2013 Sentinel Hill Climb Race Preview

A Race Preview by the Montana Trail Crew


Our Mountain - Credit: Chris Kollar

Mount Sentinel is an old friend. We met in college and have been through thick and thin, celebration and triumph, falls, pain, and blood. Day and night, winter and summer, rain and fire. Sentinel brings it all. With an elevation of just 5,157’, it’s a little mountain that looms large. From the University of Montana Campus, a direct ascent of the Northwest Ridge gains nearly 2000’ in 1.6 miles (the longer trail ascent covers around 2.25 miles). For much of the year the mountain is a place to train or a quick escape from the city below. But one day each fall, as the racing season winds down, endurance athletes gather to give whatever they’ve got left on a course that is doable for many, but a specialty for few.

Over the past decade or so, the Hill Climb has figured prominently on the Montana racing calendar. Established by the University of Montana Triathlon Club--a club founded in 2001 that quickly emerged as one of the  country's top collegiate triathlon programs--it now prospers under the guidance of Runners Edge and race director Mike Foote. The Hill Climb remains a major fundraiser for the tri team and Friends of the M Trail. After taking the reigns of the event in 2012, RE added prize money for the overall champions and the first runners to reach the M on their way up the summit. This year, Hammer Nutrition has thrown in $100 gift certificates for any man or woman who can establish a new course record.

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Always a popular event, the Hill Climb reached a new level in 2012. Topping the men’s podium stood Andy Drobeck in a sub-21 minute ascent. Drobeck may very well be the most versatile endurance athlete in Montana. These days he’s best known as a national caliber triathlete, but his bio includes multiple victories at the Scott Firefighter Starclimb and a 2:33 marathon. Mike Wolfe, one of the world’s top mountain ultrarunners, took second. Ultrarunner Justin Yates finished out the podium. For the women, Nicole Hunt took the crown. A former U.S. Mountain Running Champion and past winner of the iconic Mount Washington Road Race, Hunt is as good a climber as they come. Rhea Dahlberg, owner of Momentum Athletic Training, finished second and Missoula trail runner Hannah Riedl took third.

As of Friday morning, it’s unclear how many of last year’s top athletes will be toeing the line but there will certainly be a very deep field. Here are a few top athletes who are likely to compete, but expect a half dozen others who could challenge for the men's and women's podiums:

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WOMEN:

Nicole Hunt 2:40 marathoner, past champion of nearly every major race in Montana.

Rhea Black (nee Dahlberg)… runner, cyclist, triathlete, hill climber- 2nd FKT on Sentinel.

MEN:

Andy Drobeck 2012 Hill Climb Champion, 38th at Ironman World Championships, FKT up Sentinel.

Justin Yates 3rd at 2012 Sentinel Hill Climb and 3rd FKT up Sentinel. Past victories and podium finishes at numerous ultras.

Jason Schlarb 2:27 marathoner, 3rd at 2013 Speedgoat 50K, Champion of 2013 Run Rabbit Run 100, 4th FKT up Sentinel.

Brendan Halpin2011 Sentinel Hill Climb Champion, winner of Whitefish Legacy 20K, and top finishes at numerous triathlons and trails runs.

Others to watch… Ray Hunt, Jeremy Wolf,  Adam Jensen, Patrick Murphy...

*If you know of others who are racing and aren't listed here please let us know and we will update the list!

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