Samantha Diaz of Jackson has been a presence at the Rendezvous Hillclimb for several years. On August 3rd, Sam broke her own women’s record by less than 30 seconds after being challenged for the title. One hour and 18 minutes and 24 seconds is her new mark. What possessed her? Perhaps it was Teton Valley’s Mindy Kaufman.
The two athletes, the more experienced veteran of mountain runs and the young upstart, traded leads to within a half mile of the top before Diaz pulled ahead for the last time. Kaufman finished precisely one minute behind the leader.
The race is one of the hardest 6.1 miles in the Rocky Mountain West. It was first run in 1988 and its current rendition, sponsored by Jackson Hole Resort, ascends from the base of the tram to the top of Rendezvous Mt. a lung-burning elevation gain of over 4100’ by following the well-named Wildflower Trail before joining the Cirque Trail at the top of Bridger Gondola.
At this point athletes have ascended 2700 feet but are facing the most rocky and steepest part. The top 1500 feet taxes the aerobic system and strains the muscles.
Racers and others who get to the top of Rendezvous Mountain on their own power are rewarded with amazing vistas and the privilege to run the tram down the mountain in 12 minutes for no charge. Kaufman was fresh enough to run back down the mountain again. She is preparing for her first marathon in December.
The Hillclimb is dedicated, since 2015, to the memory of Chris (Captain X) Onufer who was an accomplished ski mountaineer and tram mechanic who lost his life in an avalanche. The race is a nonprofit venture that raises money for a few local charitable groups.
Mindy continues to train and assist Caleb Moosman in a redesign of Teton High School’s cross country team. After two and a half decades under Coach Gleichman’s guidance the baton has been passed. As Samantha Diaz surely knows, it’s best not to look over your shoulder.
Fans are right to expect and excited new vibe in this new phase of Teton XC under new leadership. The Teton harriers can be followed at their team website https://www.athletic.net/CrossCountry/School.aspx?SchoolID=2078