The 2013 U.S. Mountain Running Team competed at the 29th World Mountain Running Championships on Sunday, September 8, in Krynica - Zdrój, Poland, with four individual top-ten performances, and no team finish below fifth place.
On a crisp, clear morning with temperatures in the low 50s for the start of the first race at 9:15, the U.S. junior women’s team earned a silver medal led by the gold-medal individual performance of 18-year-old Mandy Ortiz, Eagle, CO, racing in her first international event.
Tabor Scholl, 16, Kremmling, CO, finished in 16th position, and Emma Abrahamson, 16, Carlsbad, CA, finished in 21st position. Ortiz’s time over the 4.6-kilometer course which had 286 meters of climbing and 276 meters of descent, was 22:56. Scholl’s time was 24:51, while Abrahamson finished in 25:21.
There were 14 teams competing in the junior women’s category with Great Britain winning gold with a score of 9 points. The Russian team finished with 19 points to take bronze.
When the junior men raced at 10:30, the temperature had reached a comfortable 60 degrees. USA posted a solid finish among the 16 teams with a fifth place score of 44 led by Jordan Chavez, 19, Southlake, TX, and Danny Martinez, 19, Alhambra, CA, who finished seventh and ninth respectively. The final scoring member for Team USA was Cal Deline, 17, Vail, CO, who finished in 28th place. John Lawson, 18, Forest Knolls, CA, finished 39th among the 66 participants in the junior men’s category.
The junior men’s course gained 561 meters over 9.08 kilometers. Chavez’s time was 40:21, Martinez finished just 21 seconds later. Deline’s time was 43:39, while Lawson posted a time of 44:26. Italian Crippa Nekagenet was the overall winner timed in 38:58, and the Czech Republic won the team division with a total score of 25 points.
In order to compete as a junior athlete, the individual must be at least 16 in the year of competition and not yet 20.
The senior women’s race was next on the program at 11:30, and would cover the same course as the junior men. The senior women’s squad included newcomer to the team Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, 40, Oakland, CA, and veteran mountain team members Megan Kimmel, 33, Silverton, CO, Christine Lundy, 43, Sausalito, CA, and Megan Lizotte (formerly Lund), 29, Basalt, CO.
Lewy-Boulet, in just her second mountain race, led the team to fifth place among the 17 teams with her 11th place finish in a time of 44:56. Lundy finished second for Team USA in 29th position timed in 47:08, followed by Lizotte in 32nd place in a time of 47:27. Kimmel was the final member of Team USA finishing in 36th with a time of 47:55.
Italy placed three in the top ten with Alice Gaggi finishing first in 42:47, followed by Elisa Desco in third and Antonella Confortola in seventh. Their score of 11 points was well ahead of second-place Great Britain with 22 points and third place Ireland with 51 points.
Lewy-Boulet was happy with her result. “It was a lot of fun,” said Lewy-Boulet, “But, I have to learn how to run downhill aggressively. I was losing places on the downhill. I think I have a lot of room for improvement. I don’t have the experience – it’s something I can learn. It’s a challenge, and I’m up for the challenge. I’m really looking forward to an uphill year. I’ll come back.”
Lundy said, “It was a tough race for me. I wasn’t able to train the last month like I wanted to. In spite of that, I wasn’t hurt for the race, I just didn’t feel like I could keep my pace. The uphill first makes it challenging. The pace went out fast and everyone kept rolling and you had to go with it.
“I was hoping we’d do a little better team wise, but I’m really happy to be on my fifth team. I didn’t expect to make a fifth.”
Kimmel also had a tough day. “I thought I was going out conservatively. I was in about 20th place, right where I wanted to be. Then girls started passing me – on the up and the down. I needed a lot to have it come together on the day, and it just didn’t.”
The senior men’s race was the final event on the schedule with a 12:30 start time. Temperatures had reached the mid 70s under bright, sunny skies. Of the 137 starters, eight did not finish including USA’s Max King, the defending up/down champ from the 2011 World Championships, who rolled an ankle on the downhill section in the second loop of the three-loop 13.56-kilometer course.
“I was about 10 meters back on the first loop (behind a pack of six),” said King, 33, Bend, OR, “At the corner of the downhill section, I landed on a loose rock and my ankle rolled. I had worked my way up to second place by that time.”
King’s teammate Joseph Gray, 29, Renton, WA, had been in the lead pack on lap one and was poised for a top-ten finish. “I went out with the pack,” said Gray, “I felt pretty strong, I felt like I could make a move. The crowd here is so energetic, I don’t think I realized how fast I was going with the leaders. The next thing I knew I got pulled along with the Ugandans. They had two guys that couldn’t run down real well, and it looked like the other two were slowing down to wait for them so they could run as a pack of four.
“I felt like I ran a strong second lap, relative to how I felt (over the three-lap course). I don’t think the Ugandans were really working all that hard – they just ran as a pack and helped press their fourth guy.
“Today I didn’t have as great of a day as I could have – I made some mistakes on the course,” said Gray who finished in seventh place with a time of 56:25, to lead USA to a fourth place team finish, their third consecutive fourth place finish at Worlds.
“I want to come back,” said Gray, “I love the World Champs, it’s one of my favorite races. It’s one of the best team races you can do as a pro.”
Second for Team USA was Zachary Ornelas, who finished in 25th place timed in 59:12, who like Lewy-Boulet, was racing in just his second mountain race.
“I have a lot to learn,” said the 22-year-old Ornelas, Ann Arbor, MI, “It’s the best I’ve ever gotten out – the first 800 meters with the first downhill was the best down I ever ran. I was tripping a bit on the uphill – a little bit of amateur hour. I ran out of focus on the second lap, and then refocused. The third lap I pulled it together. That middle lap felt like a marathon.”
Comparing the World Champs with his first mountain race which was the mountain team selection race at Cranmore in July, where he finished second to Gray, Ornelas said, “Cranmore was a good simulation of this course. The difference here is everyone in the race was a Joe Gray. If I made one misstep, a guy passed me.” Ornelas confirmed a future in the sport, “I like European racing and I want to do more of it.”
Two runners hailing from Colorado Springs, CO, Alex Nichols, 28, and Ryan Hafer, 27, rounded out the scoring for team USA finishing in 27th and 29th position timed in 59:27 and 59:47 respectively. Glenn Randall, 27, Mesa, CO, had a rough day and was the final finisher for team USA with a 73rd place finish in 1:04:59.
Uganda swept the top four places and earned a gold team medal with a perfect score of 10. The Italian team finished with 40 points to take silver, while the Turkish team took the bronze with 82 points. Team USA was just six points out of third place. There were 19 teams in the senior men’s category and a total of 36 countries represented among the 315 finishers.
The 30th World Mountain Running Championships will be held in September, 2014, in Casette di Massa, Italy. In 2015, Great Britain will host the Championships in Betws Y Coed, Wales.
Follow the U.S. team leading up to the next World Championships on Twitter @USMRT and learn more about the U.S. mountain running program at this link.
Each athlete on Team USA is a member of USATF, the national governing body for the sport, which provides partial funding and team uniforms to the team. Additional funds are raised through the American Trail Running Association (ATRA), a Colorado not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to represent and promote trail and mountain running. Donations to the team are 100% tax deductible and can be made payable to ATRA (earmarked for the USMRT), PO Box 9454, Colorado Springs, CO 80932.