College star steals show at Shortcut … again
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – For a second straight year, a Liberty University speedster crashed the Strawberry Shortcut.
In 2008, Kenyan Sam Chelanga, a member of the Virginia university’s cross country and track and field squad, glided to a big win in the annual foot race’s 10-kilometer installment.
On Sunday, Chelanga’s teammate, Jordan Whitlock, gave Liberty its second straight Shortcut 10K title. Like Chelanga did a year ago on the streets of Glenwood Springs, Whitlock edged Silt’s Bernie Boettcher for the crown.
“They beat up on me really good,” joked Boettcher, whose time of 36 minutes, 00.92 seconds fell just shy of Whitlock’s 35:42.14. “I knew [Whitlock] was going to be trouble. He ran against me a couple weeks ago in Vail and he beat me there, so I kind of expected him to go out hard. He was teasing me. He’d come back to me a little bit and then he’d pull away, and then come back to me and pull away. We had a little thing going there for a while. In the end, he was stronger than me, for sure.”
Whitlock and a handful of teammates are in Colorado – Leadville, specifically – for a summer of high-altitude training. It’s a tradition that began last summer.
“It’s just sort of something we thought of ourselves,” he said. “We’re sacrificing our summer to train.”
And races, like the Shortcut and the 10K Spring Runoff at the Teva Games in Vail earlier this month, are a way to spice up a grueling training schedule.
“Stuff like this is just to break up the monotony of just doing our miles every day,” Whitlock said.
Whitlock hopes the high-altitude regimen pays off come cross country season. It certainly helped Chelanga, who went on to finish second at the 10K NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in November after his summer in the mountains. (Chelanga, who only recently wrapped up a trip to track nationals, hasn’t made it to Colorado yet this summer.)
“Sam came out last year phenomenally,” relayed Whitlock, who also spent last summer in Colorado but was hampered by an injury during the cross country season. “The first half [of the season] he was setting records every race. He finished second in the nation.”
Although he’ll be graduated by the time next summer rolls around, the 21-year-old Whitlock hopes to see a Liberty contingent continue to trek west in future years.
“Hopefully,” he said. “We got the word out. Sam did so good last year that everyone’s like, ‘Man, we should probably try that out too.'”
Basalt’s Chiara Del Piccolo more than welcomed a pair of second-place finishes in Sunday’s Shortcut. That’s because those silver showings came behind a world-caliber runner in Carbondale’s Carrie Vickers, who won the women’s title in both the Shortcut’s 5K and 10K races.
Vickers, who last summer flirted with a trip to the Olympics in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, made the most of what, for her, amounted to a training run. Her time of 37:11.58 claimed the 10K crown and her mark of 17:49.2 netted the 5K title.
Del Piccolo countered with times of 38:44.77 and 19:13.45, respectively.
“I can’t complain,” said the 17-year-old, who’s about to enter her senior year at Basalt High School, where she competes in track and cross country. “It was good. I was happy with it. I don’t run 10Ks much, so I wasn’t sure what to do. But it felt good.”
She certainly improvised well enough, and even caught the attention of Vickers, who cheered Del Piccolo on as she crossed the 5K’s Seventh Street finish line.
“It’s great to see the younger kids running well,” Vickers said. “It’s fun to see the young, new talent coming out.”
Vickers’ double title marked the second consecutive year that a woman has swept at the Shortcut. Last June, Glenwood’s Sarah Shepard did the same.
Western State College alum Jason Graham won his fourth consecutive men’s 5K title, beating out Alex Tiernan of Carbondale. Graham clocked in at 16.37.02.
“It was tough,” Graham said. “I ran a slower time [than last year]. It was humid out, but I still pulled it off.”
Graham ran cross country and track at Western and is a native of Thornton. He’s been coming to the Strawberry Shortcut pretty much since he was in diapers.
“It’s my favorite race,” he said. “I race it with my family. We always come up here and have a good time.”
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.