Winter, Cliff repeat as champs at Whistler Spirit Run

 - Chris Winter runs to first place in the men's 8-km race of Sunday's (Sept. 29) Whistler Spirit Run at Whistler Olympic Park. - Photo by Eric MacKenzie / The Question

By Eric MacKenzie, Whistler Question

The wettest Whistler Spirit Run on record will also go down as the best attended, as organizers of the sixth annual event expected to reach a new high total of participants despite Sunday’s (Sept. 29) downpour at Whistler Olympic Park.

Chris Winter and Rachel Cliff both repeated as champions in the men’s and women’s open races on Sunday. Winter won the men’s 8-km race in a time of 26 minutes, 14 seconds, while overall runner-up Kevin O’Connor (27:09) claimed the men’s masters title.

“I’m coming off a long track season and then a couple of weeks of down time, so this is my first real run back,” said Winter, who competed for Canada at the IAAF World Championships this summer. “I felt good for the first four K, then the hills started getting to me and the little bit of altitude — we’re at 3,000 feet here — (did, too). So the last couple Ks were a good grind … but overall it was a lot of fun.”

Ian Searle was the third male finisher overall, coming in ahead of David Palermo and Devin Rajala, who rounded out the top five.

Cliff took top spot in the women’s 6-km open event, stopping the clock in 21:23 to win by 13 seconds over Canadian Olympian Hilary Stellingwerff.

“The whole second lap I was pushing and I kept trying to put a gap on (her),” said Cliff. “It was nice to have her here — we trained together in Guelph, so it’s nice to see her again.”

Alecia Kallos (23:37) grabbed the final women’s podium spot overall, crossing the line ahead of Jen Moroz and Rachel McCormick. Lynn Kanuka, best known for winning a bronze medal for Canada in 3,000m at the 1984 Olympics, won the masters race.

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