After last year’s medal drought, the men’s US Ultra Trail Team fought a close battle with Italy to win a bronze medal. Scoring team members Mario Mendoza, Cody Reed and Andy Wacker finished with a total time of 14:16:53 over the Italian men’s time of 14:22:42. The Spanish men took gold in 13:17:32 ahead of 2nd place France in 13:43:06.
Conditions were cool for the start of the 2017 IAU Trail World Championships in Badia Prataglia, Italy. The 50km course boasted over 9000’ of climbing on the trails of the National Park of Forests Casentinesi. The race began with an early moderate climb, transitioning to some steep descents down to the mountain valleys over the middle of the race. Around the halfway point in the race, the trails came out of the shade to begin some exposed and more intense climbing. Here things began to heat up as temperatures also climbed into the upper 80s. 291 runners from Thirty-eight countries competed for individual and team World Championship titles on this challenging course.
The US Ultra Trail Team’s Andy Wacker, Cody Reed, and Hayden Hawks ran as a pack near the front up the first climb of the race. They would gradually spread out over the first 24km of the race. Mario Mendoza, David Roche, and Tyler Sigl were not far behind over the first half of the race. Mendoza had come in with a strategy of holding back a little early, then making a push forward in the second half of the race. That strategy paid off today as he would move inside of the top 10 by the finish as Mendoza finish in 9th place to lead team USA. Reed slipped back a little after halfway on the hot and exposed climbs, but would push back up a few places in later stages of the racing to claim 15th place. Wacker fought to stay in the top 20 at 20th place and round out the scoring for the men’s team. That was enough for Team USA men to grab 3rd place and a podium position. Mendoza remarked, “I was shocked and happy to finish in 9th, but I was happier to see Team USA podium.” Hawks and Roche worked through a tough day to finish 81st and 198th, respectively. Sigl had repeated asthma attacks that forced him to drop at 41km.
Ladia Albertson-Junkans lead the way early on for the women’s US Ultra Trail Team. Albertson-Junkans was surprised to find that she was running in 2nd for the women on the first climb and remaining in the top 5 through the aid station at 24km. A group of four US women consisting of Anita Oritz, Caitlin Smith, Corrine Malcolm, and Megan Roche were close together as all came through halfway within about 5 minutes. Keely Henninger would be just little off the pack of four. With the heat and exposed climbs after halfway, most of the women commented that their bodies could not seem to get enough fluids, as many of them dealt with cramps. Albertson-Junkans would struggle with vomiting and periods of needing to walk, but still finished in 13th place to lead the women. Albertson-Junkans said, “It was a good lesson to just keep yourself moving.” Ortiz, Malcolm, and Smith would continue to stay close finishing in 43rd, 44th, and 48th. Megan Roche and Henninger fought through their own tough day to finish 72nd and 75th, respectively.
For several US Ultra Trail Team athletes this event marked just the latest in years of success at world championship competition. With his bronze team medal here in Badia Prataglia, Andy Wacker is the first trail athlete to win medals in 3 different world championship events. Andy finished 2nd at the 2015 WMRA Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Zermatt, Switzerland where the men’s team also won silver. At the 2016 WMRA World Mountain Running Championship in Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria Andy was part of the first ever gold medal winning men’s team. Ladia Albertson-Junkans was also part of Team USA at the 2016 WMRA World Mountain Running Championship helping the US women take home team bronze. Anita Ortiz made her first world team in 2002 with an 11th place at the WMRA World Mountain Running Trophy event in Innsbruck, Austria. A few short years later at the 2006 WMRA World Mountain Running Trophy in Bursa, Turkey, Anita helped the US women win their first ever gold medal.
In the overall 2017 IAU Trail Championship results, Luis Alberto Hernando of Spain would claim the men’s individual title in a time of 4:23:31. His Spanish teammate, Christofer Clemente, was 2nd in 4:24:29. Cedric Fleureton of France grabbed the 3rd podium position in 4:28:03. The podium positions for the men’s teams had Spain as IAU Trial World Champions with combined time of 13:17:32 as they place 5 men in the top 10. France was 2nd with a team time of 13:43:06. The men’s US Ultra Trail Team took 3rd with a combined time of 14:16:53, just 6 minutes ahead of Italy.
