SEWARD - Toby Schwoerer did not disappoint in his much-anticipated Mount Marathon debut.
The 29-year-old Anchorage resident came within 16 seconds of breaking the race record Sunday when he climbed the 3,022-foot summit and returned to the finish line in 43 minutes, 39 seconds.
"Animal," four-time winner and defending champion Todd Boonstra of Galena said of Schwoerer with a grin. "No respect for the old guys."
Eight-time champion Bill Spencer set the record in 1981 at 43:23.
Spencer stood near the halfway point on the mountain and gave the native of Germany a playful smack on the rear as he hiked past.
"He said, 'You'll get it today,"' Schwoerer said. "But this was apparently not the day for it."
Cedar Petrosius won the women's race in 55:09. She became the first Seward runner since Patti Foldager in 1993 to win Mount Marathon.
Petrosius bolted into the lead as soon as she disappeared into the trees low on the mountain. No other racers were near her when she reached the top, turned around and began her descent. She scurried down the rocks and shale so deftly she said she felt as though she were floating.
Petrosius said she was running for herself, for her family and for the entire city of Seward, which hadn't seen one of its own win this race in 11 years.
"I was just hoping I wasn't gonna fizzle," Petrosius said. "My biggest fear was to have it and to taste it, and to fizzle."
The Independence Day mountain race began in 1915 and began as a bar bet between two men about whether it was possible to race up and down Mount Marathon in less than an hour.
The men's runner-up Brian Bethard, 33, of Anchorage, posted a 45:47 that slashed 2:15 off his previous best in the race. The sole Southeast runner in any of the events - Maxwell Mercer of Ketchikan - finished 104th out of 280 in the men's race in 1:15:19.
The women's runner-up was Shannon Donley, 33, of Anchorage, who finished in 58:05.
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