Race Report

1996 Crown King Scramble 50K Report

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Crown King Scramble 50 Km
Lake Pleasant to Crown King, Ariz.
Mountain Roads – March 23, 1996

Arizona’s premier ultra drew record numbers this year with the most competitive field and most ideal conditions to date. Just under 200 runners started the tenth annual Arizona Road Racers Crown King Scramble 50 Km.

Starting just north of Phoenix in the Lake Pleasant Regional Park, the course rises from 1,200 feet elevation at the start to just under 7,000 feet at 29 miles. It then drops down to 6,000 feet at the finish in Crown King, nestled in central Arizona’s Bradshaw Mountains.

A rolling climb on improved dirt roads with views of Lake Pleasant behind them await runners for the first half of the race. Runners who have done the race before describe the first half as being almost flat, even though there are some significant climbs. In relation to the second half, the first half is flat!

At 15 miles, runners turn onto an unimproved rocky road where, in past years, they would face thigh-deep stream crossings as well as multiple steep climbs and descents. An absence of snow and water on the course this year stimulated fast times by a deep field of fleet runners.

In the early going the race was led by 2:20 marathoner Travis Grappo of Las Vegas, Nevada, with Rick Stuart, the three-time winner and course record holder, five time Wasatch 100 winner, “Mud & Guts” Miller, and an unknown Scotsman Dermot McGonigle, following close behind.

Heading into the mountainous section of the course at mile 15, Grappo and McGonigle had pulled in front y several minutes. Grappo broke away and led by two minutes at the aptly named 23-mile aid station (“Fort Misery”), but McGonigle closed the gap on the final three-mile-long hill and then pulled away on the final downhill into Crown King, breaking the tape just over four hours. Grappo finished a scant 1:53 later. Both runners destroyed the previous course record of 4:16 held by third-place finisher Rick Stuart.

Last year’s women’s winner, course record holder (5:03) and four time Olympic Marathon trials qualifier, Angela French, bypassed this year’s race, leaving two-time winner Sherry Johns as the heavy favorite; her chief competition was expected to be USA 100 Km Team member Lorraine Gersitz, 1994 winner Julie Arter, and Pueblo Nuevo 100 winner Pam Reed.

Johns, intent on being the first woman to break 5 hours, set the pace. Running in the second pack of men, the 41-year-old separated herself from the other women and ran uncontested for the entire distance, setting a new course record of 4:54. She is entered in the Western States 100 Mile this year, and she will definitely be a threat to be the first masters woman to reach the finish at Auburn.

Spaced apart about every 8 miles, lavish aid stations with volunteers in costume enthusiastically provided for the runner’s needs. The “Blues Brothers” were at work at the Mile 8 aid station, and an Elvis, sitting atop an overlook a third of the way up the three-mile final push to the top, serenaded runners by name as they dug down deep towards the finish. After the race, athletes voted to see who would get the “Best Aid Station Award,” with the Mile 27 aid station edging out Mile 8.

Thanks to Race Director Linda Van Tilborg, with outstanding help from Bev Gray, Randy Wilfong, Bruce Wise, and James Drechsler, the 1996 Crown King Scramble was a great race. The start of the race was warm – probably low 60s, but it never really warmed up the rest of the day. A cold front was moving through northern Arizona, so Crown King was besieged by people and never-ending wind. It looked like it might rain or snow, as in the previous two years, but the weather was almost ideal for the runners despite the 6,000 feet net elevation gain and nearly 10,000 feet total elevation gain.

Post race festivities ran on all day and included a fabulous lasagna dinner in the bar overlooking the finish line. Every runner was cheered into town. Finishers received a terrific silk jacket. All in all it was a great day.

