Mountain Craziness at Cranmore

Joe Gray & Morgan Arritola Lead Team USA
by Nancy Hobbs
. I know he always keeps it honest and
with the addition of Glenn Randall, well, he’s a guy who likes to press too,” said

“It was a pretty hard effort right from the
start. It was competitive,” added Gray, “I thought it was just he (Max) and I
(on the downhill), then there were a couple guys that passed us on the downhill
and they were flying. I was a bit surprised, even though I knew there were some
fast guys. On paper, you looked at the guys and knew it was going to be a
painful race and it was definitely painful. I don’t think I started feeling
good until the last climb. I think I let off the gas too much, because I
thought Max was behind me. It was Zach (Zachary Ornelas), he passed me right
before it got a bit rocky, and near the crest of that portion, I passed him and
had about five, or six seconds on him. Near the finish, I let off the gas a
bit, because I knew I had it.”

Gray finished the 12-kilometer course, which
consisted of three 4-kilometer loops on the mountain, in a time of 56:23. In
addition to winning the USA Mountain Running title, Gray extended his North
American Central American Caribbean (NACAC) Mountain Running Championships
winning streak to five consecutive victories and led the U.S. team, comprised
of King, Randall, and Ryan Woods, to a gold medal scoring six points. Canada
and Mexico each scored 22 points, but Canada’s third scoring member bested the
runner from Mexico to take team silver, and Mexico was awarded a bronze medal.

Second to finish, just five seconds after
Gray, was newcomer to mountain racing, Ornelas, 22, Ann Arbor, MI, followed by
2011 World Mountain Running Champion and 2011 Cranmore champion King, 33, Bend,
OR, in 56:45.

“My plan was to win, but that didn’t happen,”
said King, “The format and the course made a huge difference in how you placed.
You can just see how different things favor people. I’d go from first to fourth
in every lap and then back to first by the uphill. My downhill is definitely
stronger than my uphill, but it was a course that didn’t really favor a
downhill runner-a downhill runner wasn’t going to win it. The downhill was
straight and pretty good footing so it didn’t slow anybody down, like a
technical downhill would. The uphill was pretty brutal.”

“At the bottom of the final climb,” said
King, “There were three of us together, I almost moved up to second, Zach was
right with me, but I thought he was good climber. My goal was to hold Glenn off
and see if I could catch Zach if he was going to fade. My climbing has
definitely gotten better and I felt the strongest on the last climb.”

About making his third U.S. Mountain Running
Team (2010, 2011, 2013), King said, “It’s a little bittersweet because I did
want to win this year since I’m particularly suited to the up/down format. It’s
good to make the team and get another chance at an up/down ‰ÛÓ a format I favor.

“I think we’ve got a really good team. We’ve
got a really good group of downhill runners. I think a medal is much more
doable and possible this year which will be nice. Individually, after this race
it is going to depend on the course. It depends on how technical the downhill
is. Every race you want to go in and win, but at the same time I am realistic
and I know it will be difficult to repeat what I did in 2011.”

The top six U.S. men earned an automatic spot
on the U.S. Mountain Running Team which will compete in Poland this September
at the 29th World Mountain Running Championships.

Joining Gray, Ornelas, and King on the
mountain team this year is Randall, 26, Mesa, CO, who finished in fourth place.
This will be his second team having been on the 2012 squad. Like Ornelas,
fifth- and sixth-place finishers Ryan Hafer, 27, and Alex Nichols, 28, both of
Colorado Springs, CO, are first-time team members.

Asked about the U.S. chances in Poland,
veteran team member Gray (2008-2013), said, “No doubt we should medal. What medal
we get will depend on the day and where the guys are mentally. We have a lot of
talent on the team and I’m excited to see what we can do on the world stage.
Individiually, I always want to improve on what I’ve done before. I’ve gotten
tenth, and I’d like to go better than that.”

When asked which of the titles, USA Mountain
Champ, NACAC Mountain Champ, or U.S. team member, gave him the most
satisfaction, Gray said, “Ultimately representing your country well is the
biggest thing, the feat that brings the most happiness to me. Winning the
titles ‰ÛÓ USA and NACAC‰ÛÓI’m very happy for that. It’s good to extend my NACAC to
five consecutive, but nothing beats representing your country.”

