TUMBLER RIDGE, B.C. – Victoria resident and mountain runner Kris Swanson was once again the first to cross the finish line at the 20th Annual Emperor’s Challenge in Tumbler Ridge last Saturday.

Swanson, who has competed in the 20-kilometre foot race over the summit of Mt. Babcock every year since its inception, racked up his 19th first place finish with a time of 1:25:01.

The top finisher from the Peace Region was Grande Prairie resident Brandon Wladyko, who finished third overall with a time of 1:36:18, while Tumbler Ridge resident Daniel Helm finished fourth in the men’s 20-kilometre race, in 1:41:47.

In a star-studded field in the Women’s event, Canadian cross-country running team member Lindsay Carson became the first to break the 1:40 barrier, finishing with a time of 1:39:42, followed by Jocelyn Poirier-Hardy.

Fort St. John resident Julianne Kucheran, who was the top female contestant last year, finished 6th among ladies with a time of 2:01:49.

Cecil Lake resident Wendy Giesbrecht, who finished 30 seconds behind Kucheran in 2017, managed to finish 4th among women with a time of 1:58:00.

“My admiration for the race organizers to so consistently run this event with such preparation and competence runs deep,” said Swanson after his win. “The positive energy that radiates in the Tumbler Ridge community during the time of the Emperor’s Challenge is infectious. Every year my experience here leaves me with a refreshed spirit.”

The 2018 event was held in ideal sunny conditions, preceded by three days of thick smoke and followed by a day of drizzle.

This year featured 857 finishers, the most ever in the history of the event. Over 60 percent of the participants were female.

Fifty-four athletes received their in-perpetuity bibs for having completed five Challenges, nine received framed prints for having completed ten Challenges, and four (Swanson, Birgit Sharman, Charles Helm and Carina Helm) received special awards for having completed all twenty events.

Though the Emperor’s Challenge organizers increased the number of spots in this year’s race to 1100, those spots filled up in less than ten hours when registration opened in April.