Author: Joe Galope
Reprinted with permission from Ultrarunning Magazine Vol. 16, No. 1 – May 1996

1995 Crown King Scramble 50K Report

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Crown King Scramble 50 Km
Lake Pleasant to Crown King, Ariz.
Jeep roads, 6,000′ climb – March 25, 1995

The weatherman stretched the truth just a little for the ninth edition of the Crown King Scramble. At the start line at 1,500 feet it was clear and chilly (40 degrees). The cool and clear was supposed to hold through the weekend. As the field of 128 runners made their way up to 7,000 feet, the clouds rolled in, bringing a cold drizzle and some spitting snow about four and a half hours into the race. Up front, of course, Rick Stuart had finished and beat the weather just like he did in 1994, even though he was five minutes slower than last year’s record run. Another first-time ultrarunner Darryl Wagner of Tucson, started ten minutes late. He passed Stuart at mile 15 only to burn himself out after playing catch-up; he still finished third overall. Earl Towner of Corona del Mar, California was first master, nine minutes behind Stuart, followed by Wagner and notable ultra man Rae Clark.

For the women, local super-marathoner and Olympic Marathon Trails hopeful Angela French set a course record, bettering Julie Arter’s 1994 record by four minutes, despite the fact that the last 16 miles, affectionately known as “16 Mile Hill,” were in worse shape that usual after heavy spring rains. And this was Angela’s first ultra. Sherry Kae Johns, another local superstar was second (and first master). Johns used Crown King to return to ultrarunning following a tibial stress fracture in 1993. Another Arizona marathon specialist, Tracey Varga, was third in her second try at Crown King.

Runner’s comments were the usual: “Great views; it takes forever to climb out of the Ore Belle canyon; quads were trashed, so the two-mile screaming downhill into Crown King even hurt; great weather; entertaining and solicitous aid stations; darn nice cardigan; great people!”

The 10th Annual will be a big one – wonder what the weatherman will predict for March 24, 1996?

1995

1995 results

Author: Linda Van Tilborg
Reprinted with permission from Ultrarunning Magazine Vol. 15, No. 1, May 1995

1994 Crown King Scramble 50K Report

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Crown King Scramble 50 Km
Lake Pleasant to Crown King, Ariz.
Jeep roads, 6,000′ climb – March 19, 1994

Two course records were set at the eighth annual Crown King Scramble. Rick Stuart (4:17), also the 1993 winner, broke Eric Benson’s 1992 record by five seconds, while Julie Arter (5:07) broke the 1993 record of Sherry Johns by over five minutes. For Julie it was a reversal from 1992 when She finished second, just one second behind Sherry. Sherry was unable to compete this year due to a broken bone in one of her legs.

The race follows a part of the old stagecoach route from Phoenix to Prescott, and for the second year in a row, over 100 runners completed the scenic and demanding uphill course. The weather at the start was overcast and mild, but by the end of the race, it was chilly and raining. The awards ceremony and banquet were moved inside the historic Crown King Saloon.

Tony Grappo from Las Vegas was a strong second, while Doug Frost ran a personal best to finish third; Doug has now finished in the top four five straight times. Tracey Varga edged two-time winner Lorraine Gersitz for the second place for the women. Debbie Gobins continued her streak of being the only runner to finish all eight Crown King runs.

Race Director Linda Van Tilborg and her crew of volunteers did an outstanding job of organizing and staging Arizona’s largest and most competitive ultra. Again Dave Selzer did a great job at the finish line and the awards ceremony. Race co-founder Bruce Wise was honored at the awards ceremony for his many contributions to the Crown King 50 Km.

1994


Author: Pat McKenzie
Reprinted with permission from Ultrarunning Magazine Vol. 14, No. 1, May 1994

1992 Crown King Scramble 50K Report

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Crown King Scramble 50 Km
Lake Pleasant to Crown King, Ariz.
Dirt Roads, 6,000′ net climb – March 14, 1992

The locals start talking about “Crown King” months before it arrives, because the Crown King 50 Km is special. Mostly, though , it is tough. It is straight up a narrow, twisted dirt road over steep mountainous terrain. It is scenic and breathtaking. It might be hot, cold, wet, dry, muddy, or all of the above.

