J.P. Donovan was fighting to maintain fifth place near the end of the 34th annual Squaw Mountain Run Saturday when he managed to grab another gear.
“I gave it one last shot at trying to pick off one of the top-three guys falling off the back, and I had a pretty good run on the sandy, steep section near the top and just ran through them all and got away with the win,” he said, recounting how he earned his third victory in the past four years in the annual fundraising run.
Donovan, 27, covered the 3.6-mile, 2,000-vertical-foot course from the base of Squaw Valley to High Camp in a time of 29 minutes, 28.7 seconds. He won the race in 2011 with a time of 29:52.7 and again in 2012 in 28:50.2, which remains one-tenth of a second off of the modern course record. The Incline Village resident finished as runner-up last year.
Regaining his title was no simple task. Donovan knew he had some stiff competition when he spotted Noah Oberriter, a to-be Truckee High senior and defending cross-country state champion, at the start. He also was aware of the prowess of Chico State cross-country runner Andrew Cobourn of Minden, as well as several “Nordic skiing monsters” from the Truckee/Tahoe area — Wyatt Fereday, Patrick Johnson and Patrick McElravey, among others.
Donovan said Oberriter passed him early in the run. So did Cobourn, a 2012 Douglas High School graduate, and Patrick Parsel of South Lake Tahoe and former cross-country runner at UC Davis.
In the end Cobourn finished second with a time of 29:43.0 and Oberriter third in 30:07.4.
Truckee 23-year-old Anja Gruber, who is currently trying to earn a spot on the German National Nordic team, placed first among the women’s field and 16th overall in a time of 37:16.7.
Defending women’s champ Kristin Walstad, 41, of Alta, Calif. was the women’s runner-up and 17th overall with a time of 37:50.3, and Hallie Grossman, 21, of South Burlington, Vt., was the third woman in 38:47.2. They were followed by 16-year-old Lindsey Adams of Gardnerville (39:43.0) and MaryEllen Benier, 57, of Truckee (39:59.3) rounding out the top five.
A total of 409 people reached the High Camp finish line, where they were greeted by live music and a post-run party.