TRAVERSE CITY — Matt Kulka and Sebastian Kucera took all of the drama from the first race of the Traverse City Trail Running Festival.
The former teammates at Traverse City West teamed up for a convincing victory in the 10K relay on Friday at Timber Ridge — the first of four scheduled events at this weekend’s Trail Running Festival.
“It feels amazing. It feels good to win,” said Kulka, who ran the first of the two 5K legs and got the winning duo out to a huge lead with a time of 22:00. Kucera took the handoff for the second half of the race and put the hammer down, running a 20:15. Officials times were not available as of press time.
The two 2011 West graduates and former members of the Titans’ cross country team, both of whom attend Northwestern Michigan College, felt confident going into the race.
“We had a notion (we could win it), said Kucera. “We figured there wasn’t going to be too much competition because we didn’t know any of the names. We were optimistic and it turned out how we expected.”
Kulka burst out to the huge lead at the outset of the race and from there the winners were never challenged. Kucera credited his teammate for taking care of business early in the race and providing him with a comfortable margin when it was his turn to run.
“He’s the best partner you could ask for, pretty much,” said Kucera. “I wouldn’t ask for anyone else. I’ve been running with him since freshman year (of high school).”
While conditions were not as harsh as last year, when wintry conditions greeted competitors for the first edition of the Trail Running Festival, the trail at Timber Ridge was far from ideal.
“Slushy, snowy, icy,” Kulka said, describing the course he completed.
“I was cursing the snow a little bit,” said Kucera. “With a mile left I was yelling out loud. It was snowy.”
The Trail Running Festival continues today, starting with the 50K race at 7 a.m. The 25K is scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m. and the 10K will begin around 8 a.m.