Hafer, who had previously competed at the
2009 and 2010 selection races, was happy to make this year’s team. “I didn’t
have too many expectations going into the race. Expectations can make you worry
and you analyze whose going to be there, and how you are going to fit into the
mix. At the end of the day they are all just running friends anyway. You want
to be happy for them to do well, or them to be happy for you to do well. I put
any expectations behind me and have confidence in what I could do and control
my race.

“I went out fast,” said Hafer, “I got a
little bit behind where I was maybe four or five roads back. At the first
downhill it took a bit of work to weave around people to get position. After
the first downhill and the turn, you could see it got a bit strung out with
Max, Joe, and Glenn in front in a better position than I had. I was in the
second group ‰ÛÓ a close string of guys that hadn’t really broken apart yet. The
pace was out-of-control fast. When we got to some of the smoother sections it
felt a bit more relaxed. You can’t recover on an uphill, so I wanted to use each
of the downhills and feel smooth, but still try to push it. I was in about
sixth place with Andy and Brandon (Birdsong). I started to lose Brandon on the
climb. Partly uphill one of the Canadians and Zach passed me. I wanted to feel
as good as I could and save as much as I could after the first lap and then see
how much I could start pushing from there. I definitely didn’t want to try and
compete and worry about the first lap too much, just tried to get through it.

“After the first lap, I was in about seventh
or eighth place. At the downhill I passed a few guys and put some distance on
Zach until the uphill where he passed me. He was looking pretty strong. By the
top of the climb, he was well ahead on his way to catching the top four guys
(Glenn, Joe, Max, Andy Waker). Zach passed Andy by the top and I was about
20-30 meters behind Andy going down on the third loop. I was looking forward to
reeling him in on the downhill, but he was running strong. I didn’t quite catch
him on the downhill, but thought I would catch him on the uphill because he
looked a bit tired on the last hill. I passed Andy near the end of the climb
and I looked back and Alex was closing in, about 50 meters back. I figured he
was doing well because I didn’t know he was back there. Andy was walking some
section of the last climb and I was running just enough to go a little faster
than him. On the very last 100 meters, I needed to pass Andy because Alex was
coming on strong and I knew he wanted to be in the top six too. I knew I had to
push it out to the finish. So I ended up going by Andy and kept that pace until
it started to level out a bit and tried to pick it up and sprint in to hold off
Alex if he was coming in too.”

Hafer plans to learn as much as he can about
the travel and race experience for the upcoming trip to Worlds in Poland. Prior
to that, Hafer, like Nichols, will run the Pikes Peak Marathon, this year’s
USA Trail Marathon Championships. Hafer is a past winner of the Pikes Peak
Ascent and Nichols was second in the Pikes Peak Marathon last year.

In the women’s race at Cranmore, which
started at 8:15 a.m., one hour ahead of the men’s race, 2012 World Mountain
Running Championships individual bronze medalist Morgan Arritola, ran stride
for stride for much of the race with her 2012 mountain team member Stevie

Arritola, 27, Ketchum, ID, bested Kremer, 29,
Crested Butte, CO, by 19 seconds over the 8-kilometer course comprised of two
four kilometer loops to win in 42:31. Rounding out the top three was 2008
Olympic marathon runner Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, 39, Oakland, CA, who posted a
time of 44:52. “I’ve done a lot of marathons,” Lewy-Boulet said to race
director Paul Kirsch, “But this is the hardest races I’ve ever done.”

Lewy-Boulet, with her third-place finish earned a
spot on her first U.S. Mountain Running Team and will join two-time team
members Arritola, Kremer and fourth-place finisher Megan Kimmel (2008 and 2009
team member), 33, Silverton, CO, in Poland for the World Mountain Running
Championships where they hope to defend their 2012 gold-medal.

In the NACAC competition, the U.S. women swept the
top four places and won gold with three points (the men scored the top three,
while the women scored the top two). The U.S. women on the NACAC team included
Arritola in first followed by Megan Lizotte in second, Amber Reece-Young in
third, and Michele Yates in fourth. Team Canada finished with 11 points in
silver-medal position, followed by Mexico with 19 points for the bronze medal.

Complete results from Cranmore are posted at this
. Follow the U.S. Mountain Running Team,
including the announcement of the junior team, and their travels to Poland.
Learn more about the USATF championships program at



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