2018 GoPro Mountain Games Day 2 Recap
Photo: Rick Lohre

2018 GoPro Mountain Games Day 2 Recap

Posted by: Shauna Farnell

It’s kind of like Mother Nature is the unnamed sponsor of the 2018 GoPro Mountain Games, considering how much love she gave us once again for Day 2. Paddlers splashed in the bright sun, climbers scaled the walls so many times their arms were trembling and runners reveled in the most beautiful time of the afternoon for their heart-pumping haul up and down the mountain.

Here’s what went down.

UPDATED June 8, 10:23 PM

See daily video recap HERE.


Aprés 5K Trail Run

As runners plunged down the steep Berry Picker trail toward the finish line, some know-it-all in the crowd was telling his friend, “this is a downhill 5K.” Au contraire, buddy. Guess he missed the parade of 350 racers launching out of the start gate and zigzagging up Vail Mountain like a pack of ants.

From left, Saleem Drera (3), Kevin Conlon (2) and James Gregory were the fastest Apres 5K runners. Photo by Zach Mahone.

“It was the second uphill that killed me,” said 16-year-old James Gregory, who won last year’s Rocky Dog Trail Run and posted a wicked fast, possibly record-breaking time of just over 17 minutes to smoke the field on Friday. Gregory, who is going to be a junior at Fort Collins High School and was wearing his track jersey, started off running side-by-side with teammate (also jersey clad) Kevin Conlon. After blowing up too fast out of the start, Conlin still ended up second, two and a half minutes behind Gregory. Both teens, the only two to break a finish time of 20 minutes, were looking forward to rewarding themselves with Taco Bell after the race.

Boulder’s Leah Ferrara was the fastest woman, finishing in just over 22 minutes, and while bionic teenage running superstar Lanie Szuch was notably absent from the event, 12-year-old Lindsey Whitton of Evergreen rang the bell for jaw-dropping young talent, finishing second of the women in 23:22.

GMC Kayak Freestyle Finals

The table has been set and it’s time to throw down in the GMC Kayak Freestyle Finals. Friday’s Semifinals saw 18 competitors whittled down to 10 (five men and five women) as anticipation runs high for Saturday’s main event in the Vail Whitewater Park.

Diminished mid-day flows on Gore Creek left competitors with less water to work with on Friday and lower scores as a result (not to worry, the snowmelt fed river will be back on the rise for the finals beginning at 4 p.m.). Still, defending Mountain Games champion Dane Jackson managed to put up a top score of 1,070 points to qualify first for the final round.

Hunter Katich used a combination of high-scoring tricks to land as the second seed with a score of 903.33, followed by Nick Troutman at 760 and Thursday’s top qualifier, Greg Parker of Denver, with 756.67 points. Tom Dolle rounded out the men’s finals field with a score of 700.

The women’s qualifier saw Sage Donnelly take the top seed with 576.67, followed by Adriene Levknecht at 473.33 and defending champion Emily Jackson with 340 points. Katie Fankhauser (286.67) and Abby Holcombe (266.67) filled the final two spots in the field.

Point totals will reset to zero for the final round, where competitors get three rides to determine the single highest score.

Cameron Morgan photo
The all-new Costa Fly Tying Competition has competitors in knots. Photo by Cameron Morgan.

Costa Fly Tying

The inaugural Costa Fly Tying Competition at the GoPro Mountain Games might best be described as “intensely casual.” Sure, everyone seated at the tying table in the Vail Brewing Company wanted to win, but not at the expense of denying themselves a frothy beverage. It’s hot out there after all.

The competition was heated as well, in an artsy-craftsy sort of way. The 12 tiers were given three different tasks, all timed, asking them to create dry flies, nymphs and streamers as dedicated fans looked on. After a couple hours, and a couple beers, Gary Boris of Edwards, CO, won the gold medal, Frank Whispell of Thornton, CO, won silver and Mark McMillan of Ft. Collins took home bronze.

“I’m blown away. I certainly didn’t expect this,” Boris said. “This is the first time I’ve ever competed in fly tying, even though I’ve been tying since I was 8 years old. But I loved the competition. I thought it was a fun format. It was a challenge. And you really had to think about what you were doing. There was great camaraderie at the table, and I met some nice new people. But if you’re going to play the game you play to win, even though I really didn’t expect to win.”

Competitors were judged on their entire body of work, saying that Boris’ creations stood out due to their “fishability.”

“They said the thing they liked was that if you threw these flies out into the water, you were going to catch a fish,” Boris said.

And that’s really all that matters.

