SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. — As Tav Streit basked in warm morning sunshine and good company, enjoying his fifth-ever win in the Billy Dutton Uphill on Sunday, he couldn’t resist calling out the area’s top snowshoers and runners.
“There weren’t many snowshoers out there. I think they were scared,” he said, adding about absent 2011 Billy Dutton Uphill champion JP Donovan, “I guess he heard I was coming back.”
Local Nordic skier and coach Jeff Schloss, who was standing within earshot, let out a belly laugh.
Streit’s ribbing was all in good fun, of course. But it also helped validate the competitive — but friendly — rivalry that has developed between skiers and runners in the annual uphill race.
“Next year the runners need to come out here,” said skier Michael Collins of Incline Village, who finished second overall behind Streit. “There were some, but I didn’t see JP Donovan, didn’t see Peter Fain, so next year they need to come out.”
Donovan, a 2005 Incline High grad who won both the Billy Dutton Uphill and Squaw Mountain Run last year in his first attempts, went out of his way to respond after seeing the comments about him.
“I thought it was great,” he said of the call-outs, explaining that he suffered an injury while preparing to ski — not run — the race.
“Traitors richly deserve their fate; I was training to ski the Dutton Uphill this year and injured myself practicing … So the hell with skiing, I’m coming for you all in 2013,” Donovan said.
Streit, who won the race from 2005 to 2007 and again in 2009, recorded a winning time Sunday of 37:09.9 to Collins’ 37:42.4. Streit was second to Donovan last year, when Donovan easily won in an impressive time of 34:39.
Without Donovan in the mix, fellow Incline Village resident Ross McMahon claimed the top spot among runners and showshoers, as he finished eighth overall in snowshoes in a time of 42:42. Skier Beth Thomas of Truckee was the top woman and 11th overall in 44:43.5.
The annual race, which starts at the bottom of Mountain Run and climbs 2,000 vertical feet in 3.2 miles to High Camp, is held in honor of Billy Dutton, who helped establish Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue in 1976 and died at an early age of brain cancer. The event now serves as a major fundraiser for the Far West Junior Nordic ski team.
This year, however, participants also honored Dutton’s mother, Betty Walsh, with flowers and leis in what was the 23rd edition of the event. Walsh took great pride in the fundraising race and cherished the opportunity to support local youth with its proceeds. She passed away in January.
“Betty was a huge inspiration, and she was always out here with a huge smile on her face,” said Streit. “She’s one of the reasons this race is such a fun event for people. This race embodies the spirit that she represented.”
Walsh would have been thrilled with the turnout. After an above-average 162 racers took part a year ago, a total of 167 people participated Sunday — from first-timers to longtime veterans of the event.
“Everyone should come out and do this race. It’s so fun,” said Thomas, a first-time Billy Dutton Uphill participant. “It’s really hard, but it’s really fun. I’ll do it again for sure.”
Mike Lefrancois of Incline Village also came out for the first time. He said racing up the mountain “hurt a lot,” though his 14th-place finish in 45:59.3 seemed to ease his pain.
“I’ve been hearing about it for years, and I ski a lot, so I thought I’d give it a shot,” Lefrancois said.
Former Olympic alpine ski racer Tamara McKinney is no newcomer to the event. The Squaw Valley native and longtime participant returned once again to pay homage to her old friends.
“Billy Dutton was a great guy, and I do it in memory of Billy and Betty, his mom,” said McKinney, who raced in regular running shoes. “And it’s good to get out and suffer a little bit to start the day.”
Following Streit and Collins, skier Wyatt Fereday rounded out the top three overall in a time of 38:41.1. Jordan McElroy finished fourth in 38:47, while Elias Bucher was fifth in 40:17.7, Peter Hansen sixth in 41:41.3 and Schloss seventh in 42:11.9.
After McMahon, who represented with the only top-10 finish among snowshoers and runners, Gus Johnson finished ninth in 43:42.7 and Brandon Herhusky was 10th in 44:11.1.
Chris Bell placed second among the snowshoe/run crowd and was 12th overall in 45:39.7, and Dave Briggs was the third snowshoer/runner and 17th overall in 47:16.9.
Last year’s women’s winner, Kimball Pier, finished runner-up to Thomas among women and was 15th overall with a time of 46:20.7, and Celeste Leon was the third woman and 16th overall in 46:48.2. Camille Germi was the top woman snowshoer/runner and 37th overall in 54:23.6.
“This is one of the cooler races in the Sierra. It’s a great one to end the season on,” said Streit.
View a photo gallery from the race at www.sierrasun.com/2012BillyDutton.