Team USA will compete alongside squads from Mexico and Canada at the 11th North American Central American Caribbean (NACAC) Mountain Running Championships on Sunday, July 20, at Carrera La Chupinaya in Ajijic, Jalisco, the same venue which hosted the event in 2011.
The teams are comprised of up to four men and four women with the top two finishers scoring for their respective country. The 2014 US team includes past NACAC team members as well as newcomers to this championship event.
The men’s team is headlined by Eric Blake, 35, West Hartford, CT, who will make his fourth appearance at the NACAC event. Blake also competed at the World Mountain Running Championships six times for Team USA. Said Blake, “The NACAC championships is one of the races I am currently gearing all my training for. I look forward to running with my teammates and representing Team USA in Ajijic!”
Ryan Woods, 35, Boone, NC, makes his third NACAC appearance, most recently in 2013 when the NACAC Mountain Running Championships was held concurrent with the US Mountain Running Championships at Cranmore, NH. Woods was also a scoring member on the 2011 US Team at the World Mountain Running Championships in Albania. Woods looks forward to competing in Mexico and said, “My training is going great. I’m healthy and getting fast. I've won my last two (La Sportiva) mountain cup races and have just started to gear up the mountain training. I can't wait to race.”
Jordan Chavez, 20, Southlake, TX, is a newcomer to NACAC competition, but is familiar with international mountain racing having represented the U.S. on the junior team at the World Mountain Running Championships in 2012 when he finished in 17th position and 2013 when he moved into the top ten with a seventh place effort. Said Chavez, "I cannot wait to race in what looks to be a beautiful venue and well run race. Every opportunity to run internationally is a great honor and it will be a great experience to race with and against some of the best mountain runners in the world." Chavez is finishing his sophomore year at University of Richmond.
Danny Martinez, 20, Alhambra, CA, like Chavez, is a newcomer to the NACAC event. Martinez was a teammate of Chavez’s last year in Poland where he was the second US junior finisher with a solid ninth place effort. Martinez, who will complete his freshman year at University of Portland this spring, was WCC Freshman of the Year 2013 running 23:58 for 8k. He competed at the NCAA All-West Region 2013 finishing in 23rd place, and was 117th at the 2013 NCAA XC Championships (team finished seventh), and ran 14:15 5k on the track at the Stanford Invitational 2014. Martinez spoke about making the team, “I'm really excited to have another opportunity to represent the USA! I think Mexico is going to be a great experience and I'm really looking forward to competing with the senior team this time.”
On the women’s side, all team members have NACAC Mountain Running Championship experience. Brandy Erholtz, 36, Evergreen, CO, is a two-time individual NACAC champion (2010 and 2012) and was also a member of the 2007 and 2009 NACAC teams. She is a five-time member of the US Mountain Running Team, and a two-time member of Team USA competing at the WMRA Long Distance Challenge. She is a two-time winner of both the Pikes Peak Ascent and the Mount Washington Road Race which showcases her excellence in uphill racing. Said Erholtz, “I'm looking forward to competing again in 2014 after taking 2013 off to have little Asher (her first child). Although I've competed in many places, I have yet to compete in Mexico. I am looking forward to the course and experience. Any time I get the opportunity to represent the U.S. I feel it is both a blessing and an honor. I think we have a strong team and will be in contention for both the individual and team gold. Despite my lack of sleep and frequent nursing, training is going relatively well with recent victories at the Vail and Aspen uphill winter races, a third place finish at Moab's Red Hot 33k and a victory at the Gorge Waterfalls 50K.”
Amber Reece-Young (formerly Moran), 35, Arden, NC, will make her fourth appearance at the NACAC event. Her racing has gotten off to a great start in 2014 with wins and course records at the Assault on Black Rock in Sylva, NC, last month and the Winter Splash Trail Race in Spruce Pine, NC in February. Reece-Young said, “We have a great team this year and I'm super excited to have an opportunity to race in the 2014 Chupinaya as part of Team USA. In 2011, the Mexican hospitality was amazing and the race was a true mountain race. I look forward to a competitive, adventure race!”
Maria Dalzot, 26, Bellingham, WA, has been on two NACAC teams, having won the individual gold in 2011 in Mexico and team gold in 2012. She was a member of the silver-medal winning US Junior Mountain Running Team in 2007. Said Dalzot, “I have been injury-free for almost a year now and have been able to do some of my best training. I am running high mileage consistently and for the first time, I have added in gym training that is specific to mountain running. Running in the NACAC Championship in Ajijic, Mexico in 2011 was one of the best experiences of my life and I am very excited to have the opportunity to go back as part of this year's team.”
Christine Lundy, 43, Sausalito, CA, won the NACAC event in 2007 and 2009, and was on the team in 2011. She is a five-time member of the US Mountain Running Team, most recently in 2013. Lundy also excels on the roads having competed in the USA Olympic Marathon Trails in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Said Lundy, “I am very excited to return to the Chupinaya race this year as part of the 2014 USA NACAC team. Training is going well and I hope to improve my time on the course.”
Richard Bolt will travel with the U.S. Team to Mexico as team leader and provide social media updates from the venue, “"I'm excited to bring the US team back to Ajijic for the 2014 NACAC Mountain Running Championships,” said Bolt. “Our hosts and race organizers presented us with a challenging course and overwhelming hospitality in 2011. I'm confident our athletes will have a first-class international mountain racing experience again this summer."
Competitors will race over a 13.8-kilometer course which will start in the principal square of town, head toward the mountains, cross two creeks and start ascending. The majority of the course is within the Sierra Madre Mountains offering amazing views of Chapala Lake, with a downhill finish back at the town square.
The NACAC Mountain Championships have been held since 2004, with the event rotating between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. This is the fourth time Mexico has hosted the event having previously staged the championships in 2006, 2008, 2011. Canada hosted the championships in 2007, 2010, and 2012, while the U.S. hosted every other year with last year’s NACAC Mountain Championships held at the Cranmore Hill Climb in North Conway, NH. For past NACAC results visit this link.