Alyssa Sauro Wins the 2022 International U18 Mountain Running Cup

Written by U.S. Team manager Andrew Simmons. Andrew is also head coach at Lifelong Endurance and head coach at Peak Performance Running. Photos by Nancy Hobbs, Andrew Simmons and Marco Gulberti.

The 15th annual International U18 Mountain Running Cup started out with a bang on Sunday, June 26, in Saluzzo, Italy. The U.S. girls’ team kicked off the racing at 10:15 am and the boys set off to charge the castle at 11am. The Saluzzo weather had the mercury hitting 75 for the girls and nearly 80 degrees for the boys, the humidity was creeping up making for tough conditions for the boys’ race. The U.S. U18 Mountain Running Team featured 4 girls and 4 boys tackling the 4.4 km course with 155 meters of ascent and descent.

Photo: Andrew Simmons.

Girls’ Race Recap

As each country could only put one athlete on the start line, with the remaining team members behind, Rosie Mucharsky-O’Boyle was in front for Team USA girls. A tight right turn and 500 meters of jockeying took place before the girls headed upwards on the course. Alyssa Sauro rallied to the front and after the initial climb through the castle, she was running shoulder to shoulder with Rebecca Flaherty of England. This game of cat and mouse would continue through the next mile of up with Flaherty putting a gap of 5 meters on the downhills, Sauro minding the gap on the uphills. Sauro would go into the final meters tied up with Flaherty before Sauro put down a dominant kick for win. Murchasky-O’Boyle, Milaina Almonte, and Victoria Rodriguez traded places throughout the final portions of the course with Murchasky-O’Boyle and Almonte trading places and with Rodriguez very close behind. At the finish line Murchasky-O’Boyle finished in 18th, Almonte 20th and Rodriguez 23rd. Team USA’s score of 39 put them in fourth place among the 12 teams with England finishing for gold with 12 points, followed by France with 25 points and Italy with 27.

Photo: Nancy Hobbs

Boys’ Race Recap

Porter Middaugh was the lead on the line for the U.S. team at the start with Benji Anderson chasing his shadow in the first 100 meters. Through the first climb Middaugh and Anderson kept close contact with the leaders cresting the climb in 3rd and 4th overall. They continued to push through the vineyards and onto the stone steps, not giving an inch. Garret Stickley was 4 places back fighting for position. William Wachter only a shade back through the first third of the course. As the course worked its way back to the castle Anderson and Middaugh maintained position in 3rd and 4th with Stickley hot on their heels.

Wachter experienced some significant breathing issues and lost contact with the group as they headed into the castle. As the course made its way back to the Piazza, the Italian team began to apply pressure that eventually pushed Middaugh back into 4th place at the finish and a few other countries fighting for the next 2 positions resulting with Anderson finishing in 7th. As temperatures grew hotter and hotter, they began to take a toll on Stickley and Wachter. They pushed themselves to the limit with Stickley collapsing at the finish line with his 32nd place effort, and Wachter not far behind in 39th.

The boys’ team nearly made history with a team medal, but a tie resulted in a 4th place team finish just off the podium (France and USA each had 43 points, but France’s third scoring runner secured the bronze for France with a higher finish than USA’s third scorer). Italy A and B teams finished first and second with 14 and 31 points respectively.

Here’s what the U.S. athletes had to say after the races.

Porter Middaugh and Benjamin Anderson. Photo: Marco Gulberti.

Porter Middaugh | Avon, CO (4th place)
The race started out pretty conservatively and I stuck mid-pack to try and keep a good position. As soon as the climb started people started to fall back. I was trying to work my way up as best as I could and once we got to the grass section it got super tough. On the climb, I was probably in my best position of the whole race, I think I was in second or maybe third and then started to roll downhill. Unfortunately, I got caught on the uphill after a fast rolling downhill where I dropped back to fifth. Leaving the castle I just tried to roll as fast as I could; I had two runners in sight which was a good motivator. Thankfully, I was able to catch one of them and finished fourth.

Benjamin Anderson | Highlands Ranch, CO (7th place)
It was a good race for me. We were out fast for the first loop and then everyone kind of put the brakes on a little bit. Once we got to the top of the first cobblestone climb and into the castle the pace accelerated. I was pretty excited because I saw we had all four USA boys right there and we all just tried to stick together. Leading into the grass climbs I felt really strong although; I wish I could’ve pushed harder on the hills because I was worried about saving energy for the downhill. I was in fifth place leading into the final downhill and I just couldn’t move my legs any faster. Into the finish I just let gravity do its thing on the downhill and it carried me to 7th. I’m certainly hungry for more!

Benjamin Anderson and Garrett Stickley. Photo: Marco Gulberti.

Garrett Stickley | Winchester, VA (37th place)
I was in the back of the start and had to hurdle a few people who tumbled down.Up the first climb, I was with the front of pack but once I got to the grassy area I started feeling a little rough on the top of the first hill. When we got to the bottom of the stairs I was still thinking I was relatively in that big front pack but I fell behind on the following downhill. My feet felt like they were actually on fire on the downhills, at that point I was letting gravity take over and did my best to just move my legs but I was very tired. Into the last stretch I was all out and I left it all out there. I think I put a good effort out there.

William Wachter | Highlands Ranch, CO (39th place)
I am really grateful for the experience. Looking back I took it out a little harder than I probably should’ve, which cost me but I think overall I put in a really good effort considering the circumstances and I was happy to do it with a great team.

Alyssa Sauro | Williamstown, WV (1st place)
The beginning it went out kind of fast which is what I was hoping for. The initial uphills were hard but we stayed as a pack. Going up the stairs I think we kinda spread out more. Once we got onto the grass that was where it really spread out and I just kind of stayed with the girl from England. I was kind of back-and-forth leading into the finish. I feel like we pushed hard and had a good battle between us. This was a fun race!

Rosie Mucharsky-O’Boyle

Rosie Mucharsky-O’Boyle. Photo: Nancy Hobbs.

Rosie Mucharsky-O’Boyle | Denver, CO (18th place)
It went pretty well. I started off pretty fast for the first 500 meters and there was a lot of pushing and shoving from all the other teams. The first cobblestone section was pretty hot and difficult for me. From the castle to the top of the first major hill was probably one of the hardest parts for me. I was sort of doubting myself a little at that point. Once I hit the stairs I felt like I found a rhythm. My feet were so hot on the way down on the Dow hill but I had to put that behind me. I feel like the downhill is where I could really move my legs. I passed a lot of people in the last half mile of the downhill because I was focused on catching as many people as I could.

Milaina Almonte | Edwards, CO (20th place)
The starting pace was really intimidating and I started out towards the back. I had a hard time keeping up with the starting pace but once I got to the hills I was able to run a lot faster than I expected through the steepest parts of the course without overthinking it. By the time I got through the castle and onto the downhill I pushed really hard and pushed for the finish.

Alyssa Sauro. Photo: Marco Gulberti.

Victoria Rodriguez | Seven Valleys, PA (23rd place)
I feel like the race went pretty well, I felt really strong through the first cobblestone section and into the grass hills and I think the steep hills and the stairs took a lot out of me. Once I got through to the downhill I just took off and I felt really good at the finish. It was an amazing experience to be a part of this team.

Full results can be found at: https://www.fidal.it/risultati/2022/COD9849/Index.htm?fs=e&s=cl

Find even more photos of the U.S. team on Google Photos.

Professional photos by Marco Gulberti are on Flickr.

WMRA President Tomo Sarf with the gold medalists. Alyssa Sauro (right). Photo: Nancy Hobbs.

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