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Running: Voyageurs Ultramarathon has strong field

Nearing the 29-mile point of the 2015 Minnesota Voyageur 50 Mile Trail Ultramarathon, Nick Nygaard (416) and Erik Elmstrand (421) meet a racer heading for the race’s halfway point. (2015 file / News Tribune)

A strong men's field highlights the annual Voyageur 50-mile Trail Ultramarathon on Saturday.

Neal Collick of Negaunee, Mich., returns to defend his title, while former winners Michael Borst and Jake Hegge, buddies from La Crosse, Wis., are also in the field. Former Minnesota Duluth standout Ben Cogger of Duluth, who won the Superior Spring 50K in May in record fashion, is also a contender after taking third last year while debuting at 50 miles.

First-year race director Samantha Carlson, a five-time finisher herself, first said she expected Scott Jurek's 1998 course record 6:41:16 to be broken before tempering her enthusiasm.

"With those four, gorgeous weather and a trail that's in good shape, we're holding our breath," Carlson said. "It's going to be fun."

Ashley Nordell isn't back to defend her women's title after setting a course record 7:56:36 in 2017, but former champions Leslie Semler of Hermantown and April Anselmo of Hudson, Wis., are in a women's field that Carlson said is wide open.

Overall, a record 469 registered for the Voyageur, which goes from Carlton High School to Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth and back. Meanwhile, its support race, the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon, run two weeks ago, reached its 500 cap.

"Trail running in general has just exploded, and with that, so too have the ultra races," Carlson said. "You're starting to see lotteries everywhere, stuff is filling up. We actually set a race cap for both our races this year, we just didn't quite get there for the full. We want to protect the trails and keep the experience fun for the runners, so it doesn't get all bottled up, too."