For the women’s results, Adeline Roche of France won the women’s individual title in a time of 5:00:44. She would also have a teammate close behind for 2nd as Amandine Ferrato of France ran 5:00:47. Silvia Rampazzo, representing the host country Italy, came 3rd in 5:11:07. Like the men’s team champion, the French women put 5 women in the top 10 to be on top of the podium as IAU Trail World Champions in a combined time of 15:17:43. Italy would be second in 16:05:08 and Spain 3rd in 16:26:05. The women’s US Ultra Trail Team finished 6th in 17:30:43. This years championships had 23 scoring men’s teams and 21 scoring women’s teams. The top 3 athletes for each team score.
Quotes from US Ultra Trail Team athletes:
Cody Reed: “That race hurt – a lot. Coming down the final descent into Badia, hearing all the spectators cheering USA, USA as I passed made all the pain worth the effort.”
Caitlin Smith: “The opportunity to race as a team is truly special. I am grateful to have witnessed such strength in my teammates. We struggled on the course but all these tough ladies persevered. I’ll carry that with me always. The course was hard, but I did take moments to enjoy the epic beauty on the trails too. It’s always incredible to represent the USA.”
David Roche: “Teamwork helps when races go perfectly, but it’s when there was adversity that Team USA overcame a ton on the back of caring about each other.”
Anita Ortiz: “While the US women had some difficult moments, we all worked together and pulled in strong finishes. A super proud moment for all of Team USA was the men’s bronze medal and podium finish. It’s been an amazing experience, a wonderful team and a wonderful time!”
Tyler Sigl: “Although I didn’t have the race I wanted it was great being part of a podium team. As always everyone on the course was super supportive making a rough day more enjoyable.”
Megan Roche: “This was truly an amazing team experience and I am so proud of how Team USA battled through the race with toughness and courage. I enjoyed getting to know each team member a little better while getting to experience Italian culture and trails.”
Hayden Hawks: “I feel very fortunate to have amazing teammates to learn from. I am young and learning and to be surrounded by amazing trail runners like these guys is incredible. Congrats to Mario, Cody, Andy, Tyler and David for gutting it out and bringing a bronze medal home to the USA! I love being part of these national teams and will be back and stronger.”
Keely Henninger: “The atmosphere and passion for this sport was contagious and helped turn a difficult race into one of my most memorable with great teammates and fantastic camaraderie.”
Mario Mendoza: “I really enjoyed spending time with my teammates. The goal today was to give them my best effort. It’s an honor to run for my country and experience a world championship in these beautiful mountains.”
Ladia Albertson-Junkans: “I had a rough day and threw up at 41K but it was a good lesson to just keep moving. This weekend was everything that makes ultra running great – great people, great scenery, great community, great fun and more than a little great suffering. Badia Prataglia is as picturesque as it gets and was the most gracious and generous of hosts. It was an incredible trip and such an honor to be part of it on behalf of Team USA.”
Andy Wacker: “Having the opportunity to represent the USA has been such an honor! This years IAU Championship brought together so many of the worlds best trail runners. It was an extremely challenging, but beautiful course here in Badia Prataglia. I am so happy to have toughed out my 2nd 50K through all the challenges the course threw at me today to help the team get on the podium. I hope to use this experience to learn, improve and aim for even higher goals with Team USA in the future. I am so proud of my teammates resolve and performances!”
Corrine Malcolm: “The atmosphere in Italy was everything you could want in a world championship event. From the volunteers, spectators, to the other athletes on course the support was incredible. To see all the US athletes fight so hard today to finish was inspiring. I’m honored to represent my country along side so many fantastic men and women.”
See more photos of US Ultra Trail Team athletes here.
Women’s Team Results – http://www.iau-ultramarathon.org/images/file/TRAIL/TrailWorldChampionships50Km-team_Women.pdf
Men’s Team Results – http://www.iau-ultramarathon.org/images/file/TRAIL/TrailWorldChampionships50Km-team_Men.pdf
Women’s Individual Results – http://www.iau-ultramarathon.org/images/file/TRAIL/ElencoArrivati2017TrailWorldChampionships50Km_women.pdf
Men’s Individual Results – http://www.iau-ultramarathon.org/images/file/TRAIL/ElencoArrivati2017TrailWorldChampionships50Km_men.pdf
This is the 3rd year this IAU event has been designated a “Championship” and held in conjunction with the International Trail Running Association (ITRA). Only other medal won by the US in the championship era was a men’s team silver in 2015 (Annecy, France).