Team USA takes NACAC Mountain Running Championships
From Nancy Hobbs
NORTH CONWAY, N.H. - (June 28, 2009) - On a humid, overcast morning in the New England hamlet of North Conway, N.H., Washingtonian Joseph Gray, 24, Lakewood, and Californian Christine Lundy, 38, Sausalito outpaced one of the deepest U.S. mountain running fields in recent memory to become the 2009 USA Mountain Running champions at the 22nd Cranmore Hill Climb on Sunday. The pair also led Team USA to gold medal podium spots in the men's and women's division of the North American Central American Caribbean Mountain Running Championships.
The race featured two 5.5 kilometer loops and 2,400 feet of vertical gain that included a mixture of steep climbing, single track terrain, super fast descents, and flat sections across open meadows. Spectators at the base of the mountain could watch the runners as they climbed in the distance and then cheered runners on as they passed the start / finish area for the second and final loop.
A former collegiate steeplechaser, Gray, in his third season mountain racing, was with a lead pack of seven within the first kilometer which included Simon Gutierrez, 43, CO; Zac Freudenberg (MO); Eric Blake (CT), Matt Byrne (PA) and Shiloh Mielke (NC). The group stayed together up the first pitch, but at the top of the climb Gray took off. Freudenberg and Gutierrez were in second and third respectively, followed closely by Rickey Gates (CO), Byrne and Blake. Mielke didn't stick with the group on the first downhill.
After the first loop, it was Gray leading by about 40 seconds posting a 28 minute loop with Freudenberg in second, Gutierrez in third, "I was feeling confident, like I could hold third," said Gutierrez in a post-race interview, "Even going up the second climb I felt good. Then Rickey and Matt caught me about 1 kilometer into the second climb. They started pushing it. Joe was gone. I could see Rickey and Matt until the last 200 meters of the climb.
"After that I survived to get down. My legs were shot, Eric passed me and I caught up to him and we ran together for the last 2 kilometers. Shiloh blasted by us with about ½ mile to go," said Gutierrez who in a sprint-to-the-finish with Blake fell down just a few feet from the line to finish seventh.
Gray kept a solid, steady and rather blistering pace to finish in 48 minutes, 37 seconds followed by Freudenberg (49:48), Byrne (49:57), Gates (50:04), Meilke (51:38), Blake (51:50) and Gutierrez (51:54). Aaron Saft, Kevin Tilton and John Tribbia rounded out the top ten.
With his win, Gray made his second consecutive Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team. Freudenberg and Byrne also were named to the team. All three were members of last year's bronze medal winning team at the World Mountain Running Championships in Switzerland.
Lundy, with her win, becomes a four-time Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team member earning the sole team spot at Cranmore for the women. Lundy, who made her first U.S. mountain team in 2005, is the only two-time team gold medalist as a member of both the 2006 and 2007 U.S. teams at Worlds. She raced to victory posting a time of 57:16, besting her nearest competitor, Brandy Erholtz (CO), by approximately 35 seconds, and was followed by Laura Haefeli, 41, CO, in 58:30. Kasie Enman, Gina Lucrezi, Megan Lund, Abby Larson, Amber Moran, Trish Steidl and Christa Benton rounded out the top 10.
USA Masters champion Haefeli, when interviewed about her race said, "I felt good. I was psyched that we (Team USA in the NACAC competition - Lundy, Haefeli, Enman and Erholtz) were all running together. The start was fast. Brandy, Chris and Kasie were in front of me, but we were all really close. Abby was close behind. Abby passed me on one of the steeper sections and I was fifth to the top after the first climb. On the first downhill, I knew Abby was running really hard and I passed her on the rocky section. I figured if I could get enough distance on her on the downhill I could hold her off on the uphill. I was hoping that anyone behind me on the first loop wouldn't catch me.
"I was gaining on Kasie, and I thought I was even gaining on Chris. It was definitely tougher on the second time around. I caught Kasie just before the steep climb and started to put some distance right after the climb and increased my lead. Once I crested the top, I was gone. I knew from the first lap I was running well on the downhill and didn't think anyone would catch me on the downs. By the time I crested, I didn't see Brandy or Chris. At the last part of the downhill I saw Brandy, but didn't see Chris. I wanted to minimize the gap from second place."
In the NACAC competition the top two runners for each country scored. Lundy and Erholtz scored for Team USA to earn the gold medal with Canada in silver medal position. On the men's side, Gray and Gates scored for Team USA which included Blake and Gutierrez. Final results were not available at press time for the men's NACAC competition. The top NACAC teams each won $200.
The Cranmore Hill Climb included Open runners as well as USATF members vying for national championship honors in their respective five year age groups starting at 40-years-old for Masters runners. USATF results will be posted at: www.USATF.org
"We were really excited to have such high caliber runners come to the Mount Washington Valley and the race was a great success. We had 250 registrants and nearly 40 finishers more than our previous high. I would say this is due to the national championships which attracted runners from 22 states. The White Mountain Milers are planning to submit a bid to host the Championships again in 2011," said event director Paul Kirsch.
22nd Cranmore Hill Climb: USA Mountain Running Championships
North Conway, NH, Sunday, June 28, 2009
1) Joseph Gray (WA), 48:37, $200
2) Zac Freudenberg (MO), 49:48, $150
3) Matt Byrne (PA), 49:57, $100
7) Simon Gutierrez, 43, CO, 51:54, $50
1) Christine Lundy (CA), 57:16, $200
2) Brandy Erholtz (CO), 57:51, $150
3) Laura Haefeli, 41, 58:30, $150
More results at: www.whitemountainmilers.com