Robert Pritchett, Erin McMahon prevail in 50K StumpJump on Signal Mountain

Robert Pritchett, Erin McMahon prevail in 50K StumpJump on Signal Mountain

October 6th, 2013 by Ron Bush in Sportlocal

Dr. Robert Pritchett, right, was the men's winner and Erin McMahon was the women's winner of the 12th annual StumpJump on Signal Mountain.

Photo by Ron Bush/Times Free Press.

Jordan Veal of Charlotte, N.C., makes his way along the trail in the 2013 StumpJump 50K race on Signal Mountain.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The reach of the StumpJump 50K trail's fame was clearly evident Saturday. The first- and third-place finishers were from the state of Washington -- at least when they registered -- and the runner-up represented Flagstaff, Ariz. And the first and third female finishers came from Colorado.

It's an ultra-distance event, after all.

Dr. Robert Pritchett, a 36-year-old South Africa native who began teaching exercise physiology this semester at the University of Georgia, won the 12th annual StumpJump in 4 hours, 33 minutes, 40 seconds. Late in the Salomon Rock/Creek Trail Series race he overtook Salomon-sponsored Eric Bohn of Arizona, who led by as much as seven minutes according to reports from the trail.

Erin McMahon, 32, of Boulder was the women's winner in her first trail race and 24th overall in 5:36:44 for the 31 miles. Sponsored runner Gina Lucrezi of Carbondale, Colo., was the leading female before rolling an ankle and plugged away to finish third in 5:56:54. Erin Hannen, 23, of Atlanta was second in 5:42:48.

"I'm not really a trail runner," said Pritchett, who with his wife -- a sports nutrition professor at UGA -- previously taught at Central Washington University and lived in the Pacific Northwest the past six years. "This was really only my third trail race."

The first was in Alabama nearly seven years ago when the former Western Kentucky University runner was working on his Ph.D. in Tuscaloosa. He ran another trail ultra early this year.

"You've just got to run your own race," Pritchett said. "A run like this is a process, start to finish. I tried to run consistently the whole way. At the aid station at about 19 miles, I felt good so I ran hard, but later I thought I may have overcooked it a bit.

"But I came around a corner and saw the guy in second [Jose Savala of Hickory, N.C., who finished fifth], and I was able to pass him. Then later I came around another corner and there was the first-place guy [Bohn]. A race of this distance is won in the last 40 minutes, so if you're feeling good toward the end you can pick up a lot of ground."

The 32-year-old Bohn was feeling good early, but the unseasonable heat and the Tennessee humidity eventually took its toll.

"We're at 7,000 feet [in Flagstaff], so the altitude helped me on the climbs and allowed me to pull away early without using too much energy," Bohn said. "But the heat finally got to me around 22 miles, and it was a war of attrition after that. [Pritchett] got me with about three miles to go. I picked it up but couldn't get him."

Bohn ran alone for about 15 miles.

"Typically I don't like to run from the front," he said, "but I felt good and I think my natural cadence led me to pull away. We started with a six- or seven-man group, and then it was a three-man group, and then I pulled away."

He said the StumpJump had been on his "to-do list for a while." Like many other elite runners, he said races often are "excuses" to see new parts of the country.

The third-place finisher in 4:38:02 was Brandon Sullivan, 31, of Seattle, but he has been there only three years. He grew up in Dickson County, Tenn., and flew home to visit family and come to race; his sister and her children accompanied him on the drive. He ran the StumpJump previously in 2009 and 2010, finishing eighth that latter year.

"I'm in better shape now. I think those Washington mountains whipped me into shape," Sullivan said.

McMahon came with her boyfriend, Denver resident Chris Marcinek, who finished 11th Saturday. He had been "hyped up" for the StumpJump by friends from Chicago who ran it last year.

"It's a great course," said McMahon, who has run road marathons in San Diego, Seattle and Las Vegas and bore some scratches from falls Saturday. "Chris said it would be a good one for my first ultra.

"But it was hot. We don't get any humidity, and it was snowing when we left Colorado. I kept drinking my water and it would be gone before I would get to an aid station."

Atlanta residents Tim Tatarka and Stephen Arnold were first and second in the 11-mile race, with Chattanooga's Kevin Boucher third. Elizabeth Callaway of Atlanta was the first female.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.