For the third time in seven years, Flagstaff runners swept the men’s and women’s overall titles at the Imogene Pass Run on Saturday.
It didn’t come easy for Katie McGee and David Sinclair, both competing in their first Imogene race.
McGee overcame a hard fall a mile from the finish line in Telluride to hold off the wonderfully named Imogen Ainsworth of Durango, Colo., by 2 minutes, 20 seconds, and take the women’s title.
Sinclair kept Timmy Parr of Leadville, Colo., from a third consecutive victory with a victory of just under four minutes in a time of 2:13.23. Sinclair’s hometown is Burlington, Vt., but he is a graduate student at Northern Arizona University living in Flagstaff for the past year.
“I never had (run Imogene) and I was terrified,” said McGee, a coach with McMillan Running. “It was this bucket list thing, but I’d heard so many horror stories from people like me who do more roads. The backside was really steep and technical.”
Her fears were not unfounded. Despite this assessment -- “It was hard the first mile. It was hard at 17.1 miles. It never relented” – McGee led on the ascent out of Ouray, and when she reached the top of the pass still in the lead, the competitive juices kicked in.
“My only goal at the start of the race, once I got a feel for the race and who was in it, was to be the first woman to the top,” McGee said. “I got to the top, and I was saying, I’m not losing my lead!”
She attacked the ultra-steep and slippery first mile down to Telluride, but quickly reeled herself back in.
“I just couldn’t,” McGee said. “I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.”
Regaining control, she retained the lead all the way down the mountain, but fell near the finish, hitting her head and quad.
Speaking about the victory on Monday, McGee still felt banged up but was grateful to represent Flagstaff.
“I feel like somebody pushed me off a cliff,” she quipped. “I did every section of that race as hard as I could for my ability.
“I knew a lot of Flagstaff people did it. It was really special because it was important to the community. (Flagstaff) is so connected to that race. It’s more fun when the whole community is excited and supportive of you.”
Sinclair, a geology student who said several professors recommended Imogene, was also enthused about representing his new residence in the 44th edition of the fabled run.
“I'm definitely proud to represent Flagstaff and it was awesome to have a large contingent of Flagstaff runners at the race. It seemed like half the racers were from Flagstaff. I've been living here for just over a near now so Flagstaff is starting to feel like home.”
McGee and Sinclair equaled the feat of Michael Smith and Jenny McCarthy (2011) and Sara Wagner and Jason Wolfe (2013) as king and queen double winners from Flagstaff in the same year.
An estimated 149 Flagstaff runners were included in the 1,214 total finishers, a whopping 12 percent of the field. Three took first place in their age division, including Catie Guinan (15-19 women), Austin Horn (20-24 men) and Nat White, who lowered his men’s 75-older age group record by more than two minutes.
Two more Flagstaffians placed second in their age group – Zach Bednar (15-19 men) and Annette Adams (60-64 women).
Five other Flagstaff runners placed third in their age group – Tess Siemens (15-19 women), Seth Watkins (35-39 men), Kristi Borling (40-44 women), Margaret Montfort (55-59 women) and Mark Thurston (55-59 men).
Chris McQuivey was one of eight Flagstaff runners in the top 50. He placed 19th overall in 2:49.02 in his third Imogene appearance despite dealing with an injury.
“I was there just to have a good time in the mountains,” McQuivey said. “I feel like Imogene is Flagstaff’s new year. I love the fact that our little town has so many people willing to take a huge leap of faith and run a difficult trail run. Imogene is one beautiful and hard run that brings amazing people to an amazing place. I haven't figured out if it’s the place that makes the people amazing or the people that make the race amazing.”