Brian Gregg (bib No. 444), who competed at the Winter Olympics in Sochi this year, leads the pack at the start of the annual Sunflower Marathon & Relay at the Mazama Corral Trailhead last weekend. Gregg was racing with team “Chads and their better halves.” At Gregg’s elbow is Erik Brooks, wearing bib No. 586, who finished second overall in the individual trail marathon division. Photo by Mike Maltais

Brian Gregg (bib No. 444), who competed at the Winter Olympics in Sochi this year, leads the pack at the start of the annual Sunflower Marathon & Relay at the Mazama Corral Trailhead last weekend. Gregg was racing with team “Chads and their better halves.” At Gregg’s elbow is Erik Brooks, wearing bib No. 586, who finished second overall in the individual trail marathon division. Photo by Mike Maltais

By Mike Maltais

An author, an Olympian and a Liberty Bell alumnus were local finishers among the top 10 who crossed the line at the terminus of the 34th annual Sunflower Marathon and Relay last Saturday (May 10).

But the real story was a relay team of elementary school kids who nearly won the whole thing.

Children’s book author and illustrator Erik Brooks of Winthrop placed second in the individual division with a time of 3 hours, 36 minutes, 37 seconds, a mere three minutes behind winner Mike Stevens of Kirkland.

Olympian Laura McCabe of Mazama was the first female and fifth overall individual finisher with a time of 3:43:18.

Rounding out the local top 10 was Liberty Bell graduate Danielle Bradshaw, whose time of 4:00:06 made her the second female marathoner to complete the 26.2-mile run.

Five relay teams, three from Twisp or Winthrop, were among the top overall finishers including a surprising group of Methow Valley Elementary students who stole the show with their near first-place finish

Team MRD, comprised of fifth- and sixth-grade junior Nordic team members Walker Hall, Novie McCabe, Peter Aspholm, Emerson Worrell and Liv Aspholm, came in second overall, just two minutes behind the Spirit Animals from Seattle.

Liv Aspholm ran the final leg for Team MRD, finishing second with a time of 3:24:35. Photo by Mike Maltais

Liv Aspholm ran the final leg for Team MRD, finishing second with a time of 3:24:35. Photo by Mike Maltais

“At the final exchange point along the trail MRD was in the lead,” said Danica Ready, program manager for the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association, host of the event. “And we thought then they might win it all.”

But somewhere along the final leg, MRD was passed by college marathoner Matt Auer of the Seattle team Spirit Animals. MRD anchor Liv Aspholm crossed the finished line in Twisp in 3:24:35, two minutes behind Auer.

Uli’s Diaper Changers and its four Bards — Heidi, Eric, Jasper and Owen — came in third overall in 3:30:33.

Team Laura’s Last Legs with Laura McCabe, Leslie Hall, Allison Delong and Alex Hall finished fifth overall in 3:33:51. McCabe ran the opening leg for Last Legs and continued to complete the course as an individual marathoner and first female finisher.

The Sunflower drew a record turnout this year with 130 teams and 110 marathoners, which brought total participation to over 650 pairs of feet including some webbed ones on a team called Westside Webfoot Runners.