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Edmonton runner wins Five Peaks race

Haponiuk also secures overall title in Whistler

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Mike Haponiuk committed his summer to not just five peaks, but 10.

The Edmonton runner signed up for the Five Peaks Trail Running Series in northern Alberta, which is through four of its five events for the season, and also decided to regularly come west. Haponiuk just completed the British Columbia Five Peaks circuit in Whistler on Aug. 26, winning his 40-to-49 division in every event and only failing to win the overall once, taking third in the season opener at Alice Lake.

In Saturday's 10.6-kilometre enduro race on Blackcomb Mountain, Haponiuk edged Vancouver's Craig Fowler by just 14 seconds, while Burnaby's Blair Zimmerman took third.

"There was a group of us off of the start. There were a half-dozen people running together, and we were all pretty close until just before the first big hill," he said. "One person fell down and caused a bit of a disruption on the trail of everybody just behind. I managed to sneak ahead and get maybe a 40- or 50-metre lead by the top of the first hill.

"I kept that gap all the way to the finish, but I lost a little bit of time on the final downhill into the finish because the second-place guy was only 14 seconds behind... For an hour-long race, 14 seconds is nothing."

Haponiuk praised the site as one of the most challenging on tour, though its external features make it a pleasure to race.

"It is by far the most fun visually and, overall, the place to be. There's no other race that compares," he said. "The overall difficulty of terrain is similar to a couple of the other events, but it's made a bit harder because you're at higher altitudes. It is the hardest course because of the altitude.

"The reason why I get out of bed when it's minus-25 in February in Edmonton and go for a two-and-a-half-hour run is because I hope to come back next year for Five Peaks Whistler."

Haponiuk noted that other tough courses included Golden Ears Provincial Park, Buntzen Lake, as well as those on the Vancouver Island Trail Running Series.

Heading into the northern Alberta finale in Devon, Haponiuk has won his division all four times with only one blemish in the overall, a second-place in Chickakoo earlier this month.

Squamish's Heather Gallagher won the women's enduro race, followed by Tiffany Gibson of Coquitlam and Meghan Illingworth of Squamish.

In the 6.6-km sport race, North Vancouver youngster Ryan Goodwin (competing in the under-14 category) took the win, besting Abbotsford's Chase Van Spronsen and Vancouver's Luke Mantle. As for the women, Katia Lumb bested fellow Vancouverite Brooke St. Germain while North Vancouver's Ragan Ross took third.

Whistler's David Vavrik was the top local in the enduro race, finishing sixth overall and second in the men's 20-to-29 division while Carlos Ohler took second in the men's 15-to-19 division and 21st overall. As for the women, Kirstyn McCasey earned third in the 20-to-29 race. Full results are available at www.racedaytiming.ca.

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