As businesses wrapped up their work days, the people of Missoula migrated to the M Trail for the annual Sentinel Hill Climb. The race is unique, featuring a 6pm start on a Thursday evening. Not to mention, the race covers 1900’ of climbing in less than two miles up the distinctive M Trail and on to the rough and steep northwest ridge of Mt. Sentinel. Every year, the race attracts both casual runners and hikers as well as a field of elite runners. This year was no different! 

One hundred and sixteen people trekked up the ridge for the 2022 Hill Climb. Huge congratulations to everyone that got out and challenged themselves on the mountain! Shout out to our youngest participants, John Blackhurst (age 7), Sawyer Pierce (age 8), and Beatrice Swanson (age 9). With just a few more Hill Climb finishes under his belt, Alden Wright was the oldest finisher at age 80. It’s so fun seeing people of all ages out on the mountain!

Check out our highlight video of the race below!


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Elite Races

Women’s Race

When the gun goes off, Momentum Athletic Training is up at the M holding out a $50 bill. First one there gets the money! Michelle Hiland went out hot hoping to grab the premium. But returning champ Erin Clark (Hoka) had the same idea. She passed Michelle and was able to nab the premium. Sometimes this is a curse though, as it lures runners out far too fast.

As Erin climbed the ridge, she realized Leah Handleman was gaining ground. Leah pursued Erin all the way up the ridge, where Erin just managed to edge out Leah at the top. Erin crossed the line with a time of 25:02. This was Erin’s fastest time ever, and she needed it to stay ahead of Leah who was just 10 seconds behind in 25:12. Erin’s time is tied for the fourth fastest women’s time ever. Leah’s is the sixth fastest time ever (interestingly, Leah’s husband Mark also has the sixth fastest men’s time).

Rounding out the top three, Michelle Hiland kept battling to finish in 28:02 and find herself on the podium for the second year in a row. 

Men’s Race

With last year’s champion Adam Peterman (Hoka) not running, we weren’t quite sure what would happen at this year’s race. Kris Brown (Hoka) took off from the start with a stated goal of getting the M Trail premium. He was close, but on the final switchback Howard Grotts (Specialized) surged past him and began building a commanding lead.

Kris faded back in the field and Chris Hurd took his place in second, followed by Tyler Courville in third. Howard raced alone, soaring up the ridge to shatter his personal best on the route and set a new course record. He ran 18:27, nearly a minute faster than his time from last year and three seconds under the former course record. Howard is a professional mountain biker in grad school at the University of Montana. He doesn’t spend all that much time running, but looks like biking translates well! Quads are quads, and they sure work on a steep climb like Sentinel!

Chris Hurd followed a few minutes back in 21:02, with Tyler Courville rounding out the podium in 22:47.

Runners ascend a rugged part of the Sentinel Ridge. Photo: Seth Orme

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