Skotnicki, Ivancic Top 41st Big Mountain Run Results

Seventy-three runners made the lung-popping ascent up the Danny On Trail to raise money for the Glacier Nordic Club

By Micah Drew
Runners at the start of the Big Mountain Run on July 22, 2023. Micah Drew | Flathead Beacon

Hiking the 3.8-mile Danny On Trail to the summit of Big Mountain is a popular summertime activity for locals and visitors to the Flathead Valley. The appeal is clear — a great workout that takes you through beautiful hillsides full of wildflowers and huckleberries ripe for picking and, as a reward, offers views from the summit of Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park.

On July 22, however, visions of huckleberries were nowhere near the forefront of Ryan Skotnicki’s mind. The 36-year-old only cared about getting in a solid workout, a goal he swiftly achieved by winning the 41st Big Mountain Run — Danny On Hill Climb in 35 minutes and 17 seconds.

Ryan Skotnicki runs the final steps en route to his victory at the Big Mountain Run on July 22, 2023. Micah Drew | Flathead Beacon

“I really just wanted to keep my heart rate steady the whole time,” Skotnicki said after he’d caught his breath at the top. “It felt pretty chill to be honest.”

The “chill” effort by Whitefish’s Skotnicki secured the win over three-time defending champion Drew Coco by just 70 seconds. The two runners ran together for roughly the first two miles before Coco fell off the pace. Skotnicki has been training hard for trail and mountain events this year and will compete in the Crazy Mountain 100-Mile this coming weekend, a trail race through central Montana that he aims to win.

On the women’s side, Bozeman’s Katrina Ivancic, 37, earned the Queen of the Mountain title over Scarlet Kaplan in 44:51. Alyssa Foote, an Americorps volunteer working at the North Valley Food Bank, finished in third.

“The whole time I was wondering why I was doing this to myself, it was so hard,” said Foote, a former collegiate runner for Oregon State University. “But when I moved up here and was looking for races to do, this was the one I really wanted to try.”

Katrina Ivancic celebrates her victory at the Big Mountain Run on July 22, 2023. Micah Drew | Flathead Beacon

The Big Mountain Run had 77 official finishers, ranging in age from 9 to 74. The race recognizes the top overall and top junior finishers, as well as the top dog. Whitefish’s Ethan Amick and Findley Dezzani earned the Prince and Princess of the mountain titles, while Matt Nerdig was the first to the top with a four-legged companion. The race also celebrates members of the “birthday club” – men who complete the run in less time than their age or women who do so within 10 minutes of their age.

Six new birthday club members received cupcakes for their efforts, including Skotnicki, who became the youngest person to join the club.

“Every year I’ve done this I’ve wondered what’s the sweet spot to start beating my age,” he said, acknowledge that now he’s set a benchmark goal for every subsequent race.

Runners at the start of the Big Mountain Run on July 22, 2023. Micah Drew | Flathead Beacon

The Big Mountain Run is a fundraiser for the Glacier Nordic Club, a nonprofit that grooms the local cross country ski trails and offers opportunities for competitive athletes and beginners to try out the winter flatland modality. Last year, the Glacier Nordic Club (GNC) had more than 250 kids participate in winter programs. At the competitive end, GNC sent two elite athletes to the USSA Junior National Championships in Fairbanks, while hosting several free learn-to-ski events for newcomers in addition to regular lessons.

Jennie Bender, executive director for the Glacier Nordic Club, said she was happy with the event’s turnout.

“This community support is really important to letting the Nordic Club carry out its mission during the winter,” Bender said, noting that both junior champions are also on the competitive Nordic team. Throughout the summer months Bender leads dry land training for Nordic athletes, which includes bouts of roller skiing on the roads and lots of running uphill, either on Big Mountain or through Glacier National Park.

Events like the Big Mountain Hill Climb are not just great workouts, Bender said, but set “the expectation that type two fun, especially when you’re with a group, is good.” Bender likes introducing a greater swath of the community to that mentality.

To learn more or support the club’s programs, operations and trails, visit glaciernordicclub.org or donate through the Great Fish Community Challenge

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