Junior Men’s Mountain Running Team ends Medal Drought in Wales
Team USA’s junior men struck double silver at the 31st World Mountain Running Championships held at Betws-y-Coed, Wales on Saturday, September 19, earning the first-ever junior men’s medals at the event.
Team USA started the junior mountain running program in 2002 and has realized junior women’s gold, silver, and bronze medals over the past decade in both individual and team categories, but the best finish for the men had been a team fourth and several individual top-ten finishes.
Alaska’s Levi Thomet finished 2nd, ending the U.S. junior men’s drought with a gritty performance over the 8.9-kilometer course comprised of two loops boasting 239 meters of elevation gain per loop.
After the first loop, Thomet was chasing early men’s leader Ferhat Bozkurt from Turkey with the pair well ahead of the field of 63 international competitors. The two held their positions to the finish with Bozkurt extending the gap to win in 33:56, followed by Thomet in 35:50. Mustafa Goksel finished three seconds later in 33:53
In the team competition, Turkey had a near-perfect score of 9 to take gold among the fourteen teams. With two top-ten performances by Thomet and ninth-place finisher Ben Butler, who ran 36:49, USA nabbed silver with a score of 28. Tayte Polmann, who passed six athletes on the descent, finished 17th in a time of 37:46 as the final scoring member and Connor Wilson finished 46th in 41:52. Home country Great Britain raced to bronze with a score of 30.
The 4.7-kilometer junior women’s race preceded the junior men’s race and Team USA realized a gold medal by Alaska’s Allie Ostrander, the first world champion of the day. The petite 18-year-old with a bright and engaging smile and personality, bested the field by 38 seconds to take the win in 19:44. Second across the line was Michaela Stranska, Czech Republic, in 20:23. Rounding out the top three was youth challenge champion from 2013, Elsa Racasan, France, in 20:31. Racasan is currently a student at Rice University in Texas.
With six points, the Czech Republic took the team gold medal among the 16 teams. Great Britain earned silver with 13, followed by France for Bronze with 20 points. The top two finishers score for the team with up to three racing. The final scoring member for Team USA was Lily Tomasula Martin in 30 position timed in 22:49. Katie Bowe finished 38th in 24:29.
Switching gears to the senior competition, Team USA again made the podium with a silver medal, led by sixth-place finisher Kimber Mattox, who raced the 8.9-kilometer course in 39:31. Not even one second separated the next two US finishers, Kasie Enman and Morgan Arritola, who finished in tenth and eleventh respectively in 40:11. Not far back, was Allison Grace-Morgan in 18th with a time of 40:59. This was the first time all four U.S. women finished in the top 20, and the first team silver. The U.S. women previously won gold in 2006, 2007, and 2012, and bronze in 2004, 2009, and 2013.
Great Britain took the team gold with 9 points and Uganda earned bronze with 28 points, just one point behind USA. There were 14 teams.
Sunshine, ever-present throughout the day, continued through the senior men’s race, which was the final event of the championships. The men’s course was, “Deceptively difficult,” according to US team member Josh Eberly. “It was a combination of everything, the grueling climb, the slickness of the rocks, the shoe-sucking mud, the long descent. It was a tough course.”
The course consisted of 13-kilometers requiring three loops, which meant three long climbs and three long descents. The course required strength, endurance, speed, and focus. The first runner to the line was Uganda’s Fred Musobo in 49:00, followed by Italy’s Bernard Dematteis in 49:42. Rounding out the top three was Robbie Simpson, Great Britain, in 50:31.
With an outstanding fifth-place performance, and first finisher for Team USA, was Colorado’s Joseph Gray with a time of 51:16. Second for Team USA was fellow Coloradoan Andy Wacker in 13th position timed in 52:25, followed by Oregon’s Ryan Bak in 22nd with a time of 53:30. The final scoring member was Nevada’s John Patrick Donovan in 37th place timed in 54:44.
Also for Team USA, Josh Eberly, Colorado, in 45th place timed in 55:29, and Andrew Benford, Arizona, in 50th place with a time of 56:00.
With 25 points, team gold was awarded to Italy. Uganda finished in silver-medal position with 38 points, followed by Great Britain for the bronze with 46 points. There were 19 full teams in the senior men’s division.
Thirty-three countries participated in the championships. Next year, Bulgaria will host the World Mountain Running Championships on an uphill-only course slated for Sunday, September 4, 2015.