For most Sound to Narrows runners, the end-of-the-race, mile-long uphill climb along North Vassault Street is the definitive segment of the 12-kilometer race.
Races have been won and lost on the long, ascending straightaway.
For Seth Bridges, the short, steep dip preceding the mile-long climb will be the Anderson Island native’s defining moment of the 40th Sound to Narrows.
That’s where Bridges took the lead for good Saturday and held on to win, crossing the finish line at Vassault Playfield in 39 minutes, 29 seconds. Chris Schroll of Puyallup was second in 39:56 and defending champion Rick Bogatay from Puyallup was third in 40:06.
Bridges made his move to the front when the lead pack was exiting the section of the course at Point Defiance Park, about a mile and a half from the finish.
“I used the downhill, the big half-pipe, took off and lengthened my stride,” he said. “I didn’t hear them after that.”
Even with the lead, Bridges, an NAIA cross-country All-American last fall at Northwest University in Kirkland, knew he still had to tackle the hill.
“I was a little scared of the hill,” he said. “I haven’t run this hill in a long time. The first part I kept my head down, the second part I was hurting a lot. But I was in the lead and that’s where I wanted to be.”
Schroll said Bridges didn’t have much reason to worry. Once Bridges ran away from Schroll and Bogatay – both are Emerald Ridge High graduates – during the short downhill, neither was able to catch him during the long climb of the final mile.
“I’m pretty good going uphill and thought I’d have a chance to catch him,” Schroll said. “But he got out in front pretty good. He was gone.”
Schroll improved upon his fifth-place finish from last year, but won’t get a chance to compete again at the Sound to Narrows for a few years because it will interfere with track season at Eastern Washington University. Schroll competes in the distance evens and steeplechase.
Bridges was running the race for the first time in a few years – he placed third in 2008 – and solicited advice from his former track coach at Lakes High, Curt Corvin. Bridges could not have found a better source of information – Corvin is a four-time Sound to Narrows champion.
“My plan was to keep the leaders in sight for the first half of the race,” he said. “My old coach gave me a pointer. Until you see the Narrows Bridge through the trees, you should not be racing.
“I stuck to that, but I was in the lead earlier than I planned. At that point, I had to commit to it.”email@example.com