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Fairbanks Teen Wins Unalaska's Ballyhoo Mountain Run

Hope McKenney/KUCB

The top prize at this summer's Ballyhoo Mountain Run went to a visiting teenager. 

Alex Olson of Fairbanks raced up and down the 1,600-foot summit last month in 26 minutes and 33 seconds. He beat out 31 competitors. 

"I feel pretty good," said Olson. "It's fun to come out here and do these community runs."

The 18-year-old was in Unalaska to visit and work for family members who live on the island.

"This is my first time in Dutch Harbor," he said. "I just came down for the summer."

It was also Olson's first mountain race, though he competed in cross country and track and field in high school. 

Credit Hope McKenney/KUCB
Desiree Petkoff of Unalaska (left) won the women's category at the 2019 Ballyhoo Mountain Run.

In the women's category, Desiree Petkoff of Unalaska was a first-time racer as well. She won the women's title  after completing the course in 35 minutes and 10 seconds. 

"I just wanted to do a mountain run," said Petkoff. "I've never done one before, so it seemed like it would be a really fun thing to do. I've been meaning to do Ballyhoo the last few summers and haven't had the chance, so here I am."

Petkoff said the hardest part was navigating the mountain's rocky terrain and the holes made by ground squirrels. She had a few missteps during the race, sliding downhill and jamming her ankle.

Credit Department of Parks, Culture, and Recreation
Click the above image for the full 2019 Ballyhoo Mountain Run results.

"But luckily, years of skateboarding and surfing and just doing different active sports has prepared me for that," she said. "So I was able to stay on my feet and — just like you're skiing — kind of lean on my heels and ride it down and luckily not fall."

Beyond her successful run, Petkoff said she appreciated the race began with a moment of silence to remember the late Karly McDonald and Kiara Renteria Haist. The two local high school students died in a car crash on the mountain in May.

"That is one thing I love about Unalaska. I've met some of the most wonderful people since I've been up here, and that's why I stay," said Petkoff. "Even with tragedy, we got to still come out and enjoy something we love to do."

While Petkoff and Olson earned medals for their strong races, the record time of 24 minutes still stands. It was set by Ben Bolock in 2010.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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