U.S. Mountain Men Second At World Championships

Eritrea’s Gashazghi, Austria’s Mayr world champions; Team USA women 4th.

Written by: Nancy Hobbs for RunningUSA.org

At Sunday’s 26th 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, while the Team USA women placed fourth.

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The U.S. has sent a men’s team to these championships (until 2009 it was 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 and 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 (2006-10) who finished in 52nd position in 1 hour, 4 minutes, 3 seconds. “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 here 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.

Eritrea simply dominated the men’s race with the world champion and runner-up - Samson Gashazghi (56:25) and Teklay Weldemariam (56:28) and overall, placed five men in the top nine to handily defend their team title with 13 points.

Max King who finished in 16th (1:00:50) as the second Team USA scoring team member behind Joe Gray who was 10th 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 De Gasperi).” King stayed with De Gasperi stride-for-stride then passed him with 10 meters to go. “That was about as good as I could have raced today.”

USA was the first women’s team to finish all four athletes over the 8.5 kilometer course, but in spite of this solid finish for the team, the women were a bit disappointed in their fourth place.

“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 (53:57).

Added top U.S. scorer Kristin Price who finished in 12th (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.”

When asked to compare the course at the USA 10K Trail Championships, that 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 1,035 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.

Austria’s Andrea Mayr won the women’s world title in 49:30, while Italy defended its team title with a score of 17, followed by Switzerland with 21 points, and Russia with 36 points. Team USA scored 44 to take fourth.

Next year’s World Mountain Running Championships will be held on an up/down loop course in Albania on September 11.

26th World Mountain Running Championships
Kamnik, SLO, Sunday, September 5, 2010

MEN – 12K
1) Samson Gashazghi (ERI), 56:25, Gold
2) Teklay Weldemariam (ERI), 56:28, Silver
3) Geoffrey Kusuro (UGA), 56:57, Bronze
4) Petro Mamu Shaku (ERI), 57:00
5) Stephan Kiprotich (UGA), 57:16

U.S. Results
10) Joe Gray (USA / WA), 59:27
16) Max King (USA / OR), 1:00:50
18) Tommy Manning (USA / CO), 1:01:09
27) Eric Blake (USA / CT), 1:02:04
52) Rickey Gates (USA / CO), 1:04:03
59) Chris Lundstrom (USA / MN), 1:04:34

TEAM
1) Eritrea, 13 points
2) USA, 71
3) Italy, 77
24 scoring teams

WOMEN – 8.5K
1) Andrea Mayr (AUT), 49:30, Gold
2) Valentina Belotti (ITA), 50:08, Silver
3) Martina Straehl (SUI), 50:42, Bronze
4) Svetlana Semova (RUS), 51:02
5) Mateja Kosovelj (SLO), 51:24

U.S. Results
12) Kristin Price (USA / NC), 53:19
15) Brandy Erholtz (USA / CO), 53:57
17) Nicole Hunt (USA / MT), 54:08
21) Megan Lund (USA / CO), 54:44

TEAM
1) Italy, 17 points
2) Switzerland, 21
3) Russia, 36
4) USA, 44
13 scoring teams

Full results and more at: www.wmrc2010-kamnik.si

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