Ashland man, woman finish second in race up Mt. Ashland

    Washington's Joseph Gray holds off defending champ, Ashlander Skaggs
  • Erik Skaggs and Jenn Shelton both braved smoky conditions and grueling heat in a race of 13.3 miles with an elevation incline of more than a mile.
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  • There was Gray area at the Mount Ashland Hill Climb Saturday.
    It was at the front of the pack.
    Joseph Gray of Lakewood, Wash., won the 32nd edition of the race in 1 hour, 47 minutes and 29 seconds. It was the second fastest time on record despite being contested in the hottest conditions ever recorded for the event.
    Gray is the 2009 U.S. mountain running national champion and will compete in the world championship race in Campodolcino, Italy, on Sept. 6. He finished 4:01 ahead of Erik Skaggs of Ashland, last year's winner.
    "After about two miles, I started to get a gap," Gray said at the summit of Mount Ashland, shortly after his victory. "It was just me and Erik,"
    The 13.3-mile Ashland Hill Climb begins at Lithia Park and finishes at the top of Mount Ashland. There is 5,600 feet of elevation gain, and much of the race is on trails, dirt roads and boulder fields. Only the Pike's Peak Ascent in Colorado has a greater elevation gain among continuous hill-climb races in the continental U.S.
    The final third of a mile, from the ski lodge to the summit, is the steepest section. Competitors are reduced to walking on a dusty ski slope strewn with boulders.
    The race is part of the 2009 USATF Oregon Mountain Running Series.
    In addition to the heat, the 190 finishers had to contend with smoke from a forest fire near Roseburg that settled into the Rogue Valley Friday.
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