Mystery surrounds women’s field at Race to Robie Creek

Lauri Thompson doesn’t bother trying to figure out who it’s going to be this year. She just runs her race.

Three years ago, it was then-six-time champion Cori Mooney. Two years ago, it was former Olympic cross country skier Morgan Arritola. Last year, it was Georgia vacationer Alisa Meier.

Those are the past three women’s winners of the Race to Robie Creek. Thompson finished second each time.

“I think I’ve been second for about 10 years,” said Thompson, a 39-year-old attorney who also won the race once. “... What place you come in kind of depends on who shows up. I want to run fast and run hard and get to the finish.”

She might have been the favorite to get there first this Saturday if not for the rumor circulating that some College of Idaho runners wanted to enter.

That’s not exactly true — but former Coyote Sora Klopfenstein, a two-time NAIA national champion, and accomplished road racer Andrija Barker, the wife of College of Idaho’s coach, did acquire race entries on the transfer market.

Both will be making their Robie debuts.

“They’re both high-level athletes,” said Pat McCurry, the C of I coach for men’s and women’s track and field and cross country, Barker’s husband and a former Robie champ. “... I expect them to be strong on the climb, but it will be a matter of how they deal with the duration of the race and the brutal downhill at the end.”

Klopfenstein, 22, is in her first year of post-collegiate running and still trains with McCurry. She’s completing her education by student teaching and then wants to see how far she can go as a runner. She won her NAIA titles in the steeplechase and an indoor distance medley relay.

She was “intrigued” by Robie’s claim as the most difficult race in the Northwest.

“I love competition and I like testing your limits, but I also enjoy the process of it,” she said.

She has known Barker for years.

“I’ll see how long I can stick with her,” she said. “She’s definitely a stronger climber, but I don’t think I’m too far behind.”

Barker, 34, didn’t finalize her decision to run until Wednesday. Her body has been “misbehaving,” she said, but has improved recently. She has run races as long as 25k (15 miles).

Robie is a half-marathon, 13.1 miles, with a 2,072-foot climb and 1,732-foot descent.

“I just love running in the wild,” Barker said. “That’s the best way to put it. Even if it’s as ‘wild’ as the Boise trails.”

Her take on Klopfenstein is nearly the same as the younger runner’s comments on her.

“That’s my goal, just to run with Sora,” Barker said. “... If I get a chance to hang with Sora for a little while and we can help each other keep going and stay positive, that would be ideal. She’s a heck of a climber.”

The two likely will encounter Thompson, too. She began running in law school at Idaho because she needed an efficient way to get exercise.

Thompson has run more this year, she said. She had spent the past couple years doing triathlons but decided running was her strength and what she liked most.

While the men’s favorite is clear — two-time defending champion Markus Geiger is back — the women’s race holds some mystery.

“The guys race ... you know who they are,” said Thompson, who is on the race organizing committee. “The gals, it’s just a different thing. It’s really hard to predict.”