Seventeen countries were represented among the nearly 100 entrants in the 9th WMRA International Youth Cup held in Arco, Italy, on Sunday, June 29, 2014.
Junior boys and girls ages 16 and 17, competed for their respective national athletic federations in the hopes of winning an individual, or team medal. How the athletes were selected varied from country to country.
In the United States, selection was based on a running resume accompanied by a letter of recommendation from a coach and/or a parent.There was a similar program in Germany whereby coaches contacted representatives in the federation if they had an athlete who might be a good fit for the program whether they excelled in cross country, or had specific skills in off-road running. In many countries, Italy being an example, there were specific selection races.
The Irish junior team had its roots in cross country. Leo Mahon, team manger of Ireland, explained their team selection process during an interview on race day, “We draw the athletes from cross country. Usually the first three across the line at a specific race get the trip. We could also preselect if there is an athlete with a proven mountain running record that is unable to travel to the selection race.”
Of the six members of this year’s Team Ireland, most had mountain running experience. Says Mahon, “Five have been away with us in the mountains. For one boy, it is his baptism to mountain running. I’d be interested to hear his comments after the race.”
Mahon went on to provide his thoughts on the course in Arco, “It is very technical. All kinds of surfaces. The start in the center of town brings a different atmosphere to the race. For the publicity, for the town, it is very good. For some of the mountain running purists — they may prefer courses that start and finish right in the mountains. I personally love the course and it will be interesting to see how the athletes get on.”
Like Mahon, many of the team coaches were on course to cheer on their athletes at various points along the course. Others opted to watch the race unfold on the big screen in the town square. The live streaming was a great addition to the event and provided not only coaches, but spectators an opportunity to experience much of the race without leaving the start/finish area.
It was a indeed a unique event including cobblestones on the pathway leading runners through town, past shops and small hotels. There were numerous steps on the ascent which led runners toward the 12th century castle. There was a flat, grassy section at the base of the castle, more ascending and more steps and then a steep descent to the 2 kilometer point. The remainder of the course included a mixture of grassy terrain, steep descents, a dirt pathways through olive groves, a final descent through town which leveled out for the final 300 meters to the finish line. It was a very challenging course with the girls running nearly 4 kilometers, and the boys nearly 5 kilometers.
The day started out with cloud cover and temperatures in the low 70s. As Mahon remarked shortly after the start of the girls’ race at 10:30 a.m., “The weather has been kind to us. The clouds are high…there is a gentle breeze.”
The weather held for the girls’ race, but by the 11:15 boys’ start, the clouds had rolled in and a light rain started to fall. By the end of the boys’ race, the rain was steadily falling.
In the girls race, the early lead went to Burcu Subatan, Turkey, who was first to reach the flat grassy section just beyond the one kilometer mark. But the course did not stop climbing here. And Subatan, a proven climber, increased her lead up the roadway toward the castle. On the descent, a few of the chase runners - Elsa Racsan, France, and Russians Tatiana Ivanaeva and Sinaida Antonova started to gain ground.
Through the trails in the olive grove, Racasan took the lead and crossed the finish line in Arco timed in 19:43. Second was Ivanaeva in 19:55, while Subatan was third in 20:02. There were 48 finishers in the girls race.
In the team competition — three runners comprised a team, all of whom had to finish the race to score — France won gold with 30 points followed by Bulgaria with 33 points and Russia with 35 points.
The men’s competition also saw a runner from Turkey leading after the first climb. This runner was Abdullah Yorulmaz. But on the descent, Yorulmaz, with a 10 second lead, missed a turn some two kilometers into the race, and Italian Davide Maginin overtook him. Yorulmaz quickly doubled back to the course, but Maginin was already pulling away.
Yorulmaz was not strong on the descent and even though he made it back on course quickly, he was overtaken by six more runners and ended up in eighth position. Magnini was cheered by the home town crowd as he crossed the finish line more than 30 seconds in front of the second runner. Magnini was timed in 21:29 followed by Pierre Xolin, France, in 22:07, and Samuele Nava, Italy in 22:08.
Cameron Moore was the sole athlete participating from the United States. In his first international mountain running event, Moore placed 44th among the 47 runners in the boys’ race. Moore’s time was 26:25.
“I got off to a really bad start,” said Moore who lives in Edwards, Colorado, and just completed his junior year at Battle Mountain High School. “I waited for a countdown, but there wasn’t one. All of a sudden everybody took off and I got stuck in the back. I did manage to pass some guys, but it wasn’t nearly enough.”
Moore admitted that he’d never run on a course quite like the one in Italy, but learned a lot. He was proud to represent his country during this first appearance for a U.S. athlete at the Youth Cup and showed a maturity beyond his 17 years.
In the boys' team competition, Italy scored 13 points to take gold, while Turkey won the silver medal with 36 points. England rounded out the top three teams taking the bronze medal with 38 points.
There were 18 full teams for both divisions, (Russia and England both fielded an “A” and a “B” team). Complete results are available at this link.
The venue for the 2015 WMRA Youth International Cup will be announced in September at the WMRA Congress meeting which is held at the time of the World Mountain Running Championships in Casette di Massa, Italy. The Championships will feature both junior (ages 16-19 in the year of competition), and senior competition.