By Steve Mims
First up the hill, first to the finish.
That strategy worked for Eugene residents Craig Leon and Bronwyn Crossman, who were first named king and queen, respectively, of the Donald Street hill, and then went on to win the 39th annual Butte to Butte race Wednesday morning.
Leon and Crossman both used the 10-kilometer race as a tune-up for an upcoming marathon.
The 27-year-old Leon, who moved to Eugene from Ohio in August, won his first appearance in the race in 31 minutes, 19 seconds — 32 seconds ahead of runner-up Chris Reed. Leon is a veteran in the marathon after finishing 26th at the U.S. Olympic Trials in that event in January.
“This kicked off my marathon training for Chicago in the fall,” the 2007 Ohio University graduate said. “It is a good way to start on the Fourth of July, get a good, hard effort in and hopefully get a jump-start.”
Crossman, who just completed her senior year in cross country and track and field at Oregon, is preparing for her first marathon in her hometown of Bellingham, Wash. She won in the women’s race in 36:39 — 37 seconds ahead of runner-up Jane Rudkin.
“It has always been in my plan post-college to do the marathon,” she said. “I will probably always do road 10Ks and half-marathons because I like them, but I really want do to marathons and see how it goes. If it doesn’t go well, maybe I can go back to doing shorter ones.”
Crossman was the first woman up the signature start of the race, which features a steep mile up Donald and led the rest of the way.
“The hill is a nice warmup,” she said. “My coach told me not to take it too hard, kind of ease into the run. It is the most amazing feeling when you are on top and can just roll down.”
While many runners would call the opening hill the toughest part of the race, Crossman said that was not her experience.
“I felt good up the hill and then going down,” the 22-year-old said. “In a 10K you hit a wall and then feel better and then hit another wall and feel better so there were times I was like ‘Oh man, am I going to finish this?’ and then 10 minutes later I would feel good.”
Crossman finished second last year in her first Butte to Butte in 36:57.
“I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” she said. “I felt a little out of shape from last year but I think I surprised myself a little bit with my fitness. I almost didn’t do it because the past couple weeks my training was not going that well so I didn’t want to embarrass myself and do worse than last year, but I am really glad I did it.”
Leon began to pull away from the field as he headed downhill in the second mile.
“That was definitely a tough hill for sure,” he said. “There were a lot of people in it the first mile or so, I think everyone was feeling each other out.”
The 23-year-old Reed had his best finish in his 10th appearance in the race after finishing third in two of the past three years.
“I ran slower this year than last year, but my place was better, so I will take it,” he said. “I went up the first hill in fifth place but I was in contact so it worked pretty well down the hill.
“I tried to stay as relaxed and smooth as possible and hope I could finish without dying.”
Reed grew up in Eugene but went to high school in Klamath Falls and lives in Monmouth after attending Western Oregon University.
“This race is a big family tradition for us,” he said.
“I love this race; it is a lot of fun.”
Michael Donawa won the five-kilometer men’s race in 16:39 while Grace Todd won the women’s race in 18:32.
2012 BUTTE TO BUTTE 10K top FINISHERS
Men: 1. Craig Leon, 31:19. 2. Chris Reed, 31:51. 3. Harrison Lakehomer, 32:29. 4. Robert McLauchlan, 32:39. 5. Alex Jones, 32:46.
Women: 1. Bronwyn Crossman, 36:39. 2. Jane Rudkin, 37:16. 3. Renee Knapp, 38:10. 4. Anne-Marie Nuno, 38:51. 5. Colleen Carter-Cox, 39:07.