David Morgan hands off to Bob Julian Jr. in an exchange zone between legs 30 and 31 of the Hood to Coast relay Saturday morning.

Ashland squad takes third at Hood to Coast

SEASIDE — The adidas Ashland High alumni team had a goal of eclipsing the 18-hour mark at the 26th annual Hood to Coast relay.

The 12-man team did that and then some.

The Ashland squad finished with a time of 17 hours, 50 minutes and 49 seconds to take third place in the men's elite division and fourth place overall at the Hood to Coast, the largest running relay race in the world.

The 197-mile Hood to Coast event, which started Friday at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, featured more than 1,000 teams from around the world.

Ashland trailed only Portland Alumni, which had an elite division-winning time of 17:14.05, and a team from Seattle.

Ashland went back and forth with the Max King-led Team XO All-Stars throughout the event.

King, a four-time Pear Blossom champion from Central Point, helped push the Gladstone-based team ahead late. But John Leuthold put Ashland in front for good in the 35th of 36 legs, then handed the final leg off to Jeff Olsen who completed the narrow finish ahead of Team XO.

"Man, they had their hands on the fire the whole time," said Leuthold of Team XO, "and I got the one that burnt."

Team XO ended up fourth in the elite division with a 17:56.07.

Ashland's ride to third place wasn't without some near missteps.

One in particular, where the vehicle carrying the next Ashland runner to compete made a wrong turn and had to backtrack to find the current competitor for the handoff. When the current runner, Bob Julian Jr., was found, the next to compete, J.J. Moses, jumped out of the car just 100 yards away from Julian Jr. to make the successful transition.

"This race took another year off my life due to all the stress and anxiety," joked team member Pete Julian after the race.

Bob Julian Jr. started the team in honor of his father, Bob Julian. The younger Julian collected an assortment of local runners, most of whom were former Ashland High or Southern Oregon University competitors.

Others on the team were Ashland residents Tim Julian, Darren Goff, Trevor Palmer and David Morgan. Also on the squad was Sean Nesbitt, Eric Griffiths and Eron Osterhaus.

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