With the number of pre-registered runners sitting at 475, a final tally of more than 500 runners are expected to compete at the USA Mountain Running Championships at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire on Sunday, July 6.
The previous record of entrants at Loon was 315 when the event hosted the U.S. Women’s Mountain Running Team selection race in 2012. This year’s race will again host the team selection race — this time it will be the sole selection race for both the men’s and women’s senior team. In addition, the inaugural Collegiate Mountain Running Championships will be held as part of the event with those athletes also eligible for spots on the mountain team.
In order to make the U.S. Mountain Running Team, the athlete must be a U.S. citizen who is also eligible to represent the U.S. in international championships. The athlete must also be a current member of USA Track & Field. The top four women and top six men across the finish line who fit this criteria will earn a spot on the team which will compete at the World Mountain Running Championships on September 14 in Casette di Massa, Italy.
The mountain running team includes a junior component comprised of athletes at least 16 and not yet 20 in the year of competition. These three women and four men will be chosen based on their running resume and a letter of recommendation from their coach and/or parent.
The competition at Loon will be intense and will come in the form of two separate races, the women will start on Sunday at 8:00 a.m., the men will follow at 9:30. The women’s course is a mostly-uphill course with 2800 feet of gain over 4.8 miles, while the men’s race will include another two miles which is primarily on single track through the forest on the ski hill. The men's course offers 3200 feet of climbing.
"The course will be extra challenging with the recent rains," said co-race director Paul Kirsch, "It should make for a great race."
Both Joe Gray and Morgan Arritola will be on the start line to defend their championship titles from last year’s event held at the Cranmore Hill Climb. Five Olympians are slated to compete — Arritola among them —as well as past USATF mountain and trail running champions, and former mountain running team members. First-time mountain runners who boast exceptional resumes on road, track, and cross country, will be among the competitors who hope to unseat the mountain running veterans.
“Like the terrain at Loon, we have a great mix of athletes,” said Richard Bolt, USATF liaison at the event and team leader of the U.S. Mountain Running Team, “The quality of competition at our mountain running championships has improved tenfold in the past few years and although there are pre-race favorites, there are also athletes who are sure to surprise us. With the level of talent at Loon, there is no doubt that we’ll field medal-worthy individuals and teams at the World Championships.”
USATF members are eligible for prize money and medals which will be awarded in open (athletes of any age) and age-group competition starting at 40 years of age. The top ten overall and top three in each of the masters’ category age groups starting at age 40 in five year increments.
More than half of the registered runners are current USATF members, a testament to the popularity of mountain running within the New England association which boasts the largest number of runners of any USATF association at these championships. Part of this popularity is due to the seven-race mountain circuit organized by the association, of which the Loon Mountain Race is the fifth. The other events in the circuit already contested included the Sleepy Hollow Mt. Race, Pack Monadnock, Wachusett Mountain, and Ascutney Mt. Challenge. The final two events in the circuit are the Cranmore Hill Climb on July 20, and the
Bretton Woods Fell Race on October 4.
Among all the race entries — USATF and open— a total of 30 states and several Canadian provinces are represented.
There is still time to register. “We will offer pre-registered bib pickup today (Saturday) from 4:00-5:30 p.m. at the Governor Adams Lodge at Loon Mountain,” said co-race director Chris Dunn, “Day of event entry is available for $25 on race day at the base of Loon Mountain from 6:00-7:30 a.m for women and 6:30-9:00 a.m. for men.”
Race sponsors include presenting sponsor Northeast Delta Dental, Seacoast Orthopedics, Salomon, Julbo, Hammer Nutrition, Road ID, 603 Brewery, and Meadow View Sugarhouse in Union, New Hampshire.
Be sure to follow the race on Twitter @usmrt and look for results post-race at this link.