Pacifico Raft Cross

The final round of the Pacifico Raft Cross on Gore Creek was a wild one as El Chupacabra (Jeremiah Williams and Rob Prechtl) took a rare wire-to-wire win for their second gold medal in the last 3 years. The race for second and third was where things got intense, as three teams of two paddlers played bumper boats while trying to navigate the final gate, forcing one boat — Team Seelig — to flip into the foamy freestyle kayak feature of the Vail Whitewater Park. As they swam downstream, Team Pennington (Luke Pennington and Luke Copithorn) slid into the third spot on the podium. Team Shake-and-Bake (Todd Toledo and John Anicito) finished second.

“It’s one of those races where you can start in first and end in last. You never know how it’s going to shake out,” said El Chupacabra’s Williams, who also paddles alongside Prechtl on the U.S. Men’s Whitewater Rafting Team. “There’s definitely some strategy in it and you don’t want to pop the clutch too soon. It’s good to play it smart and try to take the bumps when you can and try and get away from them when you can. But Rob and I spend a lot of time in the boat together, so we work together really well.”

IFSC Climbing World Cup

Let us remind you that this World Cup is THE ONLY one to land in the United States throughout the year and also that climbing is about to become an Olympic sport, making it’s debut at Tokyo 2020.

Thus, if you’re someone who likes to surround yourself by a broad mix of cultures and languages, you’ll be in heaven hanging out at TIAA Bank Climbing Wall. The world’s best climbers from Japan, Korea, Slovenia, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, China, The Czech Republic, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, France, Italy and more tried their monkey skills on the universally tough problems all day on Friday.

After these qualifying rounds, however, you’ll be seeing more Japanese than any other nation. Team Japan dominated the men’s qualifying, with Kokoro Fujii and Ryuichi Murai landing the top spots. Both climbers made it to the top of all five problems and zones with the fewest attempts (eight attempts in each round for Fujii and nine and eight for Murai).

Team USA’s Nathaniel Coleman was right behind them, though. The 21-year-old Utah native was third in qualifying, nailing all five walls and zones in nine attempts in one round and five in the other. On the women’s side, Team Japan also put their mark on the wall during the first day of the World Cup event, but U.S. veteran Alex Puccio was not to be outdone. Puccio tied as top qualifier with Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi. Puccio made it to the top of four routes and hit five zones, while Noguchi nailed four tops and four zones in fewer attempts. Japan’s Miho Nonaka was also right in the mix with four tops and five zone completions.

The top 20 male and female qualifiers go on to compete in semi-finals on Saturday.


Dock Dogs Big Air continued Friday with an impressive newcomer pup, Aegon, who jumped 27 feet, earning him the best score of the weekend so far. Aegon and his handler, Dane, traveled all the way from Canada to compete. It is their first season competing, and it looks as if they are going to jump right in with the big dogs.


The initial qualifying rounds of the International Slackline Invitational in Solaris Plaza were a promising picture of the weekend, offering glimpses of the world’s best Slackliners. One in particular is 9 year old Rikuto Nokamura from Japan, who is already doing flip combos and tricks that have never been seen before, as mastering extremely difficult moves like the Impossible Flip, which he’s been landing consistently in practice.

Speaking of practice, during training an athlete by the name of Renzo landed a triple butt flip, which has never been landed in competition. Renzo hopes to change that this weekend, and earn a record in the process.

Disc Golf

Athletes broke in the brand new 4 Eagle Ranch course in Wolcott today, which was special built and designed for the GoPro Mountain Games and had never been played before. Zane Levin had the best score on that course — a 43, 12 under par — and now holds the official course record.  Back in Vail Village, Christopher Monn pulled impressive scores on the Skill Challenges, including no missed attempts on the putting challenge and hitting the infamous “mail slot” on the Miles Per Hour Challenge, which instantly doubled his points, putting him in the current lead. Finally, Lane Brewer earned the top grade on the Accuracy Challenge, with a score of 17.

GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge

As the events come to a close on day 2, the GMC Ulitmate Mountain Challenge competitors have been not only out competing athletically but also mentally: by solving the algorithm of how to strategically work out what events to compete in. This is the race with in the race.

Competitors like Courtney Kerin on the first day not only did the difficult Dowd Chute but than made a strategic move to the 5K Dog run.   This put her in a tie for the lead after day one.

On the men’s side competitors like Brandon Rakita is working a variety by taking on an exhausting schedule, competing in 5k Dog Run, MTB Enduro, Après 5k, XC MTB, 10K Run, Road Bike TT and Pepis Hill Dash.

Another interesting individual to watch is Carson Crain – He is competing in the Enduro, Apre 5k, SUP River Sprint, SUP Cross Citizen Climbing.

– By Shauna Farnell, Scott Willoughby, Chris Anthony, and Jaimee Rindy 


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