Every year, the Sentinel Hill Climb brings out some of the fastest runners in western Montana to test their mettle against Missoula’s famous mountain. To reduce congestion on the M Trail (and make for an exciting race), an “elite heat” starts first up the steep route. To qualify for the elite heat, participants self-seed with expected times of sub-30 minutes for women and sub-24 minutes for men. It’s always fun to follow along with the front of the race at the Hill Climb. Don’t forget, the first male and female to the M can grab $50 in cash as they run by. But there’s $100 waiting at the top of the mountain! Below we highlight some of the speedsters who are registered in the elite heat (athletes are listed in no particular order).

Regardless of how fast you’ll be doing the Hill Climb, there’s still time to sign up! The Hill Climb starts at 6pm this Thursday at the base of the M Trail.


Heather Brooks – Heather runs for La Sportiva and is known for her tremendous 100 mile mountain racing. She’s at home on big climbs and tough courses. But the question is, how will she fare on an event 1/50th the length of her preferred 100-mile length? Last year she did quite well, climbing to 4th place. Let’s see what Heather can do this year!

Heather Brooks climbing her way to a 4th place finish in 2021. Photo: Seth Orme

Katy Robin-Garton – Katy put in a big winter of nordic skiing and skimo racing. She is primed to go uphill – FAST! Katy won every Rando Radness skimo race this winter and notched a number of podium finishes around the state. It will be fun to see how those winter ski legs translate into uphill running!

Heather Fraley – Heather has always called Montana home, continuing after high school to run for the University of Montana. She graduated back in 2016, after specializing in the 1500m and 5k. We don’t know much of what she’s been up to since then, but if it included some hills she could be a force to be reckoned with!

Michelle Hiland – Michelle is often found tearing up our local race scene. Last year at the Hill Climb, she nabbed the final spot on the podium with a third place finish. Will she be able to find herself atop the podium again?!

Julia Crocker – Last year Julia climbed her way to 8th place at the Hill Climb with a time of 28:43. We’re excited for her to return and try to move up in the field!

Michelle Hiland cruising to her 3rd place finish in 2021. Photo: Seth Orme

Jennifer Lichter – Jenn runs for The North Face and is coming down from Whitefish fresh off a win at the Lake Sonoma Trail Marathon a few weeks ago. She is making a brisk rise in the trail world, having won The Rut 50k in September. Not to mention, she ran her road marathon debut in 2:39 back in December. Watch out for Jenn, she is sure to be leading the charge!

Guerin Platte – We don’t know a ton about Guerin Platte, but it looks like she placed 6th in the Renezvous Mountain Hill Climb back in 2014. Can’t wait to see what that turns into 8 years later!

Erin Clark – Erin has a long running resume including earning All-American honors at the University of Colorado, running track professionally for Hoka, and now switching to running trails Hoka. Not to mention, she is the returning champ! Erin is coming off a knee injury from training this winter. It will be exciting to see how she’s feeling and what she can do this Thursday!

Jenni Brown – We don’t know much about Jenni (if you have any info let us know). A wildcard!


Paden Alexander – Anytime Paden’s name shows up on a starting list, you can expect to see him at the front of the pack. Just a few weeks ago he led the Bitterroot Runoff 10 mile from the gun and won the race. Paden has won the Hill Climb in 2018, can he do it again?

Kris Brown – Kris comes back to the Hill Climb after placing 3rd at the event last year. An ultrarunner for Hoka, he’s less than a week out from running the Canyons by UTMB 100k. And just a few weeks ago, he won the Nine Trails 35 Mile. Will his legs be recovered enough for a hard effort up Sentinel? Last year, he got engaged after the Hill Climb. What will he do this year?!

Kris Brown fending off the competition during the 2021 event en route to a 3rd place finish. Photo: Seth Orme

Nick Cornell – Nick is one of several men from Whitefish coming down to test their mettle on Sentinel. He’s had a big spring of biking and running following a 2:36 marathon debut back in December. It’s anyone’s guess what he’ll be able to do at his first race of 2022!

Tyler Courville – Tyler is always a contender whenever he runs a Missoula race. Originally hailing from St. Ignatius, his childhood was spent doing laps on the infamous climb up East Saint Mary’s Peak. Tyler has spent the winter on nordic and skimo skis, so the uphill legs are there. The question is, can he turn that uphill volume into a fast Sentinel ascent?

Howard Grotts – Olympic mountain biker and pro for Specialized, Howard Grotts returns as the clear favorite this year. He has the third fastest time up the mountain, behind only Adam Peterman and Jim Walmsley. While he spends most of his time on the bike, Howard’s climbing ability is downright scary. Look for him to lead from the gun!

Hill Climb3

Howard Grotts focusing on a steep section during his 2nd place finish in 2021. Photo: Seth Orme

Brandon Harvey – We don’t know much about Brandon, but it looks like he ran cross country, track and field at Ole Miss. Could Brandon be our dark horse to take the win?

Craig Hertz – Craig spent the winter nordic skiing and uphill skiing in Whitefish. He is coming off strong skimo results and a big podium finish at the OSCR 50k nordic race. Another skier to keep your eyes on Thursday evening!

Chris Hurd – Chris is a University of Montana student putting in the work! He recently ran up the Hill Climb route in a time that could put him on the podium. He’s also coming off a recent win at RWM’s Run for the Trees. It will be exciting to see what this young gun can do!

Cody Moore – Cody brings a strong road-running resume to the Hill Climb. Back in December he ran a stout 2:29:52 marathon at the CIM marathon in California. Coming from Whitefish, we know he hops on the trails a bit and that should make for a strong showing at the Hill Climb!

Luke Davis – We don’t know much about Luke (if you have any info let us know). A wildcard!