for awhile, but they were soon left strewn in his wake. Despite turning his ankle and falling twice, Roche ran away from the field early and ran most of the race solo, with a fine finishing time of 42:43.
Mario Mendoza (Bend, Oregon), defending champion from 2013, finished in the runner-up position this year in 44:48, improving his time from last year.
Bryant, who is the track and cross country coach for Surry Central, finished in third place, the 11th time he has finished in that spot in mountain/ultra trail competitions. He was only a minute behind second place and was first among all 40-and-over runners.
“On Saturday, I was thinking about race-directing things and how exhausted I was instead of racing,” said Jason. “I told myself to just get through halfway and try to get the Masters win (over 40). I had no clue what place I was in overall.”
“With about 1 and 1/2 miles to go the course comes out into an open area, and I looked up to see a string of guys over a long distance. I thought I might be able to catch all of them with the technical trails that we were coming up to, but it would be a lot of ground to make up.”
On that long steep grade, Bryant found a little more left in the tank and began to pass people. From ninth or 10th place, Bryant moved all the way to third over the final mile.
Along with the third-place finish, Bryant noted, “It was also my fourth Masters National Champion title. Mid-summer I had thought my competitive days were about run out. It’s been nice to get in a few good races and feel that maybe I can hang on for couple more years. I’ve the support and encouragement of a lot of good people.”