At today’s World Mountain Running Championships in Kamnik, Slovenia, the U.S. Men tallied 71 points to take the silver medal with their best team finish to date.
The U.S. has sent a men’s team to the mountain running championships (until 2009 known as the World Mountain Running Trophy) since 1990. In the past three uphill years (the course alternates between uphill terrain in even-numbered years and up/down terrain in odd-numbered years), the team has scored 102 points in 2004 to place eighth, 113 points in 2006 to place fifth, 76 points in 2008 to take the bronze medal.
“The bronze medal was so exciting because it was our first medal,” said five-time team member Rickey Gates (2006-2010) who finished in 52nd position with a time of 1:04:03, “The silver is exciting and shows that we’re stepping it up. Americans are seeing that mountain running is a ‘real’ sport and internationally, people will consider USA a threat from her on out and this is really exciting for our program.”
The men’s race was held over a 12 kilometer course with more than 4,200 feet of vertical gain. The route started in a wide, grassy meadow and quickly merged into a paved and level roadway for the next kilometer. The terrain changed to a gravel road and started to climb. For the next 10.5 kilometers, the course varied from steep, rocky terrain through both forest and wide open spaces. There was one descent of 300′ on this mostly uphill course.
Max King who finished in 16th timed in 1:00:50 as the second Team USA scoring team member behind Joe Gray who was 10th timed in 59:27, said, “This (course) makes road running look like a walk in the park. Today I tried to just maintain on the steep parts. I had a 10 meter lead on the field in the first kilometer, then I started to get caught which I knew would happen. I figured I’d go out fast on the road section because I wanted to have some space once the terrain got steeper.
“It was a pretty good race for me. I feel like my hill running was a lot stronger than three months ago. When we turned the last corner (about 50 meters from the finish) I thought, ‘I got him’ (referring to the Italian runner and former World Champion Marco DeGasperi).” King stayed with DeGasperi stride for stride then passed him with 10 meters to go. “That was about as good as I could have raced today.”
Third scoring member of Team USA Tommy Manning who finished 18th with a time of 1:01:09, loved the course. “I’m totally in shock. I thought I was in 40th, then someone on course said 18th. I had a goal of finishing in the top 25 and thought that would be unrealistic. I crushed it so I feel awesome. More importantly, if we medal I’ll be happy for like seven years!”
Eric Blake rounded out the scoring finishing in fourth position for Team USA in 27th position with a time of 1:02:04. “Personally I wasn’t feeling very good in the race. I was just grinding up the course. I knew I was the fourth for USA at about 10k to go and that we had a good chance to medal. Knowing that the three guys in front of me were running really good races was an extra incentive – a real motivator.”
Said Chris Lundstrom, 59th overall timed in 1:04:34, “It was great to be exposed to a higher level of mountain running competition. It was a really intense race. I got out in good position, but lost quite a few places on the steeper sections in the middle of the course. I certainly learned a lot about mountain running.”
USA was the first women’s team to finish all four athletes over the 8.5 kilometer course. In spite of this solid finish for the team, the women were a bit disappointed. “It wasn’t the result I was looking for, for myself or the team. Individually, each of us had a top-ten potential so I really thought the gold medal was a realistic goal for us,” said second scoring member for the U.S. team Brandy Erholtz, who finished in 15th position with a time of 53:57.
Adds top U.S. scorer Kristin Price who finished in 12th place timed in 53:19, “I want our team to be medal winners and now I have more of a desire to come back to the World Championships.”
Megan Lund finished in 21st position with a time of 54:44. “I was pretty confident (leading up to the race) that we were going to win. I think the competition was heightened this year. In terms of my own race, I was disappointed. I had a bad start and it took me some time to get back in the race.”
Erholtz saw positive aspects in the team’s effort saying, “We really worked as a team. Nicole (Hunt – the final scorer for team USA in 17th position with a time of 54:08), and I see-sawed on the course. She would lead, then I would lead. We pushed and encouraged each other all the way up the trail.”
