This story has been archived from the June 4, 2006, Denver Post

Teva Mountain Games - Winner wasn’t fastest runner

By Jason Blevins
Denver Post Staff Writer

Vail - Matt Carpenter ran with a message.

“You win your awards. You don’t buy them,” said the 41-year-old Manitou Springs runner, who dominated a field of nearly 250 at the national 10K trail running championships last year. He finished Saturday in a blistering 44 minutes, 5 seconds, 1:39 ahead of the runner-up.

Matt Carpenter finishes first at the Teva Mountain Games 10K trail running event, but a technicality kept him from the winner’s purse.
Matt Carpenter finishes first at the Teva Mountain Games 10K trail running event, but a technicality kept him from the winner’s purse. (Post / Kathryn Scott Osler)

But Carpenter refused to pay $15 for short-term membership with USA Track & Field, the governing body of American running. The organization hosted Saturday’s national event, which was coupled with an amateur race as part of the annual Teva Mountain Games that did not require the $15 registration fee.

“Running is a sport for all of us, and I guess trying to separate us with money, to me, it seems a little crazy,” said Carpenter, a perennial podium finisher who is considered one of the world’s speediest trail runners.

But in this year’s national race, the rules had changed, and Carpenter’s dismissal of the governing body’s registration fee left him without the $1,000 winner’s purse. He didn’t know that when he registered.

“A principle is not a principle unless you are tested,” he said. “If it costs me $15 to win $1,000, then that’s against my principle.”

Still, Carpenter was quite unhappy with race officials. A press release sent out last week by the track and field organization announcing the race noted “an additional $100 will be awarded to the top USATF male and female finishers.” Carpenter assumed he would miss out on $100, not the entire purse.

“Maybe that was a little confusing, but really it should not have been,” said Nancy Hobbs, chairwoman of the USATF’s mountain, ultra and trail running events. “Matt did not run in the national championship race. It was very clear that you had to be a USATF member to participate in the national championships.”

Last year, the organization paid for short-term memberships for every racer in order to meet insurance requirements, Hobbs said. That’s why Carpenter, as well as international racers who were not USATF members, won cash prizes last year. This year there were two races, and only USATF members could race in the national championship and win purse money, Hobbs said.

So the trail running national champion is 31-year-old Clint Wells, a University of Colorado grad and four-time All-American with a growing international reputation as a relay racer. Wells finished the 10K, which wended up Vail Mountain, in 45:44.

“Obviously Matt beat me. He deserves the money,” said the Craig native. “But if they give it to me, I’ll take it.”

The Eagle Valley’s Josiah Middaugh, 27, finished behind Wells at 46:07, and 43-year-old Michael Friedberg finished in the official third-place slot with a time of 46:18.

Laura Haefeli, 38, of Del Norte won her second consecutive women’s title on the up-and-down off-road course with a time of 55:12.

Renowned Summit County adventure racer Danelle Ballengee, 34, took second with a finish of 55:54, and Brooke Kish, 30, finished third at 57:01.

A pall hung over the awards ceremony as Carpenter missed the pro podium, a rarity in the lithe racer’s career. His absence was felt even more when he was named the year’s best runner at the annual Everest Awards, the outdoor industry’s version of the Oscars.

“It’s frustrating. You should look like you are supporting runners, not controlling runners,” said legendary ultra runner Buzz Burrell, who won last year’s Everest Award for running. “It should be all positive.”

Pre-race press release by Nancy Hobbs - Nope, while it hypes the race with my name, it doesn’t say you have to be a USATF member. Further, the last paragraph clearly states that the top USATF finishers only get an additional $100.

Post-race press release by Nancy Hobbs - It didn’t even mention my name. However, the editor did!

The public debate that took place after this race - Got 2 whole pages in Running Times.

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