2018 Junior US Mountain Running Team Announced

Written by Paul Kirsch, Manager, Junior US Mountain Running Team. Paul is also Race Director for the Loon Mountain Race, host of the 2018 USATF Mountain Running Championships in Lincoln, NH.

The 2018 Junior US Mountain Running Team will compete in Canillo, Andorra on Sunday, September 16, at the 34th World Mountain Running Championships. This year’s team was selected from a very competitive pool of 50 applicants and features a mixture of team veterans and outstanding high school and collegiate athletes hailing from four states: Arizona, Colorado, Maryland and Utah.

The eight Junior athletes (four men and four women ages 16-19 in the year of competition) will join the Senior Men’s and Women’s teams that qualified at the USATF Mountain Running Championships at the Loon Mountain Race on July 8, in Lincoln, NH.

The Junior athletes will compete on a 7.3-kilometer mainly uphill course that contains over 570 meters of elevation gain. The U.S. team looks to build on their strong performance from 2017, where the Junior US squad won two individual medals and one team medal.

“The interest in the team and the applicant pool continues to grow,” remarked Paul Kirsch, Team Manager for the Junior Team. “We had talented young men and women from 15 different states apply this year. I am really excited to see how the squad fares this year in Andorra.”

“It has been so fulfilling to watch this program develop since 2002 — the first year Team USA fielded a junior team at the World Mountain Running Championships,” said USATF’s mountain ultra trail running chairperson Nancy Hobbs. “The growth we’ve experienced in terms of applicants has been phenomenal. Add to that the tremendous support from coaches at the high school and collegiate level and there’s no doubt the program will continue to thrive. This year’s squad shows incredible medal potential and I’m looking forward to cheering on these talented athletes in Andorra.”

This year’s team includes the following athletes: *

Joslin Blair, 17, Eagle, CO

Blair attends Eagle Valley High School where she enters her senior year this fall. She was the gold medalist at the 2018 Mountain Running International Youth Cup in Lanzada, Italy, and also finished 7th at the Colorado 4A State Cross Country Championships, first in the 1600 Meters at the CHSAA 4A State Track Championships and third at the 3200-Meter CHSAA 4A State Championships.

“I’m so excited to be able to test my running in the mountains of Andorra and honored to be representing the USA on a global level. Not only will I be able to race abroad, but I’ll also have the chance to meet athletes from different countries. I can’t wait to challenge myself and work with my teammates. I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

Soleil Gaylord, 18, Telluride, CO

Gaylord will be a Freshman at Dartmouth College this fall. She has a decorated high school career both athletically and academically. This will be her third consecutive Junior US Mountain Running Team, which includes a 16th place finish in 2017 as part of the Silver Medal team that competed in Premana, Italy. She was also a member of the 2017 Youth Mountain Running Team and NACAC Mountain Running Team. Gaylord was 2nd at the Colorado 2A State Cross Country Championships and earned state titles at both the 1600 and 3200 CHSAA 2A Track Championships

“I am absolutely thrilled to compete as a member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team! The World Mountain Running Championships is world-class in the purest sense of the word, and the camaraderie mountain running provides makes it the experience of a lifetime. It is my purest joy to run alongside these fine athletes on challenging and marvelously spectacular trails. There is no other sport quite as gratifying as soaring through the mountains!”

Quinn McConnell, 18, Boulder, CO

McConnell attends Peak to Peak Charter School where she will be a senior this fall. She was a member of the Silver Medal Junior Women’s Team in 2017 that competed at the World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy where she finished 11th overall. McConnell was the 2017 Colorado State 3A Cross Country Champion and finished 7th at the NXR Southwest Regional Championships.

“I am beyond excited to be on the team again this year with such an incredible group of junior girls. The race in Italy last year was a life changing experience for me and I cannot wait to see what we are capable of this year!”

Anna Shults, 17, Lafayette, CO

Shults enters her senior year this fall at Peak to Peak Charter School. She finished 2nd at the Colorado 3A State Cross Country Championships and 4th at the NXR Southwest Regional Championships. Shults raced at the WMRA Mountain Running International Youth Cup in 2018 and finished 7th overall as the second finisher for Team USA.

“I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity to race on a team with some of the best junior girls from Colorado! I can’t wait to meet all the other athletes, line up on a start line with athletes from all over the world and my teammates by my side, and give it my all from the start.”

David Cardenas, 18, Grand Junction, CO

Cardenas will enter his senior year at Central High School in Grand Junction this fall. He finished 5th in the NXR Southwest Regional Cross Country Championships in 2017 and has a mountain running background including a strong finish at this year’s Vail Hill Climb.

“When I first got a call from Coach Paul I was extremely excited to hear that I made the USA Mountain Running team. I’m glad I get the chance to meet new people and travel to a new place. I’m proud and honored to represent Team USA!”

Nathan Davis, 18, Urbana, MD

Davis is entering his Freshman year at the Colorado School of Mines this fall where he will be competing on their Cross Country Team. Davis was the top placing junior man for Team USA at the 2017 WMRA Mountain Running International Youth Cup. Nathan placed 5th at the MPSSAA 4A North Region Cross Country Championships and was 1st in the 3200 Meters at MPSSAA 2A West Region Track and Field Championships.

“I’m super excited to have the opportunity to represent the USA and run in the Pyrenees against the world’s best. Hopefully I’ll be able to help the boys’ junior team bring home some hardware. Go Team USA!”

Soren Knudsen, 19, Flagstaff, AZ

Knudsen competed for Minooka High School in Minooka, IL, where he finished 1st in the IHSA 3A State XC Championship and 1st in both the 1600 and 3200 IHSA 3A Boys State Track Championships. Knudsen currently lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“I’m so excited to represent Team USA and learn from and love so many wonderfully unique and talented individuals!”

Denver Perry, 18, Ogden, UT

Perry enters his sophomore year this fall at Brigham Young University He had a successful running career at Bonneville High School and is an experienced mountain runner. Perry has a 15:42 5km Cross Country personal best (at altitude). He finished second at the 2017 Moab Trail Half Marathon and 4th overall at the 7.1-Mile Cirque Series Mountain Race in Alta, Utah.

“I am excited to represent the greatest country on earth in the greatest sport on earth!”

* Athlete’s age as of December 31, 2018.