When asked to compare the course at the USA 10km Trail Championships which Price won in 2009, to the Worlds course she said, “They wouldn’t compare. This course was much more brutal, the climbs were longer, steeper, and just more intense.”
The total elevation gain was 1035 meters for the woman and included some rocky and technical single track trail, as well as open meadows, dirt paths, and even a few descents.
“I excel on the steeps,” said Price, “If it had been all up, it would have been more of a course for me. I was definitely surprised to run as hard and fast as I did on the downhill section at about the 4k mark. I was seventh or eighth at that point. Changing gears to an immediate uphill was tough. I got passed by a few girls. When I got to the final 2k which included some level terrain, I was just trying to maintain my position.”
Erholtz reflected about her race and said, “The start area was really tight and because I was on the front of the line for our team, I knew I had to get a really good position for the other girls. It was the right decision to go out fast and when I look back on my race, I don’t think I’d have done anything differently.”
Austria’s Andrea Mayr won the race with a time of 49:30. Italy won the women’s team title with a score of 17, followed by Switzerland with 21 points, and Russia with 36 points. Team USA scored 44 to take the fourth team position, and fifth-place finisher Czech Republic posted a score of 59.
After falling at the start of the junior women’s 4.5 kilometer race course at the World Mountain Running Championships in Kamnik, Slovenia, junior U.S. team member Hannah Jumper got up and continued on the race course already several minutes back from the leaders. Finishing the race was a testament to Jumper’s strength and determination, both mental and physical.
Her teammates Hannah Valenzuela and Laura Beresford finished in 18th and 41st positions respectively which gave the U.S. junior women a 13th place finish among the 17 teams. Valenzuela was timed in 27:31, Beresford in 30:06, and Jumper in 36:27.
Yasmine Can,Turkey, won the junior women’s race with a time of 24:04. The team competition was won by Turkey who finished one-two in the competition.
The U.S. Junior men all finished within one and a half minutes of one another led by Chase Caulkins who finished in 27th place with a time of 51:09 over the 8.5k course that boasted 1035 meters of vertical gain. Cody Wells finished in 32nd position with a time of 51:37, Chris York was timed in 51:57 for 37th position while Paul Petersen finished in 52:40 for 41st position.
The junior men were 9th out of 19 teams.
“I went out a bit fast,” said Caulkins, “I was in the top five until the cathedral (at about 2k). I had a good race overall and really liked the second half of the course.”
Petersen commented on the course saying, “The first four k was my favorite, anything going up was great for me.”
York said, “I have no regrets, I felt like I had a real solid race.”
Wells said, “I pretty much held my place the whole time, right around 30th. I wish I could have gone a little faster up higher. Having not seen the course, I couldn’t tell where the t
op was, and with the fog, it was impossible to see.”
The junior men’s race was won by Yossief T. Andemichael, Eritrea, with a time of 42:30, more than three minutes ahead of the second place finisher Ridvan Bozkurt of Turkey who led the Turkish team to a gold-medal finish.
Full results available http://www.timingljubljana.si/baze/20100905-VelikaPlanina.pdf
Next year’s World Mountain Running Championships will be held on an up/down loop course in Albania on September 11.
Members of the 2010 U.S. Mountain Running Team:
Eric Blake, 31, New Britain, CT
Rickey Gates, 29, Woody Creek, CO
Joe Gray, 26, Lakewood, WA
Max King, 30, Bend, OR
Chris Lundstrom, 34, Minneapolis, MN
Tommy Manning, 34, Colorado Springs, CO
Brandy Erholtz, 33, Bailey, CO
Nicole Hunt, 40, Deer Lodge, MT
Megan Lund, 26, Basalt, CO
Kristin Price, 28, Raleigh, NC
Chase Caulkins, 18, Ketchum, ID
Paul Petersen, 18, Broomfield, CO
Cody Wells, 19, Snowflake, AZ
Chris York, 19, White Post, VA
Laura Beresford, 18, Dana Point, CA
Hannah Jumper, 17, Chattanooga, TN
Hannah Valenzuela, 17, Apple Valley, CA