The field for this year’s USATF Mountain Championships at Mt. Bachelor on Saturday, July 25, was referred to by many athletes as, “crazy deep.” Not only were championship titles and $10,000 in prize money on the line, all of the senior U.S. Mountain Running Team members would be named – six men and four women. And if that wasn’t enough at stake, the event also hosted the 2nd annual Collegiate Mountain Running Championships providing an additional $6000 prize purse for eligible athletes.
In his second attempt at a mountain champs title, 28-year-old Patrick Smyth, was first across the line running a blistering time of 46:10 over the 12-kilometer course which consisted of three 4-kilometer loops boasting nearly 900 feet of climbing per loop with a variety of terrain from rock-strewn trail, loose sand, fire roads, and single track trail .
Andy Wacker, 26, finished just 10 seconds back, and defending USATF Mountain Running Champion Joe Gray, 31, rounded out the top three timed in 46:51.
Gray took the lead out quickly, and the trio (Gray, Wacker and Smyth), jockeyed for position up the initial climb with Smyth and Wacker first to the top. Smyth then pulled away on the single track. “I kind of got away on the single track and really opened it up on the fire road,” said Smyth. “I extended my lead maybe fifteen seconds on the first lap and stayed in the lead to the finish.”
That didn’t mean he wasn’t running a bit scared. “On the ups, I knew that they were right there – I could hear them. I was definitely trying to get (out of sight) on the single track and then get to the fire road and open it up. I was definitely faster on the fire road than the single track.”
Asked when he knew he had the race won, Smyth said it wasn’t until the final descent, “On the section of the fire road that was really smooth, I looked back and knew I had a little bit (of a lead), and I could hear people saying I had a little bit.”
As for the win, “I was psyched. The ones you really work for and take it (your performance) to the limit are really rewarding, and it was hard. The win was pretty gratifying,” said Smyth.
With the win, Smyth makes his second consecutive U.S. Mountain Running Team. Smyth, who recently took a position as a GIS analyst at Trust for Public Land and relocated from Salt Lake City to Santa Fe, NM, finished 10th last year at the championships.
Joining Smyth on the team slated to compete on Saturday, September 19, in Wales at the 31st World Mountain Running Championships, will be first-time team members Wacker, who hails from Boulder, CO, and John Donovan, 28, Incline Village, NV. Donovan raced to a fifth-place finish at the U.S. champs with a time of 48:53. Colorado boasts two more team members including Colorado Springs resident Gray, who will make his record eighth consecutive appearance at worlds and Gunnison’s Josh Eberly, 34, who made his second consecutive team with a sixth-place finish at the U.S. champs. The final team member, Andrew Benford, 27, Flagstaff, Arizona, is the only athlete to make a junior mountain team as well as a senior mountain team for the U.S. In both, he was the top American finishing 12th in 2006, and 13th in 2009. Benford finished in fourth at the U.S. champs with a time of 48:22.
Asked about the prospects for this year’s men’s team Smyth said, “Because it is an up/down year, I think with the team we have, we have a gold-medal team. We have great speed, great technical descenders, and great climbers. And…we have experience.”
In the women’s race, Morgan Arritola, raced to her second U.S. Mountain Championship title having also won in 2013. From Ketchum, ID, the 29-year-old took an early lead on the first climb and never relinquished it over the two-lap eight-kilometer course. Her time of 36:20, was just over a minute ahead of second-place finisher Kasie Enman, 35, who posted a time of 37:37, in spite of coming from the lower elevations afforded by her hometown of Huntington, VT.
“I don’t come to these races altitude trained,” said Enman during a panel discussion the night before the championships. “I come as close to the race as possible. It’s tough on these short ones (races) because it’s so anaerobic. I can’t always take it out as fast as I want. I try to be as fit as possible to counteract any effects of altitude.”
In third place was Kimber Mattox, 26, Eugene, OR, in 38:17, who earned a spot on her first U.S. Mountain Running Team. Likewise, fourth-place finisher and Bend local Allison Grace Morgan, 32, earned a spot on her first mountain team. Morgan, who was trailing mountain running veteran and five-time mountain team member Brandy Erholtz after the second climb, summoned her track speed (Morgan has run sub-33 for 10,000 meters on the track), to charge past Erholtz on the downhill and cross the line seven seconds ahead.
Mattox and Morgan will be alongside talented company in Wales with their teammates Arritola and Enman. Arritola raced to third at Worlds in 2012 to lead the women’s team to a gold-medal finish, and Enman is the 2011 World Mountain Running Champion.
Smyth and Arritola each earned $2500 for their victories, $1500 from the USATF Championship and $1000 from the Collegiate Running Association Championship.
According to co-founder of the Collegiate Running Association Steve Taylor, there were 55 college students competing at the event for the $6,000 prize purse. “That’s more than double what we had last year at our inaugural mountain championship,” said an enthusiastic Taylor. “We’re excited about the increased participation. I think people are learning this opportunity exits. Last year we had two championships and $16,000 in prize money awarded. This year we added a trail race and a half marathon and we’ll award $38,000 in total prize money. We’re branching to other areas of the country and this also helps our exposure.”
More than a championship and selection race, this event was also an opportunity for anyone to test their trail and mountain running skills on the challenging Mt. Bachelor course by racing the four-kilometer citizen’s race. There were 66 finishers in the 4K. The men’s 12K had 116 finishers while the women’s 8K had 49 finishers.
For complete results, visit www.webscorer.com.