This year was no exception. The weather was perfect. The mountain streams were high and ice cold. Boulder hopping was impossible. Rae Clark and Helen Klein came over from California. Dale Garland was back to defend his title and record (4:19). Three-time champion Bob Kite had dropped over 40 pounds in two months and came out of retirement, ready to run.

As the race got under way, Clark, Garland, Doug Frost, and 56-year-old Dwaine Batt surged to the front. Kite and Eric Benson started slowly and hung back for a while. For the women, Lorraine Gersitz was in the crowd, but Sherry Kae Johns and Julie Arter of Tucson were running well. The first steam was crossed at about 5 miles and everyone headed up into the hills.

Then came the big surprise. At mile 20, Benson suddenly switched gears and literally ran away from the entire field at a pace that could only be describd as “scary”. At first, nobody could believe it. Surely the “youngster” would fade. Surely the hills would get him. But Benson never looked back, never slowed down, and not only won by 13 minutes over Clark, but set a new course record of 4:17:01 in the process.

Frost (who claimed he would have consumed a cheeseburger at 23 miles had somebody offered him one) ran by Kite in the final two miles for third. Kite, fighting severe stomach trouble (that’s putting it mildly, but we won’t go into the grisly details) hung onto fourth, beating his rival Garland by nearly three minutes.

The 56-year-old Batt completed the course in an amazing 4:56:36, good for eighth place. Nicknamed “The Animal,” Batt ran with the leaders for about six miles. He continued to run ahead of schedule until… he got lost. Upon realizing the error of his ways he got so mad he threw down his water bottle in disgust and considered quitting. But that brief moment of insanity quickly passed and he got back on the road again.

For the women, Sherry Kae Johns and Julie Arter added plenty of sizzle to the race. The two friends battled right to the bitter end, with Johns claiming a one-second victory over Arter in 5:21:49. Gersitz followed in third with 5:27:42. Susan Shafer claimed the female masters title 5:42:25.

Helen Klein finished in 7:32, despite having taken a fall and receiving a nasty cut close to the eye. The world famous grandmother was covered with dust and a little blood but remained as cheerful as ever.

The entire town of Crown King gathered around the old saloon as the last runner finished some eight hours after starting. Runners and non-runners clapped and cheered. Grizzled old men (gold miners from a past era) and leather clad bikers emerged from the saloon to join in the fun.

And that’s what Crown King is all about. It’s fun. It’s family. You are not just a number when you finish the race. Doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are. Everyone gets a medal and a handshake from the race director, who calls you by your first name. Everyone is a hero. And then you stand around and talk, eat and drink, take pictures, laugh and sheer at the awards ceremony, and just enjoy the feeling of having run Crown King. Until next year.

1992

Author: Lanny Nelson
Reprinted with permission from Ultrarunning Magazine, Vol. 12, No. 1, May 1992

1991 Crown King Scramble 50K Report

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Crown King Scramble
Lake Pleasant Rec. Park, Ariz. – March 17, 1991
50 km

The Crown King Scramble. Thirty-one miles, all uphill, along unpaved forest service roads. What Bruce Wise started as a Western States training run in 1986 emerged as a challenging run for 63 starters this year.

As we marked the trail on Friday before the race, Bob Glass and I became deeply concerned for the runners. It was pouring rain at the start point and snowing in Crown King. We turned the corner at 23 miles and couldn’t see the road through the driving snow. This was Arizona?

At 6,000 feet, Crown King was under a foot of snow two days prior to the race. That was after receiving nearly 12 inches of rain just a week before. We were sure no car or truck could travel from start to finish, so an ATV was lined up to provide water after 16 miles.

Luckily, the sky had cleared by race day. Runners ran the course under the sun and over water, mud, more mud, and snow. We still weren’t sure how far support vehicles could travel up the dirt roads. Runners were advised that there may not be any more aid after mile 16.

