The 28th World Mountain Running Championships will be held on Sunday, September 2, 2012. For a record seventh time, Italy will serve as the host venue, this time in Ponte di Legno, which is located in the Lombardia region in the northern Italian Alps.
The mountain courses will feature uphill racing over distances of 14.1km for the men with 1150 meters of elevation gain, 8.8km for the women and junior men with 760 meters of elevation gain, and 3.9 km for junior women with 310 meters of elevation gain.
The U.S. Mountain Running Team will be one of the more than 35 nations slated to compete. The U.S. team includes athletes ages 16 to 36, representing nine states with Colorado home to 8 of the 17 team members.
The junior team is led by two returning team members from 2011, Billy Fayette, 19, Clarendon Hills, IL, and Clare Moretz, 19, Madison, VA. Joining the pair will be Baxter Arguinchona, 19, Spokane, WA, Jordan Chavez, 18, Southlake, TX, Cal Deline, 16, Avon, CO, Heather Bates, 17, Colorado Springs, CO, and Kelly Lawson, 16, Cardiff, CA. Juniors must be at least 16 in the year of competition, and not yet 20. The junior men can run up to four athletes with the top three scoring, while the junior women can run up to three athletes with the top two scoring.
The senior team includes veteran team members as well as newcomers. For the women, Melody Fairchild, 38, Boulder, CO, Morgan Arritola, 26, Fairfield, ID, Stevie Kremer, 28, Crested Butte, CO, are all first timers on the team, while Brandy Erholtz, 35, Evergreen, CO, is on her fifth consecutive team. For the men, Tim Chichester, 24, Mount Morris, NY, Sage Canaday, 26, Boulder, CO, and Glenn Randall, 25, Mesa, CO, are the newcomers joining three-time team member Tommy Manning, 36, Colorado Springs, CO, five-time team member Joe Gray, 28, New Castle, WA, and six-time team member Eric Blake, 33, New Britain, CT. The senior men can run up to six men with the top four scoring, and up to four for the women with the top three scoring.
The team staff includes Richard Bolt, San Jose, CA, Nancy Hobbs, Colorado Springs, CO, Ellen Miller, Vail, CO, and Paul Kirsch, Madison, NH. Collectively, the staff has 39 years of management experience with the U.S. Mountain Running Team.
Most of the U.S. contingent will arrive in Italy on August 30, but manager for the junior team, Paul Kirsch, arrived in Italy in advance of the team and has had an opportunity to check out the women’s and junior men’s course, “This is a FAST, FAST course with plenty of space to pass, and the footing is very good. The first 3 km has one decent climb for about 200 meters, then at about 3 km there is a mountain level climb for about 300 meters. The rest of the course is a pretty gradual climb until near the end of course which climbs for about 300 meters before a fast descent to the finish of about 200 meters.”
Some additional details about the start of the senior men’s course from Kirsch, “It is quite steep, very narrow in some parts too. Good downhillers will love it. Uphillers will be trying to survive it okay so then they can turn on the jets again in the paved section in town before the climb.”
The U.S. had a stellar year in 2011, with Kasie Enman and Max King posting individual gold-medal performances at the World Championships, but the U.S. has not been on the podium as a team since 2010 when the senior men won a silver medal – they also won a team bronze in 2008. The senior women’s team won bronze in 2004 and 2009, back-to-back gold medals in 2006 and 2007, and an individual bronze in 2007. King’s gold medal in 2011, was the third individual medal for men. Jay Johnson took the gold in 1987, and Dave Dunham won silver in 1993.
The junior women’s team has both bronze (’08) and silver (’09) individual performances, as well as a silver medal for the team in 2007, while the junior men have finished as high as fourth as a team (’08) and fourth for an individual (’09).
Women’s team manager Ellen Miller has been in close contact with the women’s team members since the selection race at Loon Mountain in early July, “I honestly feel that these women have the confidence necessary to reach the podium, not just as a team, but as individuals,” said Miller, “I hear a determination from these women – from our veteran team member Brandy Erholtz to our newcomers. They have seen that our team and individual athletes have been on the podium in the past and they’d like to repeat that effort. These women are really looking to contribute to the continued evolution and upward momentum of the U.S. mountain running program.”
Another important element of the U.S. mountain running program is the social networking component. According to team leader Richard Bolt, “We’ve been committed as a team staff to keep our U.S. followers and fans up to date with our team pursuits while abroad. This year we’ll be on Facebook, Twitter, as well as Google+. The social networking component has been instrumental in helping us grow and expand the reach of our U.S. mountain running program.”
Although the team is an official USA Track & Field (USATF) team, USATF does not provide full funding for the team. The American Trail Running Association (ATRA), provides much-needed fundraising support for the team. Donations are always accepted, much appreciated, and qualify as a charitable contribution as ATRA is a 501 (c ) 3 not-for-profit corporation.
Follow the U.S. Mountain Running team at www.usmrt.com, as well as the links below.
Looking ahead to 2013, the 29th World Mountain Running Championships will be held in Krynica – Zdrój, Poland, on September 8. Details on the U.S. Mountain Running Team selection races will be announced in December at the USATF annual meetings in Daytona Beach, FL.