Lauren Cuddihy is a member of the UAA track and field team.
After 33 years of directing the popular summer trail race, the University of Alaska Anchorage announced that it will no longer host the Crow Pass Crossing. Instead, the responsibility was handed over to the Healthy Futures organization.
The 24-mile race that takes runners from Girdwood to Eagle River has drawn a vast amount of attraction every summer.
“We have been blessed to oversee this event for so many years, and we are very supportive of Healthy Futures continuing the success of the Crow Pass Crossing,” Michael Friess, former race director and UAA track and cross-country head coach, said.
Healthy Futures is a non-profit organization that promotes healthy lifestyles and awareness to Alaskan youth. With two core elements in focus, including an activity log and event support, their main goal is to “empower Alaska’s youth to build the habit of daily physical activity.”
“Directing the Crow Pass Crossing will help Healthy Futures raise valuable funds to further its mission,” Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures and the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, said. “I feel personally honored to be in a position to help carry the torch with Crow Pass.”
Originally started in 2003 by Bonny Sosa Young and her husband Sam Young, the organization has reached over 20,000 Alaskan youth from over 200 elementary schools.
After a summer without the event, Healthy Futures took over to help get the race back on track.
Two bear maulings in June 2017 and a string of nearly half a dozen other incidents led to the cancellation of the Crow Pass Crossing, Friess ultimately making the final call.
“The safety of runners and preserving the awesome beauty of the Crow Pass trail will continue to be our priorities in organizing this event,” Friess said. “This one-year pause will help ensure we can add the resources necessary to respond swiftly to incidents on the trail.”
Friess and Healthy Futures’ officials are excited to begin the new chapter for the Crow Pass Crossing.
“[We are] thrilled to assume leadership of the Crow Pass Crossing and thanks to the UAA and race director Michael Friess for all they’ve done to build Crow Pass into an iconic Alaskan running event,” Matias Saari, Healthy Futures event support coordinator, said.
Robinson, who became involved with the program in 2006, is now the Executive Director of the organization after 15 years of work with at-risk youth. In addition to his work with youth, Robinson’s interest in Crow Pass Crossing was sparked by his involvement on several boards and commissions, including the Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation commission.
“[The Crow Pass Crossing] is an event I’m passionate about personally, and we as an organization want to continue the culture that surrounds the race,” Robinson said.
Robinson isn’t the only one from Healthy Futures that is excited and interested in the race.
Saari is a dedicated runner, has ample history in trail races, which pushed his interest into directing the Crow Pass Crossing. After working at the Winter Olympics, the World Cup soccer championships and U.S. Cross-Country Ski Championships, Saari has more than enough experience to prepare him for the responsibility of the event.
According to Friess, there are three things of utmost importance regarding safety when taking the race into consideration, including medical aid, increased communication and race-day trail surveillance.
Event participants are at risk of facing many different types of hazards on their 24-mile journey from Girdwood to Eagle River, some even being potentially life-risking. During the entire duration of the race, there aren’t any aid stations or trail markers. In addition, participants are required to sign a waiver before the race for the risk of encountering bears, bees, cow parsnip or a river crossing.
The Crow Pass Crossing is one of the most prominent trail races held in Alaska that brings in excitement from, not only the participants but the new host organization as well.
“I believe there’s a lot of spirit around this race, if an official organization hadn’t picked up the torch, there’d be a group of people who would still do it. We’re happy to keep it official,” Robinson said.
The race will return with increased safety starting in July 2018. For more information about Healthy Futures or the Crow Pass Crossing, visit www.healthyfuturesak.com.