The U.S. has sent a men's team to these championships (until 2009 known as the World Mountain Running Trophy) since 1990. In the past three uphill years (the course alternates between uphill terrain in even-numbered years and up/down terrain in odd-numbered years), the team has scored 102 points in 2004 to place eighth, 113 points in 2006 to place fifth and 76 points in 2008 to take the bronze medal.
"The bronze medal was so exciting because it was our first medal," said five-time team member Rickey Gates (2006-10) who finished in 52nd position in 1 hour, 4 minutes, 3 seconds. "The silver is exciting and shows that we're stepping it up. Americans are seeing that mountain running is a 'real' sport and internationally, people will consider USA a threat from here on out and this is really exciting for our program."
The men's race was held over a 12 kilometer course with more than 4,200 feet of vertical gain. The route started in a wide, grassy meadow and quickly merged into a paved and level roadway for the next kilometer. The terrain changed to a gravel road and started to climb. For the next 10.5 kilometers, the course varied from steep, rocky terrain through both forest and wide open spaces. There was one descent of 300' on this mostly uphill course.
Eritrea simply dominated the men's race with the world champion and runner-up - Samson Gashazghi (56:25) and Teklay Weldemariam (56:28) and overall, placed five men in the top nine to handily defend their team title with 13 points.
Max King who finished in 16th (1:00:50) as the second Team USA scoring team member behind Joe Gray who was 10th in 59:27, said, "This (course) makes road running look like a walk in the park. Today I tried to just maintain on the steep parts. I had a 10 meter lead on the field in the first kilometer, then I started to get caught which I knew would happen. I figured I'd go out fast on the road section because I wanted to have some space once the terrain got steeper.
"It was a pretty good race for me. I feel like my hill running was a lot stronger than three months ago. When we turned the last corner (about 50 meters from the finish) I thought, 'I got him' (referring to the Italian runner and former world champion Marco De Gasperi)." King stayed with De Gasperi stride-for-stride then passed him with 10 meters to go. "That was about as good as I could have raced today."
USA was the first women's team to finish all four athletes over the 8.5 kilometer course, but in spite of this solid finish for the team, the women were a bit disappointed in their fourth place.
"It wasn't the result I was looking for, for myself or the team. Individually, each of us had a top-ten potential so I really thought the gold medal was a realistic goal for us," said second scoring member for the U.S. team Brandy Erholtz, who finished in 15th position (53:57).
Added top U.S. scorer Kristin Price who finished in 12th (53:19), "I want our team to be medal winners, and now I have more of a desire to come back to the World Championships."
When asked to compare the course at the USA 10K Trail Championships, that Price won in 2009, to the Worlds course she said, "They wouldn't compare. This course was much more brutal, the climbs were longer, steeper and just more intense."
The total elevation gain was 1,035 meters for the woman and included some rocky and technical single track trail, as well as open meadows, dirt paths and even a few descents.
Austria's Andrea Mayr won the women's world title in 49:30, while Italy defended its team title with a score of 17, followed by Switzerland with 21 points, and Russia with 36 points. Team USA scored 44 to take fourth.
In the Junior women's 4.5K, Hannah Valenzuela and Laura Beresford finished in 18th and 41st positions respectively to give the U.S. Junior women a 13th place finish among the 17 teams. Valenzuela was timed in 27:31, Beresford in 30:06, and Hannah Jumper in 36:27.
Yasmine Can of Turkey won the Junior women's race in 24:04, and Turkey who finished one-two in the competition won the team competition.
The U.S. Junior men all finished within one and a half minutes of one another led by Chase Caulkins who finished in 27th place in 51:09 over the 8.5K course that boasted 1,035 meters of vertical gain. Cody Wells finished in 32nd position (51:37), Chris York was timed in 51:57 for 37th position and Paul Petersen ran 52:40 for 41st position. The Junior men placed 9th out of 19 teams.
Yossief Andemichael of Eritrea won the Junior men's race in 42:30 and Turkey the team title with 20 points.
Next year's World Mountain Running Championships will be held on an up/down loop course in Albania on September 11.
26th World Mountain Running Championships
Kamnik, SLO, Sunday, September 5, 2010
MEN - 12K
1) Samson Gashazghi (ERI), 56:25, Gold
2) Teklay Weldemariam (ERI), 56:28, Silver
3) Geoffrey Kusuro (UGA), 56:57, Bronze
4) Petro Mamu Shaku (ERI), 57:00
5) Stephan Kiprotich (UGA), 57:16
10) Joe Gray (USA / WA), 59:27
16) Max King (USA / OR), 1:00:50
18) Tommy Manning (USA / CO), 1:01:09
27) Eric Blake (USA / CT), 1:02:04
52) Rickey Gates (USA / CO), 1:04:03
59) Chris Lundstrom (USA / MN), 1:04:34
1) Eritrea, 13 points
2) USA, 71
3) Italy, 77
24 scoring teams
WOMEN - 8.5K
1) Andrea Mayr (AUT), 49:30, Gold
2) Valentina Belotti (ITA), 50:08, Silver
3) Martina Straehl (SUI), 50:42, Bronze
4) Svetlana Semova (RUS), 51:02
5) Mateja Kosovelj (SLO), 51:24
12) Kristin Price (USA / NC), 53:19
15) Brandy Erholtz (USA / CO), 53:57
17) Nicole Hunt (USA / MT), 54:08
21) Megan Lund (USA / CO), 54:44
1) Italy, 17 points
2) Switzerland, 21
3) Russia, 36
4) USA, 44
13 scoring teams
Full results and more at: www.wmrc2010-kamnik.si