The annual Cirque Series Alyeska race returned and it was one for the books. A field of 464 competitors displayed the ultimate grit and determination in ascending 3,890 feet of elevation over 6.2 miles in drizzling conditions. The terrain nor the conditions phased the racers, with many improving upon their personal bests and places from years previous.
Two-time Olympic skier Scott Patterson of Anchorage continued his reign on the podium, defending his title and adding a fifth top-2 finish in as many years. Even with his routine dominance in recent years, Patterson trailed fellow world-class skier and APU teammate David Norris by almost two minutes at Center Ridge. Patterson’s strong downhill helped him speed past Norris, en route to his second consecutive win, crossing the finish line in 1 hour, 7 minutes and 2 seconds.
APU swept the podium, with Eagle River’s Michael Earnhart flying down the mountain in 27 minutes and 12 seconds, also overtaking Norris and dipping under the 70-minute barrier. Norris, who is recovering from an injury earlier this summer, completed the APU sweep. In his first race since regaining his health he added his fourth top-3 finish, after winning the race in 2017 and 2019.
Alaskans swept the top five spots on the men’s side and the top three places in the women’s race. Fairbanks’ Kendall Kramer, who competes for the UAF cross country running and Nordic skiing teams, powered to the top with a 76-second lead over Palmer’s Sophie Wright.
The descent to TV Corner and the finish provided a nail-biter for spectators as Wright, who competes in cross country and track and field for Western Washington, nearly reeled in the fellow GNAC competitor. Kramer crossed the line to take the win in 1 hour, 24 minutes and 26 seconds, while Wright finished seven seconds behind to place second overall.
Third place went to Taylor Deal, née Ostrander, who now resides in Anchorage. Deal has been an omnipresent part of the running scene, competing for Kenai Central and Willamette College. Deal now balances running with attending PA School at the University of Washington.