On Saturday, July 30, 2022, high school runners from across Colorado and neighboring states assembled in the small mountain town of Salida, Colorado, for the premiere youth trail running competition in the country, the National High School Trail Championships (NHSTC). Held annually for the past six years at the end of July, the NHSTC provides high school runners with the opportunity to test their fitness on trails in the final few weeks before cross country season. Runners explore the ways in which trail running is a separate running discipline from more traditional track and cross country courses they might be accustomed to competing on throughout high school. Running shoe brand, Hoka One One, was the presenting sponsor of the event for the second consecutive year.
Following up from exciting race finishes and competitive fields at last year’s event, both the 2022 Boys’ and Girls’ races were stacked with talent. On the boys’ side, Connor McCormick (4A 1,600M and 3,200M state champion) came in as one of the race favorites and had proved his speed at altitude running clocking a 4:06 1,600M and 9:03 3,200M on Colorado soil.
Porter Middaugh, last years’ runner-up at this event was another clear favorite with experience on the course and impressive track and cross country results this past year and a fourth-place finish at this year’s International U18 Mountain Running Cup in Saluzzo, Italy last month. Middaugh is also the son of Josiah Middaugh, accomplished XTERRA, snowshoe and trail running athlete, and it is clear that he is already following in the footsteps of his father. Other favorites included Benjamin Anderson, who also represented the United States and finished seventh at the International U18 Mountain Running Cup in Italy and Christian Groendyk, the number two returner from last year’s event who finished eighth and ran a 9:12 3,200 this past spring.
The girls’ field was equally exciting and Tristian Spence, top finisher from last year’s event (third place) came in as one of the favorites. Milaina Almonte and Rosie Mucharsky were also ones to watch, with impressive results from last months International U18 Mountain Running Cup in Italy. Keeghan Edwards, incoming sophomore, clocked the fastest track times in the field with a 4:47 1,600M and 10:25 3,200M. With so much talent in the field, both the boys’ and girls’ course records of 31:52 (set in 2020 by Sullivan Middaugh) and 37:21 (set in 2021 by Aubrey Surage), were in jeopardy.
Altitude and “roller-coaster” hills define the 5.4 mile NHSTC course. The race starting line, only several blocks from historic downtown Salida, is situated at a “breath-taking” 7,083 feet above sea-level. Runners ascend to the race high point at just over 7,500 feet on switchback trails through the Salida Mountain Trail system and finish back down in town on the grass at Riverside Park in downtown Salida.
A notoriously fast start combined with the high altitude makes this race a real “lung-burner” from the very beginning. In addition to the altitude, the course is a challenging mix of punchy climbs and descents and sharp banked turns. Much of the trail system is designed for mountain bike use, providing runners with a fun “flowy” trail of dusty and rocky switchback terrain.
Race action began at 7:20A.M. with the Beas Knees Citizens race. This race, open to the public, followed the same 5.4-mile course as the Boys’ and Girls’ championship races. Last year’s Girls’ Champion and course record holder, Aubrey Surage, competed in the race.
Women’s Bea’s Knees Citizen Race Podium:
- Aubrey Surage – 37:47
- Paige Embaugh – 40:19
- Mercedes Siegle-Gaither – 40:59
Men’s Bee’s Knee Citizen Race Podium:
- Andrew O’Keefe – 32:46
- Luke Futey – 33:19
- Alex Fernandez – 33:59
At 8:20, the High School Boys’ championship began. Middaugh and his Battle Mountain HS teammate, Will Brunner, took the early lead on the switchback climbs, followed closely by Anderson. Middaugh led through the entire climb and most of the descent until the final mile when Brunner passed him as the course flattened out. Brunner took the win in a time of 32:13. Middaugh finished second for the second year in a row this time in 32:27, besting last year’s performance by nearly a minute. Anderson held onto third to finish in 33:03.
Brunner takes us through the race win from his perspective, “The uphills were really hard! The first half of a mile I was in a massive pack of runners that slowly started to spread out as we went through the switchbacks. I ran behind Porter, who led the race through the climbs with Benjamin Anderson close behind us. I felt kind of bad because I totally sat on Porter the entire time! He’s so strong on the uphills and he would make time on me on any uphill and it would take everything I had on the flatter sections to reel him back in and try to stay with him. With .9 of a mile left to go, the course flattened out and I took the lead.”
Anderson describes his race experience, “It was a fast start and I did my best to follow the leaders through the switchback climbs at the beginning of the race. My strength is definitely climbing, so I did my best to really push myself in these sections.”
The High School Girls’ championship took off at 8:45. From the beginning, Edwards showcased her incredible speed and pulled away from the rest of the field. Almonte, Spence, Jade Allen and Amy O’Connell did their best to keep Edwards within sight, but she was too fast to catch. Edwards cruised solo into the finish with an impressive time of 37:35. Edwards shares her thoughts on her NHSTC victory, “It was a fun race, definitely different from what I’m used to. I’ve never done a race longer than a 5K and this was also my first trail race. I want to continue trail running and that was the most fun I’ve had in a race. I loved the downhill and getting to run so fast!”
Mucharsky gradually moved her way through the field and ran quickly on the final descent to take second in 38:19, followed by Allen in 38:48. Mucharsky describes her race and confidence on downhills, “I was well behind the leaders at the beginning of the race, but I knew my strong suit was going to be the downhills later in the course. I just tried to hang on for the first uphill and work my way up on the downs. It was a fun experience!”. Allen shares her post race thoughts on her first time at this event, “It was my first time doing this race, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect but it was a neat experience to come up here with my teammates and I would love to do this race again!”
In addition to individual results, team results were as follows:
Boys’ High School Teams
- Mountain Vista HS – 46 Points
- Longmont HS – 47 Points
- Fort Collins HS – 47 Points
Girls’ High School Teams
- Lewis-Palmer HS – 32 Points
- The Classical Academy – 43 Points
- Cheyenne Mountain HS – 53 Points
Find full team and individual results here: https://my.raceresult.com/213258/#0_80CC55
To further promote high school trail running and inspire the future of trail running, race sponsor, Hoka One One, held a post race athlete discussion panel with local Colorado Hoka One One trail running professional athletes Sage Canaday, Anna Mae Flynn, and Annie Hughes. These three athletes shared how they discovered trail running, mental and physical race preparation tips, advice for newcomers to the sport, how to make a living as a professional trail runner and much more.
[PRO TIP: Looking for more high school trail running coverage? Read our recap of last year’s National High School Trail Championships.]