USMRT: World Mountain Running Championships, a steady progression. 2004-12

The USMRT has had many successes over the years when it comes to placing in what was known between 1985 to 2008 as the World Mountain Running Trophy. The series became officially recognised by the IAAF in 2002 and was then granted World Championship status from 2009 onwards.

The series runs an interesting format whereby in even numbered years the courses are Uphill only and in odd numbered years the courses are a mixture of Uphill/Downhill.  This provides for great competition as runners must prepare specifically for each style of race every year. Although during the early format of the event (1990-2003) the US did participate, and gain the occasional medal, it seems from the record that US Mountain Running really began to gain support and take shape during the early 2000s and that is where this article begins.

The 20th World Mountain Running Trophy was held in Italy 2004, an Uphill year. USMRT won their first ever Team medal at the event with the Women finishing 5 points in front of Switzerland to gain a Bronze medal that set the ball rolling for what was to come over the next few years!

The next time USMRT were to get their hands on a medal came in Turkey, 2006 at the 22nd World Mountain Running Trophy held on an Uphill course.  After an unsuccessful trip to New Zealand for the previous Uphill/Downhill Trophy meeting, the Women’s Team pulled out all the stops, put their heads down and brought home the United States Mountain Running Team’s first ever, long awaited, GOLD medal.  The ladies pipped the Czech Republic to the top spot by only two points.

Switzerland 2007 saw the USMRT medal again, this time on an Uphill/Downhill course, when the Women’s Team captured Gold for the second year in a row, again with only 2 points separating them from the Czech Republic!

The 23rd World Mountain Running Trophy also held another two medalling firsts for USMRT with Laura Haefeli becoming the first US woman to win an individual medal, coming in 3rd place for Bronze in 41:19 over a course that consisted of 8.3km and 520m of ascent and descent!  In the Junior Women’s Race (4.5km, 260m ascent/descent) the USMRT finished 2nd behind Australia to gain the first ever Junior medal either individually or as a team with Anna Lieb missing out on an Inidividual Bronze by just 17 seconds!

In 2008 it was the men’s turn to get on the podium after being held off it since 1993, when Dave Dunham secured an Individual Silver Medal at the 9th World Mountain Running Trophy held in France.  This time, the Men came together as a team and scored 76 points to finish 40 points in front of their nearest Bronze medal rivals thus ending one of the longest periods without a medal ever endured by any US Athletics Team!It is also worth noting that 2008, an Uphill course, was yet another year of firsts for USMRT with Alex Dunne winning the first ever Individual medal at Junior level, she finished the 4.3km event in 23:33, covering 350m of ascent and descent and getting herself a Bronze medal in the process.In 2009 the World Mountain Running Trophy came to be known at the World Mountain Running Championships and were held in Madesimo-Campodolcino, Italy.  This year was to be no different from the preceding two with the Women’s Team finishing in the Bronze Medal position, unfortunately the Men’s Team could not consolidate their 2008 Silver medal and finished 6th in the Men’s Team standings.

Brandy Erholtz, on her debut for USMRT and now a stalwart of US Mountain Running was the highest finisher in the Women’s race.  She completed the 8.8km (550m ascent/descent) Uphill/Downhill course in 45:23 with Christine Lundy in 12th, Megan Kimmel in 14th followed by Megan Lund in 16th thus securing USMRC’s only senior medal at the first ever World Championships.There was more good news to be found, again for the Women, in the Junior event as Megan Morgan did one better than Alex Dunne the previous year, crossing the line of the 4.3km (275m ascent/descent) Uphill/Downhill course in the Silver medal position, the USMRC medallist was a mere 17 seconds away from grabbing the Gold!

2010 saw a return to form for the men who managed to better their 2008 Team Bronze medal, battling hard on the 12km, 1220m ascent/descent Uphill course with Joe Gray, the first American to cross the line, finishing 10th in 59:27 to be followed by Max King (16th), Tommy Manning (18th) and the final scorer Eric Blake (27th) securing the Team Silver!  The final two American men, Ricky Gates (52nd) and Chris Lundstrom (59th) crossed the line only 29 seconds apart. The video below shows each member of the 6 man team crossing the line on the punishing uphill of the final straight!

For the first time in a long time, the women didn’t manage a podium spot individually or as a team, however they were only 8 points away from the Team Bronze position on a very tough 8.5km course coversing 960m of ascent and descent along the way!

As the 27th edition of the Championships held in Tirana, Albania rolled around nobody could have predicited, based on the individual placings from 2010, that the USMRT would take both Men’s & Women’s Individual Gold for the first time in the history of World Mountain Running Championships!  A monumental achievement for the United States Mountain Running Team and for Kasie Enman and Max King – the Women’s and Men’s Gold medallists in 2011.

Kasie Enman, running in her USMRT debut, ran the 8.8km Uphill/Downhill course (1000m ascent/descent) at very fast pace, finishing in 40:39, finishing 1:48 in front of the silver medallist and throwing down the gauntlet for future USMRT hopefuls!

Max King, in his second year competing at the World Mountain Running Championships for USMRT, surprised everyone when he improved 15 places overall to finish 1st and clinch the United States Mountain Running Team’s second Gold of the series! Max finished 35 seconds in front of the silver medallist from Turkey and cemented his place in US and World Mountain Running history.

After such a phenomenal year in 2011, the USMRT returned to the 28th World Mountain Running Championships in Vallecamonica, Italy in 2012.  They returned with the hope that their Men’s and Women’s individual Gold medals could be retained and were no doubt looking to improve upon their 4th placed Men’s and Women’s Team finishes on the Uphill only course.

The Team managed an Individual Women’s Bronze taken by Morgan Arritola and won the Women’s Team Gold for the third time. The Men faired a little less well, finishing just outside of the Team Medal standings in 4th and missing out on an individual medal, with the first three men placing 9th (Glenn Randall), 12th (Sage Canaday) and 14th (Joe Gray). It was still a strong showing from the men against a top class field of mountain runners – with the individual Gold and Silver going to Eritrea and the Bronze to Russia, whilst the host nation gained Team Silver, behind Eritrea.

With their 2012 Individual and Team medals the USMRT have certainly shown that as a team they are something to be reckoned with when it comes to getting on the podium! I wonder what’s going to happen in Poland next year.

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