New start and finish lines are among the changes being made for this year’s Colter Run, which is always one of Fur Trade Days’ highlights. And, if everything works right, the runners will be able to watch themselves cross the finish line on the huge video board at the west end of Elliott Field at Chadron State College this year.
In addition, if they can do two or three things at once--step on the finish line, watch the video board and also look at the scoreboard--they’ll be able to see their times on the Elliott Field scoreboard when they finish their race.
As usual, the race will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday. However, instead of starting in front of the Armstrong Building at CSC, it will be begin about 150 yards to the west on 12th Street, just to the north of the Nelson Physical Activity Building. The latter facility also will be the race headquarters.
After Norm Martin fires what he calls “my sawed off replica of the Indian trade gun” to send the runners on their way, the route will be the same as usual until they are about to finish. Once they return to 12th Street, they’ll continue to run east alongside Elliott Field, then take a sharp right hand turn and enter the field at the northeast gate and sprint (the best they can) to the 50-yard line, which is where they will finish.
Once the runners enter the gridiron, a camera will focus on them and the race will be shown on the video board.
“It’s something new that is now available with the upgrading of Elliott Field last summer and it should be fun for the runners to see,” said Ben Watson, a member of the sponsoring Chadron Rotary Club and one of the race directors. “We’ve measured things pretty carefully and despite the new starting and finishing lines, both the 5k and 10k races will still be those distances.”
That’s not all the technology that hopefully will be available. With the help of CSC cross country and distance coach Scott Foley and a camera operator or two, efforts are being made to have all the runners’ times immediately available.
When the race starts, the clock on the Elliott Field scoreboard will start. If things click, the runners will be able see their times on the scoreboard when they finish and a computer will also record each runner’s time when he or she steps on the 50-yard line.
“We’re not guaranteeing that everything will work exactly right, but we’re going to try it,” Foley said. “The timing technology we hope works has been used at nearly all the track and cross country meets for several years.”
The primary advantage of the new system is that the race results will be available much sooner.
Fur Trade Days was four years old when the Colter Run was added to the array of events in 1980. Among the race’s founders was Mack Peyton, who came to Chadron State as the men’s basketball coach in 1960 and was the Eagles’ athletic director and a member of the Rotary Club 20 years later. Unfortunately, on June 25, about three weeks before the initial race was run, Peyton died of a heart attack.
The race still took place, but it was much different the first three years than it has been since then. The first two races covered 15 miles over rugged terrain. They began at the Spotted Tail Campground south of Chadron, wound their way to the east through scenic King’s Canyon to Bordeaux Road and finished at the Museum of the Fur Trade.
The story written by the late Craig Matthesen about the first race in the Chadron Record said all 35 runners who entered also finished. The winner was Kevin Pfefferle of Rapid City in an hour, 30 minutes and 48 seconds.
Pfefferle was described as a 22-year-old band director, but the story added that he had been on the cross country team at the University of Wyoming, and said he had been running from 40 to 50 miles a week prior to the race.
Several women also entered the race. That winner was Kathy Hood, a teenager from Morrill. Her time was 2.13.42.
The second race drew 47 entries and was over the same route. Pfefferle and Hood were not among the entries and the runners-up from the first race were the winners. Dave Micheels of Scottsbluff, who was barely nipped by Pfefferle in the first race, improved his time by about 2.5 seconds and beat Pfefferle’s time of the previous year by .32 hundredths of a second.
Jeanie Johns, whose family had moved from Burwell to Chadron in the early 1980s, finished seven minutes faster than Hood’s winning time the previous year.
It’s unclear in the Chadron Record story where the third race in 1982 took place, but it covered 10 miles instead of 15, and had 41 entries. Johns also won the women’s race in 1.18:29 and the men’s winner was Gene McGivern, the sports editor of the Alliance Times-Herald and three-time captain of the Iowa State Cyclones’ cross country team. His time was 57:57.
Ever since 1983, the longest race in the Colter Run has been 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles. But from 1983 through 1988, it started on 10th Street near Memorial Park. In 1989, it was moved to 12th Street near the Armstrong Building to lessen the congestion prior to the Fur Trade Days parade.
It seems ironic now that the 5 kilometer race, which is a trifle more than three miles, or one-fifth the distance of the original race, wasn’t introduced until 1997. It’s become far more popular than the 10k.
