Tollefson, Durward victorious at Association Championships

SEATTLE -- Eric Tollefson of Tacoma and Lori Durward of Richmond, B.C. took top honors at Sunday's Pacific Northwest Association Championships cross country meet held at Lower Woodland Park. Tollefson, a former All-American at Central Washington University who currently lives in Tacoma, clocked 30:01 to win the 9.7-kilometer (6-mile) men's race. Durward, a dental student at the University of British Columbia, covered the 5.9-kilometer (3.7-mile) women's course in 21:06. Both were awarded $200 for their overall victories, while Tollefson garnered an additional $100 as the top finisher from Washington state.
The two employed different tactics en route to their respective victories. Durward led wire-to-wire, while Tollefson trailed for most of the race before sealing his win with a late surge. "I was hoping I would be able to follow somebody, but the girls decided to go out a bit conservative, so I tried just pushing myself," said Durward. A 5:27 opening mile put her five seconds ahead of the field, after which point she was not seriously challenged. Canadian Courtney Babcock of Montana's Mountain West Track Club used a strong last half-mile to take second place in 21:22, just ahead of Edmonds' Shelley Smathers (3rd, 21:26), the top female finisher among Washington state residents.

On the men's side, Tollefson chased Seattle's Rob Cook around much of the hilly Lower Woodland course before gradually pulling away over the last mile and a half. "I was just trying to stay with Cook for as long as I could," said Tollefson. "I took the lead ... because I was worried that [Craig] Dickson was catching us." Cook, the winner of this race in 1996 and 1997, wound up second with a time of 30:15, while Olympia's Dickson placed third in 30:21.

In the men's team competition, local powerhouse Club Northwest took on the Portland-based Red Lizards. Dickson and Uli Steidl (4th place, 30:35) led the Club charge, but the Lizards captured places five through eight to clinch a narrow one-point victory, 27 to 28.
Danielle Kabush (6th place, 21:42) led Club Northwest to an uncontested triumph in the women's team division.  Michael Smith of Renton and Kimball Bender of Seattle won the 5.9-kilometer masters (40-and-over) races with respective times of 19:52 and 22:48.
For many local harriers, the PNTF meet is the start of a cross country season which will culminate in the USA Cross Country Championships, to be hosted by the Tacoma area's Lake Spanaway Golf Course on February 13 and 14. Other local meets leading up to the national championships include the USA Northwest Regional Championships on November 21, also hosted by Lake Spanaway, and the Pacific Northwest Winter Cross Country Meet on January 30, which will take place at Lincoln Park in Seattle.