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Mountain runners dominate Colorado Running Hall of Fame

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Of the five athletes inducted into the 2014 class of the Colorado Running Hall of Fame, three enjoy roots in mountain and trail running. The class was introduced at the Denver Athletic Club on the evening of April 9, by emcee Creigh Kelley, with a special keynote address by Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter.

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Shorter’s address focused on the community of running. “We support each other, we really do. Competing is one thing, but when we turn the switch off, we’re friends,” said Shorter.

Olympian Constantina Dita, the first athlete introduced in the class, echoed Shorter’s comments speaking of coaches, friends, and family. “For success, we all have a big support group,” said Dita who also shared one of the best lessons she learned as an athlete. “You need to grab opportunities when the door is open since the door doesn’t stay open forever. Believe in yourself and go for it. Take the opportunities when you can.”

The first of the mountain runners to be inducted was Simon Gutierrez. The 48-year-old physical therapist lives and trains in Colorado Springs. The three-time Pikes Peak Ascent winner, 11-time winner of the La Luz Trail Run, and seven-time U.S. Mountain Running team member was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. However, much of his career was spent in the San Luis Valley in the small town of Alamosa where he often trained in the nearby mountains.

Gutierrez spoke about what it is like to be a runner living in Colorado, “It’s the best place to train and race. Never have I found the inspiration and enjoyment of running in Colorado anywhere else in the world. Even when it’s (the weather) harsh and unpredictable, it’s not that bad.”

Anita Ortiz, a Colorado native, was the next inductee. This 49-year-old mother of four started her competitive running career at age 36. She made five U.S. Mountain Running teams between 2002 and 2007 and was on two medal winning teams, the first in 2004 when she led the team to a bronze medal finish and in 2007, she was a member of the gold-medal winning squad.

A multi-time USATF runner of the year on trails, mountains, as an open and masters’ athlete, Ortiz’s career spanned the shorter distance world mountain running championships as well as ultra-distance events included a win at the prestigious Western States 100 Mile Race.When she turned to snowshoe racing midway through her career, she was undefeated in over 40 races, setting 10 course records and earning national championship status.

Ortiz spoke about her support system, “No one would be up here if they were alone. I wouldn’t be up here if it weren’t for my friends and family. I learned grit and a tough-as-nails attitude from my Mom, and my Dad showed me what to do with that grit.”

Rick Trujillo, was the next inductee. Now in his mid-sixties, this five-time winner of the Pikes Peak Marathon grew up in the mountain town of Ouray. “I’m a native of Colorado – yes. My graduating class was 23… I think it’s still the record number at the high school. I do remember my very first real run. It was March 1963. I knew right then and there, this is what I wanted to be doing,” reflected Trujillo.

“I ran by myself in high school. No one on the team could keep up with me. For me, running was a means to get me to the mountains,” added Trujillo. During his junior year in high school, Trujillo competed at cross country nationals in Boulder. While in Boulder, he knew he wanted to go to college at CU and did. He ran for CU against athletes like Kansas University’s Jim Ryun, but it was always the mountains and trails that spoke to Trujillo, not the track, not the roads. “For me, running is not for fame or fortune. I do it for personal reasons and I hope to continue doing it for another 50 years.”

The final inductee of the evening was British-born Priscilla Welch who, like Ortiz started her competitive career in her mid-30s. Welch spent much of her competitive career living in Colorado, but now lives in Bend, Oregon. Welch’s stories of her running career entertained the audience and capped off a very special evening in Denver.

Along with the inductees, six high school athletes received distance achievement awards. They were Daniel Book and Jordyn Colter, both of Cherry Creek High School, Darby Gilfillan, George Washington High School, Carson Hume, Dakota Ridge High School, Katie Rainsberger, Air Academy, and Bailey Roth, Coronado High School.

Learn more about the inductees and past inductees of the Colorado Running Hall of Fame at this link.

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