On a beautiful, sunny Colorado winter morning a strong field of all ages, including veterans and youngsters, gathered at the starting line of the Winter Series II race sponsored by the Pikes Peak Road Runners. They tested their speed and endurance on a rugged, hilly course at the Norris-Penrose Event Center and Bear Creek Park.

Jared Hazen, 18, of Colorado Springs proved to be the strongest runner, conquering the hills of the eight-mile course in 45 minutes, 21 seconds. Hazen said he was running neck-and-neck with another runner most of the way, but finally broke away at about the six-mile point. In Hazen's opinion, the tough hills were the most difficult part of the course.

Capturing second was Seth Kolosso, 19, of Pueblo, who was only 33 seconds behind the winning time, with a finish of 45:54. In third place for the men was Corey Brown, 20, of Colorado Springs, with a time of 46:54.

Coming in first for the women was Stephanie Wurtz, 31, of Manitou Springs, with a time of 53:28. Wurtz said she was running in close second for the first half of the race and was able to take the lead at about the turnaround point. She also said that the course was a tough one, with the hills at the end being her greatest challenge.

Taking second was Shannon Meredith, 43, of Colorado Springs, with a time of 54:06 and following in third was Amanda Ewing, 32, of Colorado Springs, with a 55:34.

Overall, the race was a resounding success with many participants commenting that the course was a blast and the scenery fantastic.

Race director Mike Shafai was delighted with the turnout, and noted that anytime you are throwing a party for more than 700 people with 60 volunteers, you are guaranteed to have fun.

Andy Boyle and Hazen are tied with one win each in the men's division. Wurtz is the clear leader for the women going into the Winter Series III 10-miler Feb. 8 in Monument.