Finkbeiner, Wolfe shine at Way Too Cool

Placer junior's top-10 finish highlights 22nd annual trail race while Wolfe takes top prize
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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COOL — You might say running is in Christian Finkbeiner’s blood. The 17-year-old junior from Placer darted to a 10th-place finish at the Way Too Cool 50-kilometer trail race on Saturday. With a time of 3 hours and 51 minutes, Finkbeiner was the first runner from Auburn to sweep across the finish, and was also the youngest of the 700 participants in the race. Further back on the trail Finkbeiner’s dad, Bill, surged forward to complete his 22nd Way Too Cool in 5:10. The young Finkbeiner said his stellar finish came as a surprise even to him. “I was just trying to get a 4:30,” Finkbeiner said. “Being done was the best part of the race.” Placer cross country coach Randall Fee, who is also part owner of Way Too Cool, said Finkbeiner’s finish was well deserved, though he has grown up in a running family. “He has always put in the hard work and effort,” Fee said. “His dad is one of only four or five people who has ran the Way Too Cool every year since it started.” His mom Beth, who was waiting at the finish with their golden retriever, completed the Western States 100 race 22 years ago. She said her son’s passion for trail running is what drives him and may take him to Western States himself one day. Michael Wolfe, 33, an attorney from Helena, Mont. was the first-place finisher with a time of 3:28:01. Wolfe led the field of nearly 700 runners throughout the race. He credits his training in the snow-covered terrain of Montana for giving him an extra edge. “This is the first time (this year) I have run on dry trails,” Wolfe said. “The best part about this race has been being in the sun just basking. I probably haven’t seen the sun since October.” Wolfe took second place at an abbreviated version of the Ultra-Tour du Mont-Blanc in France last year after mud slides caused race organizers to postpone the race. He is headed back to France later this year and, in the meantime, is hoping to return to the foothills in June. “My hope is to do well enough to qualify for Western States,” Wolfe said. Joelle Vaught, 36, of Boise, Idaho defended her title as the top female finisher. Vaught, who came in at 4:02:25, also won Way Too Cool in 2006. “It was exciting. I didn’t expect to win,” Vaught said. “I didn’t pass her until a mile up to the finish on a hill. I’m a pretty good climber.” Vaught, who works at a hospital, said she was more worried about the flat parts of the course. Vaught has also set her sights on Western States this year after taking seventh among women last year. “I’m competing in Western States and I will try to do a little better,” Vaught said. Finkbeiner won’t be eligible to race at Western States until he turns 18. He’ll spend this spring sharpening his skills by racing on the track team at Placer. Fee said that the first year the race began they were excited just to have 150 people sign up. This year, more than 1,000 people from all over the U.S. entered a lottery for one of the 700 spots available. To view complete results visit Reach Sara Seyydin at