Morse, Erb win men's, women's Bear races
by Staff Reports
GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN — Even the top finishers of the 18th annual The Bear at Grandfather Mountain five-mile road race did not exactly know they had reached the finish line.
Still, the heavy fog that blanketed the road course did not prevent Asheville's Matt Morse from winning the even, which is tied with the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games on Thursday. Morse, 24, won the race with a time of 32 minutes, 17 seconds. Morse ran the event, which starts at Linnville and ends at the base of Grandfather Mountain, for the first time.
The course includes an elevation gain of 1,568. A total of 825 runners participated in the race.
Morse's time did not break the record of 30:34.35 set by Ian Conner of Columbus, Ohio in 2005. It was 19 seconds faster than Brevard native Alex Goden, who was second.
A North Carolina State student, Goden was second with a time of 32:46. It was his fifth time that Goden ran the race.
Both Morse and Goden said that the weather, which softened the track and was difficult to deal with, played a role in the race. One runner who was not bothered by the conditions was third-place winner Andrew Vandenberg.
A recent Watauga High graduate, and member of the school's cross-country and track and field programs, Vandenberg finished with a time of 32:57.
Vandenberg said he was not bothered by the rain or the 57-degree temperature at the finish line. He finished third in the Northwestern Conference cross-country finals after a heavy rain soaked the Lenoir course.
"I thought the weather was great," Vandenberg said. "I look for extreme weather like intense heat and pouring rain and use it as jumpstart to improve."
It was Vandenberg's sixth time running the race.
Blowing Rock resident Ester Erb defended her 2011 women's victory with a win Thursday. Erb, who finished 19th overall, crossed the finish line with a time of 37:23.6 seconds.
It was faster than her time of 37:45.2 seconds in 2011.
Lisa Burnett, 29, or Chagrin Falls, Ohio, was second with a personal best time of 38:59.6. She has run the event five times.
Two-time winner Zika Rae was third with a time of 40:16.5. Rae runs for ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock.
The women's record is still 35:55 set by Beth Fonner in 2002.