At the 28th World Mountain Running Championships held on Sunday, September 2, 2012 in Ponte di Legno, Italy, the four-member U.S. Women’s Mountain Running Team took the gold medal with an incredible score of 18 points to best the second-place Italian team by 11 points. Switzerland claimed the bronze medal with 58 points.
Overcast skies with temperatures in the 50s with just a slight breeze at the 10:30 a.m. start were welcomed by the nearly 90 runners who competed in the senior women’s race. With rain for two days prior to the race, it was a nice change to see the sun breaking through the clouds from time to time during the 8.8-kilometer mostly-uphill course that featured 760 meters of elevation gain.
Leading the U.S. women was 26-year-old Morgan Arritola, Fairfield, ID, who finished third to take the bronze medal in a time of 47:26 over the 8.8-kilometer, mostly uphill course. “It was hard,” said Arritola, “It’s always good, but it’s always hard. I like mountain running because it’s a chance to see who can suffer the most. The team result was great. Individually, I did all I could today. And today, two people were better than me and that’s how it goes,” said Arritola.
Those two women were Austria’s Andrea Mayr who posted a time of 46:35 to take the win, and Italy’s Valentia Belotti who ran 47:04.
Second for the U.S. women was 28-year-old Stevie Kremer, Crested Butte, CO, who recently moved to Italy to teach for one year. Kremer finished in seventh place with a time of 48:54. “In an uphill race it’s always difficult – I don’t think you ever feel great,” said Kremer. “It was an amazing course and an amazing experience and I’m glad to be part of Team USA.” Asked whether her pre-race expectations were met, Kremer said “I didn’t know what to expect…I really had no expectations. In my head and in my heart I was hoping for a top five, but I’m happy with a top 10. My future is in mountain running, it’s all I want to do.”
Finishing in third for Team USA was Melody Fairchild, 38, Boulder, CO, who was three seconds behind Kremer to finish eighth overall. “The energy at World’s has lifted me up. The competition has inspired me to start training tomorrow for next year,” said a beaming Fairchild, “I visualized a finish in the top 5 – I was eighth. Now I know that I’m in the ballpark. I’m excited to train for cross country season as a stepping stone for mountain running and next year’s team selection race. I think the competition is going to get more fierce every year. I think the word is going to get out about mountain running,”
The top three finishers for USA were all first-time team members. They joined veteran Brandy Erholtz who has been on every team since 2008. Erholtz, 35, Evergreen, CO, had an admittedly off day finishing in 40th position with a time of 53:13.
Said women’s team manager Ellen Miller, “The women delivered what we thought they could. A gold medal. They elevated the American women back on the podium. It’s a dream come true.”
There were 19 teams competing in the senior women’s division.
This was the third gold medal for the U.S. women’s team with the first in 2006 and the second in 2007. The women’s team also won bronze in 2004 and 2009.
Individually, the U.S. women now have two bronze medals, the first won in 2007 by Laura Haefeli. Added to the medal count is the incredible gold-medal performance by Kasie Enman at last year’s world championships.
The six-member U.S. Men’s Mountain Running Team finished in fourth place at the Championships, repeating last year’s team finish. However, their combined team score this year was 88 compared to 112 in 2011.
Winning gold this year was Eritrea with 17 points, followed by Italy in silver-medal position with 31 points, and Russia scoring 75 to take the bronze medal.
The men’s course was 14.1-kilometers and featured 1150 meters of elevation gain starting at the village of Temu and finishing in the village of Tonale. Although this was considered an uphill year for the World Championships – the event alternates in odd-numbered years to an up/down format – there were significant downhill portions in the course this year including a steep and technical downhill section of about 400 meters between the three and four kilometer marks and a 200-meter very fast downhill finish.
There were also sections of flat running through the village of Ponte di Legno crossing two wooden bridges before heading up a steep grassy section of switchbacks which led into a rolling section of single track through the forest. And of course there were some steep sections of climbing, some on rocks, others on grassy areas.
For Team USA, three men finished in the top 20. The first finisher was newcomer to the team, Glen Randall, 25, Mesa, CO, who posted at time of 1:05:48 for ninth overall. “I went through a major rough patch. I had a side stitch at 6 kilometers into the race. I just stayed totally within myself then managed to go better. I was hoping it (the side stitch) wouldn’t last long and it didn’t,” said Randall. “I’ve been working on my finishes and I’m really happy with my finish and I’m definitely pleased with my race.”
Next up for Randall is the ING New York Marathon where he has two goals, “First is to go out at the right pace, second when the moment comes, I’ll seize it. That moment defines the race.”
Fellow newcomer to the Team, Sage Canaday, 26, Boulder, CO, was only seven seconds behind Randall and finished in 12th place. “It was my first U.S. National Team and my first time wearing the team gear, which is nice.”