Up for grabs: USA Mountain Running title, NACAC Mountain title and team slots on the 2009 Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team
NORTH CONWAY, N.H. - (June 22, 2009) - Top U.S. mountain runners will compete in New England this Sunday, June 28, at the Cranmore Hill Climb to earn the title of USA Mountain champion. This is the second time the five-year-old USA Mountain Running Championships (held since 2003, but not in 2005) have come to North Conway; the first was in 2007 where Coloradoans Rickey Gates and Anita Ortiz were victorious.
Gates is in stellar form coming off a sub-one hour time to win this year's Mount Washington Road Race on June 20. He will face challengers to include two-time mountain champ (on uphill years in '06 and '08) Eric Blake who was runner-up to Gates at Mount Washington this year, and Joe Gray, third at Mount Washington and second at the Teva Mountain Games 10K on June 6 in Vail (where Gates finished third), and top masters runner Simon Gutierrez, fifth at Mount Washington and fourth in Vail.
These four men will make up Team USA in this year's North American Central American Caribbean (NACAC) Mountain Running Championships and will compete against athletes from Mexico and Canada for team honors. They will also vie for a spot on this year's Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team which will compete in Campodolcino, Italy, September 6.
Matt Byrne, fourth at Mount Washington this year and a member of last year's bronze medal winning squad at the World Mountain Championships would like to earn a spot on his second mountain team. Zac Freudenberg, Aaron Saft, Jason Bryant, Kevin Tilton and Shiloh Mielke are all hoping for a top finish at Cranmore where the top three U.S. men a spot on this year's squad.
The women's field boasts as much depth as the men's. Starting with the four women on Team USA in the NACAC competition which includes last year's NACAC Mountain Champion Kasie Enman; 2008 USA Mountain Champion and last week's runaway winner at Mount Washington Brandy Erholtz who was the top U.S. woman at Worlds last year; Christine Lundy, second in 2007 at Cranmore and the 2007 NACAC Mountain Champion as well as a member of the two-time gold medal winning women's team at World's ('06, '07), and Laura Haefeli, individual bronze medalist at Worlds 2007 and a four-time USA Trail Running champion.
Ready to challenge these veteran mountain runners and hoping to earn the sole spot on the mountain team for women at Cranmore will be Coloradoans Megan Lund and Gina Lucrezi, both 25-years-old and having recently finished third and fifth respectively at the Teva 10K in Vai (Erholtz and Haefeli went one-two at Vail). Also in the hunt for a top finish are Trish Steidl, 32, Seattle, and North Carolinian Amber Moran, 30, Arden. Cranmore women's champion in 2007, while five-time mountain team member Anita Ortiz has been training for ultra distance events this year and will be competing in her first 100 mile event at Western States this weekend.
"Paul Kirsch has done a great job with the event adding all of the components we requested this year and has created a course that will closely mirror the Worlds' course in Italy. After hosting the USA Mountain Championships in 2007 Paul tweaked the course a bit and it will surely test the athletes' strength, speed, and endurance," said Nancy Hobbs, USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Running chairperson and manager of the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team. "Like everyone else, I'm excited to see so many of our top mountain runners compete at Cranmore this weekend and look forward to a super event."
Race entries for Cranmore currently represent 22 states, along with Mexico and Canada. The course at Cranmore Mountain resort is an up / down two-lap route featuring approximately 2,400 feet of vertical gain over 11 kilometers.
Although the race features elite athletes, it is open to competitors of all ages who are looking for a challenging course. Finishers at past Cranmore Hill Climbs have included runners as young as seven and as old as 75. USATF will award medals to the top ten Open competitors in both the men's and women's divisions, medals to the top three in Masters age groups in five year increments starting at age 40, and prize money as follows (equal for men and women): $200 first place; $150 second place; $100 third place and $50 first place master. There is also USATF team competition.
To learn more about the race or to register, visit: www.whitemountainmilers.com.