The 2014 U.S. Mountain Running Team is set for the Sept. 14 World Mountain Running Championships in Italy.
About 500 of the country’s best mountain runners closed out their holiday weekend by testing their legs and lungs at the Loon Mountain Race on July 6 in Lincoln, N.H. The races, held at Loon Mountain Resort and organized by Chris Dunn and Paul Kirsch, served as the sole qualifying event for the U.S. Mountain Running Team that will compete in the 2014 World Mountain Running Championships (WMRC) on Sept. 14 in Casette di Massa, Italy.
Loon Mountain Race also served as the Collegiate Mountain Running Championships, an event sanctioned by the newly formed Collegiate Running Association. The route consisted of 5 ridiculously steep miles up Loon Mountain, including a “run” up the infamous Upper Walking Boss, a grass- and rock-covered slope with a 40 percent grade.
This year the entire racing field still experienced “The Boss,” but the overall route was altered to make it more closely resemble the WMRC course in Italy. The field was also divided into separate races for men and women, as is done at World Cross Country events. The new, longer men’s route included eight miles of rolling trails and almost 3,200 feet of elevation gain, with some mud and steep climbing added to the mix. Women tackled a similar route, although it was slightly shorter at just under 5 miles with about 2,800 feet of gain.
Colorado’s Joe Gray, a four-time U.S. Mountain Runner of the Year, followed his June win at the Mount Washington Road Race with a commanding victory at Loon Mountain, winning in 45:52. Utah’s Patrick Smyth, a relative newcomer to the competitive trail scene, crossed the line next in 46:39, while veteran mountain runner Eric Blake of Connecticut finished third with a 52:37, earning him a slot on his seventh U.S. Mountain Running team.
“The plan was to get out hard and make it a gutsy race,” Gray says. “I went out hard and got gapped a bit early on near the 2-mile mark. By 4 miles I had the lead back and lengthened it as we crested the 1-mile to go section.”
Colorado resident Allie McLaughlin, a two-time cross country All-American at the University of Colorado, dominated the women’s field, winning in 47:13. She finished more than minute ahead of second-place finisher Morgan Arritola, an Olympic ski racer and the bronze medalist at the 2012 World Mountain Running Championships (48:16).
McLauhlin, who lives in Colorado Springs, is healthy again after several frustrating injury-plagued years.
““It was just a dream come true to run against such accomplished women and win. These past few months have really been a gift from God,” she says. “I’ve always wanted be a mountain runner and always thought uphill is a little easier on the body so figured this is the perfect time to try. I know I could still get hurt tomorrow, but I am enjoying each day I make it through and loving the mountain running community.
Kasie Enman, the 2011 World Mountain Running champion, finished third in 48:21.
“Most of my racing lately has been longer distances, so my goal was to remember how to really push that red line and hurt the way you can in a shorter race,” Enman says. “I felt like I did that pretty well and was happy to find myself in the mix with the lead ladies. Any race where I can be a factor in the lead pack is a good one.”
The top four women and top six men earn slots on the 2014 U.S. Mountain Running team.
“I was pleased to see our more experienced mountain runners put the hammer down and fight toe to toe with the young guns,” says Richard Bolt, who works for both the U.S. Mountain Running team and the American Trail Running Association. “Young, faster runners new to mountain running, in particular, McLaughlin, Deakins, Smyth, Miller and Roche, have seen success and fast times on the track and roads, but that doesn’t always translate to speed in the mountains. For these Mountain Running Championship first-timers it did translate.”
1. Allie McLaughlin, 23, Colorado Sprigs, Colo., 47:13
2. Morgan Arritola, 28, Ketchum, Idaho, 48:16
3. Kasie Enman, 34, Huntington, Vermont 48:21
4. Megan Deakins, 24, Mountain View, Calif., 48:39
5. Megan Lizotte, 30, La Jolla, Calif., 49:00
6. Juliane Masciana, 29, Cedar Park, Texas, 50:17
7. Nuta Olaru, 43, Longmont, Colo., 51:37
8. Amber Ferreira, 32, Concord, NH, 51:40
9. Maria Dalzot, 26, Bellingham, Wash., 52:30
10. Kerri Lyons, 25, Wilton, Conn., 53:16
1. Joseph Gray, 30, Colorado Springs, Colo., 45:52
2. Patrick Smyth, 27, Salt Lake City, Utah, 46:39
3. Eric Blake, 35, West Hartford, Conn., 52:37
4. Zach Miller, 25, Manitou Springs, Colo., 52:44
5. Joshua Eberly, 33, Gunnison, Colo., 53:30
6. David Roche, 26, Millington, Md., 53:39
7. Jordan Chavez, 20, South Lake, Va. 54:23
8. Ryan Bak, 32, Bend, Ore., 54:28
9. Andrew Benford, 26, Austin, Texas, 54:49
10. Kyle O’Brien, 25, Broomfield, Colo., 55:37