Last year, 123 runners finished the 5k race and only 13 ran the 10k. There also were at least 50 who walked or ran the two-mile course, making a grand total of 186 participants, down a bit from earlier this decade.
Each year from 2010 through 2015, the race drew well over 200 entries. The all-time high was in 2014, when there were 195 in the 5k race, 26 in the 10k and at least 55 “walkers” for a total of 276. The tally was at least 250 in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Those numbers were more than double the figures the first 30 years.
Long time race director Rob Wahlstrom was quoted as saying in 2014 that much of the growth stemmed from programs such as Girls on the Run and Morning Marathon that physical education teacher Linda Rischling had introduced in the Chadron Schools. At least 100 of participants had Chadron addresses and many others were Chadron natives who had returned for family or high school reunions.
The numbers also grew following the death of Dr. George Watson in June 2010. Watson was a revered CSC justice studies professor and one of the Colter Run mainstays. The following year, perhaps 50 runners wore “Team George” tee-shirts to pay tribute to him and the trend has continued.
Through the years the Colter Run also has attracted many dedicated runners from the area who often made it one of their summer outings. Among the first were Rick and Marvel Reeves of Gordon. The couple won both races in 1983, the first year they were 10k events.
Rick Reeves also was the overall winner in 1989, ’91 and 93 and won the 60 and over 10k race again last year, 35 years after he won the first race. He also owns the 10k record for the 40-49-year age group.
Other men who have been multiple 10k winners include the father and son duo of Juan and Aaron Carrizales of Morrill and former Chadron State distance standouts Randy Jarzynka of Cairo, Neb., Clint Reading of Blackfoot, Idaho, and Dylan Stansbury of Crawford, who has won the race each of the last four years.
James McGown, who was living in Shelton, Neb., in 2002 when he set the record of 33 minutes, 11 seconds. He also returned to win the race in 2010, ’13 and ’14, when he was living in Sidney. In the 1990s, McGown had run the marathon in the U.S. Olympic Trials twice and was still a member of the elite “Team Nebraska” when he entered the Colter Run
The men’s 5k record was set two years ago by Alejandro Garcia of Pine Bluffs, Wyo., another CSC cross country and distance standout. His mark was 15:40, some 42 seconds faster than the old record that Ricky Trevino of Bayard had set in 2010, during an era when Trevino won the 5k four times in five years.
Reading won the 5k race five times between 1997, the first year it was on the Colter agenda, and 2012. Those are besides his four 10k triumphs.
Phil Duncan of Chadron has won the 5k race four of the last six years.
In the women’s competition, a couple of familiar names stand out.
One is Stacy Girard, the Alliance native who now lives in Chadron. She owns both the 5k and 10k overall records. They are 18:14 for the 5k, set in 2008, and 37.59 for the 10k set the next year.
Her 5k mark broke the record of 19:16 she’d set the previous year when she broke the record of 19:20 that her sister, Shelly Langemeier, had set in 2001, the same year that she won the Class B 3200-meters at the State Track Meet for the Alliance Bulldogs.
The 10k record that Girard broke in 2009 had previously belonged to Jeanie John, the same person who won the second and third Colter Run races for women in 1981 and 82. By 1988, when John ran the 10k in 39.02, she was attending the University of Washington Medical School and had come to Chadron to visit her parents. Girard’s new mark 21 years later was 37:49.
Besides setting a new record, Girard also became the first (and last) woman to cross the finish line in the 10k race ahead of any of the men. Apparently it also was the only time Girard has entered the Colter Run 10k, but she’s won the 5k race three time.
Lifelong Chadron resident Cathy Donohue also deserves special mention in any story recalling Colter Run history. She’s been the most persistent and one of the most successful participants of them all.
She won the 10k race for the first time in 1986 and then seven more times through 2004. She holds the 50-59 10k age group record as well as both the 5k 50-59 and 60 and over records.
Never one to seek notoriety, Donohue won her age group at least once without officially entering the race. She just wanted to run and took off with the rest of the pack. Of course, those keeping tabs on the race knew her and wrote her name down on the results sheet, even though she wasn’t wearing a number.
Besides running in the races, for years Donohue wrote previews of the race after often contacting runners who had won or placed high previously and getting updates on their passion for running. She also contacted Chadron merchants and collected door prizes that were distributed to race participants.