Red Bull 400 draws massive competition to Park City | ParkRecord.com

Red Bull 400 draws massive competition to Park City

Winners Megan Foley and Jared Shumate never expected to top out as No. 1

Shannon Rahlves smiles as she powers up the final meters of the K120 nordic ski jump at the Utah Olympic Park during the annual Red Bull 400 Saturday morning, September 30, 2017. Upon finishing, participants were given water, rest and offered a free ride down on the ski lift. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

A little over five minutes into the championship heat of the Red Bull 400 race, Megan Foley was fighting to retain her spot in first place. Olympic Nordic Skier Liz Stephen was close behind her. In the last few meters, Foley pushed herself to create a small gap with her competitors. She hauled herself over finish line, the 400-meter near-vertical race now over, and flopped onto the mats at the top with a finish time of five minutes 24 seconds.

After several minutes rolling in pain, she sat up, collected herself and left the heap of contestants that was piling up on the soft padding behind the finish line.

"I knew it was going to be a really tough race; there's some serious, serious athletes that show up to this," she said.

This year that list included Olympic ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte as well as Stephen.

"It was just push hard from the start and try to hang on," Foley said.

Megan Foley is the winner for the women’s Red Bull 400 race. (Ben Ramsey/Park Record)

The Portland-born professional triathlete ran the race last year, but said she had no idea she would finish this well.

"I never thought that I would win this, not in a million years did I think that would happen," she said. "It was more of just a fun opportunity, and for some crazy reason I decided to do it again."

Stephen finished just behind her in 5:28.2, then Emma Garrard in 5:32.3.

She was one of more than 800 people that climbed the Utah Olympic Park ski jump in heats over the course of Saturday, starting in the spitting rain that morning and continuing through the afternoon. The course, which averages a 37-degree slope and is the highest altitude of the 14 ski jumps that the Red Bull 400 visits, was strung with cargo nets. Contestants could not use the sides of the lower section to climb, forcing them to scale up the jump as if it were rigging on a ship.

A few minutes after Foley topped out, the men's final started. Jared Shumate was the first to reach the top, bursting over the finish line with an extra sprint. He then leaned against the cement wall, sucking air to recover from the effort.

At 18 years old, the Park City resident and U.S. Junior Nordic Team athlete said all there was to do was put one foot in front of the other, which he said exhausted his quadriceps and glutes.

"There's really not too much technique in it, it's just get your legs up as quick as you can," he said. "I think you use those two muscles the most."

On his way up, Shumate said he kept his head down and watched his hands and feet working, only glancing up occasionally to see where he was on the jump. He had sprinted away from the pack with four other people on the lower section of the course.

Jared Shumate is the winner for the men’s Red Bull 400 race. (Ben Ramsey/Park Record)

But the real test was the last, brutally steep 100 meters, where in winter skiers would gain their speed before their jump.

He said he only knew he was leading the race when he heard the crowd leaning over the course shouting to him, "Come on Jared. Come on."

"Until then, I didn't even know," he said. Just behind him, Justin Robbins finished in 4:36.7, then Gustavo Isaac Mendoza Cruz in 4:39.4.

Because of his affiliation with the Nordic Club, Shumate's entrance fee was waived, which he said made his choice to race easier, but he wasn't sure how his coaches felt about him running the grueling race during training season.

When asked what his coaches thought about the race, Shumate said, "Eh, they are happier now I bet."

"If I had just wasted all my energy for nothing, they would be a little less stoked, but it worked out," he said.

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Foley, the women's winner, is also in training season. She said she is looking forward to more triathlons later this year, and the Red Bull 400 was a fun detour.

"That's what events like this are for, right?" she said. "Just to kind of test your limits. And I think I succeeded in doing that today."