As the race got underway, two four-wheel-drive vehicles were dispatched from the top of the course. Fortunately, they made it to mile 22 and were able to set up an aid station there. Every runner that made it to “Fort Misery” had nothing but good things to say about the volunteers and services provided.

Dale Garland and Lorraine Gersitz were the first male and female to cross the finish line in Crown King for the second year in a row. Next year, three time Crown King Scramble winner Bob Kite vows to come out of retirement to challenge Garland. Stay tuned.

Finishers were greeted with cheers, beers, and hot showers in Crown King. The friendly mountaintop community provided the perfect setting for the end of the race. The festive atmosphere was enjoyed by all – runners, their friends, families, and race help. Despite initial apprehensions, the race was deemed a success.

Next year promises to be even better. To fully appreciate the character of Crown King, the 1992 Crown King Scramble will take place on a Saturday. A new and improved awards presentation is planned, featuring all age groups plus a post race banquet. The field will again be limited to 100 runners. Watch your Ultrarunning calendar for details.

1991

Rae Clark, Bob Kite & Dale Garland at the 1992 Crown King Scramble.

Rae Clark, Bob Kite & Dale Garland at the 1992 Crown King Scramble.

Authors: Dave Selzer (R.D.) and Geri Kilgariff
Reprinted with permission from Ultrarunning Magazine – Volume 11, No. 1, May 1991

1990 Laflin 50K / Crown King Scramble Report

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Laflin 50 Km / Crown King Scramble
Phoenix, Ariz. – March 18, 1990
Dirt roads, climbs from 1,700′ to 5,800′

After winning the race for three straight times, last year’s winner Bob Kite announced that he wouldn’t come back until someone broke his course record of 4:40:56. Well, he had better start training – Dale Garland from Durango, Colorado, lowered the record by 21 minutes this year. And just to keep things balanced, Lorraine Gersitz lowered Dorothy Lash’s women’s record by 17 minutes.

1990

Author: Cal Lash
Reprinted with permission from Ultrarunning Magazine Vol. 10, No 2, June 1990

1989 Laflin Crown King Scramble 50K Report

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Laflin Crown King Scramble 50Km
Phoenix, Ariz. – March 19, 1989

Lafin’ all the way, a nearly nude Bob Kite penetrated the wall of pain, reached into the depths of ultimate energy reserves (Exceed and Bee Pollen) and set a new course record on a course two miles shorter than last year.

Kite who shed 20 pounds of South American organic culture in three weeks, vowed at the start that this was his last Crown King Scramble.

Dorothy Lash, answered her critics’ comments that “she won’t race hard any more” by kicking some butt. For the second time in three years Lash grabbed first from Tess Porter. This was Dorothy’s first hard effort since August when she became the oldest female to finish the Leadville 100.

The First and Second Edna Laflin Crown King Scrambles in 1987 and 1988 were 33.2 miles long as was the first Crown King Mud Scramble in 1986. This year the course was shortened to 31.2 miles to reasonable resemble the 50-km advertising. This year 44 runners showed up at the start. Edna Laflin, whose running career was shortened by a bike accident caused by someone’s inattention, was at the start to kick off the race. Currently Edna is working on breaking some world swimming records for the 70-and-over age group.

I was extremely pleased that 41 of 44 starters finished. I believe that ultras that have a high dropout rate endanger lives and do runners a disservice by allowing them to participate in events they are not prepared to handle.

1989

1989 photo

Bob Kite and Dorothy Lash, winners of the Crown King Scramble 50K 1989 Photo: Cal Lash / Ultrarunning Magazine

 

Along the course in 1989

Along the course in 1989

Author: Cal Lash
Re-posted with permission from Ultrarunning Magazine
First appeared in Ultrarunning Vol. 9, No. 2, June 1989

1988 Edna Laflin 50K Report

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Edna Laflin 50 Km
Near Prescott, Ariz.
March 20, 1988
33.2 mi; 6,000′ climb

It was mild and clear with a light breeze, and the pace was quick. As 42 of us dashed away from the new start area at Lake Pleasnat (which made the course 33.2 miles long), little did we know that the temperature was to become much more heated than last year. Instead of the wintery ice, snow and mud, the Arizona sunshine brought temperatures into the high 80s.

