GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Kellen Fockler could hardly wait to get on the race course Sunday.
He got to the race course of the Strawberry Shortcut’s 10-kilometer race almost an hour before it started. Then again, he’d been waiting for this end result for much, much longer than that.
Fockler, a Glenwood Springs High School graduate, had been running in the Strawberry Shortcut for the past nine years coming into the 36th annual running of the event. And on Sunday, he led the 99-runner field nearly from start to finish, crossing the finish line first in 34 minutes, 13 seconds.
“I’ve always been placing high in my age group or overall, and the last couple of years since I’ve been in college I’ve been trying to win it,” Fockler, 22, said. “But there’s always been that one random person who shows up out of nowhere who always stays away from me.
“This year,” Fockler continued, “I finally got it.”
Fockler, who graduated from Glenwood in 2009, didn’t sneak up on anyone in this race. He held the lead from the onset of he race, holding off a modest push from Russell Stein of Denver, who finished second in 34:37. William Scoggins of Rangely, a placer in the Class 2A State Championships who has signed to run cross country and track and field at Fort Lewis College in Durango, finished third in 36:36.
Fockler, however, already has a big resume when it comes to collegiate track and field. A senior-to-be at Metropolitan State University in Denver, he clocked in at 34:29.35 in the 10K at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships, good enough for 12th place. He’s not too bad of a 5K runner — the race he started with when he competed in the Shortcut for the first time as a seventh-grader — as his time of 16:03.70 in the Colorado School of Mines pre-conference meet on April 27 was good enough for a second-place finish. He even went faster than that earlier this year, clocking a 16:02.39 at the Feb. 8 Twilight Indoor Meet, which was also on the Mines campus in Golden.
The first thing he’ll point out when it comes to his accomplishments, however, is Metro’s ninth-place finish in the Division II cross country national championships during his sophomore year. It was the highest finish in the history of the school, which competes in a conference with national powers such as Adams State and Western State.
This accomplishment, however, ranks right up there for Fockler, especially after all of the buildup leading up to it.
“My coaches keep saying to me, ‘Just train for the fall season this summer,’” Fockler said. “I’m like, ‘OK. There’s gonna be a race in there, though.’”