Staats breaks through to win Kokopelli Classic
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Lenny Staats must have felt that way during the previous two years.
It seemed like every running race Staats entered, he was finishing second.
That was the case in the first two runnings of the Kokopelli Classic 16-mile race on Mary’s Loop .
Staats rectified that Saturday, winning the third annual event in an impressive 1 hour, 59 minutes, 25 seconds, the only racer to break the two-hour barrier.
He had finished second in the Mount Kendall run near Silverton three times. He earned his first victory this summer.
“Second’s not bad, but I don’t like second,” Staats said.
He’s remedied that by winning nine of the 11 races he’s run this year.
Sixteen miles is just at his limit.
“For me, that’s about as far as I go,” he said.
Staats used to race mountain bikes.
“I got tired of it,” he said.
That was five years ago. He began running more seriously, at the age of 41.
Staats pulled away from the competition at about the 10-mile mark Saturday, at the start of a couple of uphill portions of the race.
“I like the uphill climbing,” he said. “That’s my specialty.”
The eight-mile Mary’s Loop run, held in conjunction with the Kokopelli Classic, turned out to be a reunion of sorts for former Western Slope high school runners.
Glenn Randall, a cross country champion at Palisade and a Class 2A state track champion at Plateau Valley, won the race in 52:10.
After high school, Randall went on to run cross country and compete in cross-country ski racing at Dartmouth. He graduated this past spring and is now skiing for the Bridger Ski Foundation in Bozeman, Mont.
The foundation was established to help promote youth Nordic racing in the country.
“Basically they want us around as positive examples,” he said of serving as a mentor for the group.
Randall is still weighing options about going to graduate school. For now, he’s got the opportunity to get paid to ski.
“I’m living the dream,” he said. “As long as I’m competitive and I’m enjoying it, I’m going to keep doing it.”
Randall won by nearly two minutes ahead of second-place finisher Jake Pollert, a former Grand Junction High School distance runner.
Pollert ran for one year at Western State College but injuries curtailed his career.
He hadn’t run competitively for about six years, choosing instead to pursue a career as a firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management. He was based out of Idaho but now works out of Rifle.
As a firefighter, conditioning is still important, but it’s a different type of conditioning.
“For the BLM I was doing three to five miles a week, easy (miles),” he said.
Now when he runs, it’s for fun.
“It’s totally different,” he said.
Another former Tiger distance runner, Scott Olson, placed fourth, behind Jay Valentine.
Saturday’s two races drew more than 100 entrants in its third year.