The aid stations were very much appreciated, and we were well supplied with fluids, food, and encouragement. Cal Lash and all the crew from the Arizona Road Racers did a great job!

Bob Kite, first last year, survived the heat to beat his last year’s time by over 20 minutes and win again. The fantastic scenery and beautiful, if warm, day inspired many of us. Also, thoughts of a cool beer at the finish in the cool pines of Crown King, 6,000 feet above the starting point, were probably an inspiration for many. At least Tess Porter, first woman, was certainly inspired by the beer. Last year we went back and forth past each other until Tess grabbed a beer. Then she roared past me like a rocket!

1988

Author: Sandy Spradling
Reprinted with permission from Ultrarunning Magazine Vol. 8, No. 2 June 1988

1987 Edna Laflin 50K Report

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Edna Laflin 50Km
Near Prescott, Ariz. Mar. 22, 1987

This course was originally used by Bruce Wise as a Western States training run, but this year Bruce and I decided to put on a formal event. The idea was good and the time was right. With the National Forest Service leaning on Steve Papp regarding “organized runs” in Wilderness Areas, this course seemed ideal as it did not go through any such areas but traversed only old stagecoach roads used by four-wheelers and ATVs.

WRONG! Two days before the race I received calls from the Federal and County law enforcement officials. The problem? The race starts in a county park and passes through a National Forest (but not a Wilderness Area). Their solution: Promise to never do this again without contacting them first and next time provide thousands of dollars of insurance on each runner. My prediction: Permits, insurance fees, and race costs will bring entry fees to about $100 per runner. A better solution: Get some running lawyers together to try to work out a reasonable solution that doesn’t penalize organized and responsible people.

Several runners went out hard right at the start. Hard on the heels of early leader Marty Motian were Sabin Snow, Bob Kite, Jim Berkleman, Tom Bennett, Phil Walton and Randy Bowman. In the women’s race Tess Porter of Canad went out to a strong lead, with Sandy Spradling pushing harder than usual but still running conservatively.

Rain started pouring down as the runners reached 18 miles, and the racers were treated to freezing rain, mud and ten raging stream crossings.

At 27 miles Marty Motian “just ran flat out of energy” and wisely elected to accept a ride. Bob Kite, a 2:40 marathoner in his first ultra, finished first, ten minutes ahead of veteran trail runner Sabin Snow.

Dorothy Lash, after eating and drinking everything she could for the first 22 miles, had plenty of energy to expend and she passed all but seven runners to win the women’s division in 6:15.

1. Bob Kite 5:19
2. Sabin Snow 5:29
3. Jim Berkelman 5:39
4. Tom Bennett 6:01
5. Phil Walton 6:03
6. Adelio Percic 6:11
7. Randy Bowman 6:14
8. Dorothy Lash 6:15
9. Greg Peck 6:30
10. Pat McKenzie 6:30
11. Randy Wilfong 6:30
12. Dale Arnold 6:31
13. Tess Porter 6:37
14. Charles Rinehart 6:41
15. David Fisher 6:41
16. Jonathan Grinder 6:52
17. Louis Holscher 6:52
18. Bill Beard 6:59
19. Vince Devlin 6:59
20. Robert Daughtery 6:59
21. Sandy Spradling 7:01
22. Bob Davidson 7:01
23. Jay Corral 7:07
24. Keith Pippin 7:08
25. Nancy Halley 7:27
26. Deborah Gobbins 7:28
27. Sandy Njaa 7:29
28. Peter Scheibenreif 7:31

Author: Cal Lash
Re-posted with permission from Ultraruning Magazine