Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Johnson looks to top Tevis' travails

Tom Johnson rode Al-Marah Sands of Time to a first place finish and the Best Condition award at the Washoe 50-mile Endurance Ride in Nevada. The Loomis resident ran to three Western States Endurance Run victories in the 1990's and is shooting for his first Tevis Cup win in his seventh attempt on Saturday. Courtesy photo

After dominating the trail on foot, Johnson hopes for a Tevis breakthrough

By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tom Johnson is one of the more accomplished athletes in history when it comes to negotiating the Western States Trail on two feet. Atop a horse, it's Johnson's wife Marcia Smith that owns the bragging rights in their Loomis home.

Johnson will make his latest attempt at becoming the first person to win both the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup on Saturday.

"When you're running, it's really pure," said Johnson, who won the Western States 100 in 1990, '91 and '93. "If you didn't do the training, there's no one you can blame but yourself. In Tevis, you're responsible for your partner out there for 20 hours or more."

Smith hasn't had many bad days during the 100-mile ride from Robie Park in Truckee to Auburn's Gold Country Fairgrounds. She's finished fifth or better in five of her seven starts, winning the Tevis Cup three times and the Haggin Cup - which goes to the best-conditioned horse in the top 10 - once.

Smith will be heading up her husband's crew this year as the two agreed long ago to alternate the years in which they compete in the ride.

"Marcia's my crew chief, my strategist and moral counsel," said Johnson, who has two Tevis Cup finishes in six tries.

Johnson believes he's got a good shot at competing for the elusive title on Saturday. He'll be riding Al-Marah Sands of Time, an 11-year-old Arabian mare on loan from Al-Marah stables in Tucson, Ariz. Smith rode "Sandy" to a fifth place finish last year and the horse is the offspring of Shellie Hatfield's Tevis-winning mare, AM Xanthium. Hatfield and Smith tied for the Tevis Cup in 1992.

Johnson described Sands of Time's personality as, "A valley girl that's ready to rock and roll."

"She's got a teenager's demeanor," he said. "But she's really tough too."

Auburn Journal

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