Kopsack and Marvin win hometown Mat Peak Challenge

August 2, 2020

Lyon Kopsack rekindled a family tradition and Christy Marvin joined the 6-winner club on Saturday as Palmer runners dominated the 32nd Matanuska Peak Challenge in their hometown on Saturday.

Kopsack, 24, became the first Palmer man to win since his father Lance in 1998. With a time of 2:59:57, Kopsack snuck in as the third runner ever to break 3 hours in the 14-mile event that includes a grueling 10,000 feet of vertical gain (and the same in descent).

Lyon Kopsack

Meanwhile, Christy Marvin won her sixth Mat Peak in the last nine years in 3:32:44. The time was the fourth fastest in history and she now holds the top five times ever, including the record 3:26:32 in 2016.

Marvin, 39, joined Braun Kopsack (Lyon’s uncle) and Harlow Robinson as the winningest Mat Peak racers ever with six titles.

“That’s cool. I didn’t know that until you just told me,” said Marvin, adding that with her house just a mile from the trailhead she’s certain to race Mat Peak again.

The race was the first in the Alaska Mountain Runners’ Grand Prix series to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic. The other seven have all been canceled or held virtually.

Mat Peak participants had the option of starting in a group at 9 a.m. or beginning any time between 8 and 9 a.m. The event starts at the Lazy Mountain Trailhead and ascends both Lazy Mountain and Matanuska Peak before returning the same way.

Christy Marvin

Marvin was working her way up Matanuska Peak when suddenly Meg Inokuma of Palmer came charging down on her return from the summit.

“When she went by I asked ‘You’re racing, right?’ and she said ‘Yeah, 8 a.m. start,” Marvin said.

Having started exactly an hour later, Marvin calculated on the fly that she and Inokuma were just a few minutes apart in elapsed time.

“I better get in gear,” Marvin, who had started somewhat conservatively, told herself.

Inokuma, 40, who recently set the Fastest Known Time for the Chugach 12 Peaks Front Range Linkup, wound up second in 3:37:30, the seventh fastest women’s time in history.

The men’s runner-up was also a Palmer resident. Ben Marvin, Christy’s husband, placed second for the fifth time in 3:04:50.

While Lyon Kopsack has volunteered at Mat Peak in recent years (Lance and Braun Kopsack are the race directors), he had previously only done the race once, finishing fifth in 3:22 as a 15-year-old in 2011.

Kopsack joined Marvin and Eric Strabel in the sub-3-hour club. Marvin ran 2:58 in 2012 while Strabel set the record of 2:55:43 in 2012 and also broke three hours in 2013 and 2016.

More importantly, Lyon restored the winning tradition for the Kopsack family.

“Even Lance, who is not a talker, was so excited,” Christy Marvin said.

Forty-three men and 19 women participated, a slight decline from recent years.

-By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor