Jim Walmsley Takes Gold at World Long Distance Mountain Running Championship

Written by USA team staff member Jason Bryant. Photos by Nancy Hobbs and Andy Wacker. Videos by Nancy Hobbs.

USA men’s team earns Silver medal; Emily Schmitz leads USA women to 4th place team result.

Thirty-eight countries returned to the streets of Villa La Angostura on Saturday, November 16, to head into the surrounding mountains for the 16th World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. Angostura means “narrow pass” in Spanish with the terrain of the region shaped by the pressure of glacial masses and volcanic movements.

Mountain runners this day would climb and descend 7165’ in total as they covered 41.5 km cresting two mountain tops created by these ancient tectonic forces. The world championship course tested runners on their diversity of running skills with fast trail sections, rolling climbs and descents, sustained climbs and descents, snow sections and some technical trails. The course would be a test to see who could best conquer all conditions and competitors.

Hayden Hawks takes the race out hard in the first kilometer.

Team USA’s Jim Walmsley found the start line loaded with the pressure of pre-race favorite but pressure often produces great results in nature and athletics. Walmsley decided to place his bet early on the flat dirt roads over the first 3 km leading to the trails. If you wanted a place at the front, you have to ante up with speed from the start.

This quickly created a gap on the first loop with only Francesco Puppi of Italy still with a chance for gold at 12 km. David Sinclair came through 12 km holding down a place in the top 5, less than 24 hours after finishing 12th in the classic distance world championship race. USA teammate, Hayden Hawks was just a few seconds back just out of the top 5.

Jim Walmsley negotiates the river crossing.

Approaching the summit of Cerro Bayo (peak) at 30.9 km, Puppi of Italy had caught Walmsley as the two were now together in portion of climb in snow. Hawks used his climbing strength to move up to third before the snowy climb with Sinclair still holding fourth Walmsley made another play off the summit with another surge challenging Puppi to match his descent.

The Spainish team now moved up to challenge Hawks and Sinclair with their own descending skills. By the bottom of Cerro Bayo at 38 km, Walmsley had established more than a 30 second lead. Walmsley would claim the World Championship gold in 3:12:16 to Puppi’s 3:13:04 silver medal position.

Oriol Cardona of Spain moved up to take third in 3:20:24. Hawks battled to a sixth place finish in 3:26:05. Sinclair compelled his legs to continue running, finding the finish in tenth place with a time of 3:29:14. Sinclair’s back-to-back days of 12th in the classic and 10th in the long distance races was quite impressive. Bend, Oregon’s Mario Mendoza rounded out the USA men’s team finishing 31st in a time of 3:42:43.

The USA men were rewarded with another team silver medal with 17 points, only 2 points behind Spain’s 15 points in claim the team gold. Italy took final team podium position of bronze with 27 points.

USA silver medal winning men’s team – Mario, David, Hayden and Jim.

Gold – Jim Walmsley (USA) 3:12:16
Silver – Francesco Puppi (Italy) 3:13:04
Bronze – Oriol Cardona (Spain) 3:20:24

6th – Hayden Hawks (USA) 3:26:05
10th – David Sinclair (USA) 3:29:14
31st – Mario Mendoza (USA) 3:42:43
(find complete results here)

Men’s Team Points
Spain 15, USA 17, Italy 27

Team USA women – Rachel, Dani, Kasie, Emily and Ashley.

In the women’s race, two French runners, Blandine Lhirondel and Adeline Roche, would team up to push the pace early. By the river crossing at 12 km, only a few women still maintained close enough contact to challenge the front pair, Cristina Simon of Romania being one of those staying in contact.

The USA women all came through 12 km relatively close together running strong, looking to pick off runners unable to hold the pace of a fast start. As the marathon distance race developed, the USA women moved up steadily throughout the field of runners.

A winner of multiple individual & team world championship medals, Kasie Enman in the first kilometer.

At the front, Simon not only caught the French pair on the climb to Cerro Bayo, but staked a small lead by the summit. At the Cerro Bayo summit, first time USA team member Emily Schmitz sat just one spot out of the top 10 in 11th place. Ashley Brasovan topped the summit next for USA in 18th with USATF 50 km Trail Champion Dani Moreno not far behind in 23rd. Rachel Drake and 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Kasie Enman came off the summit in 28th and 31st.

After holding on to the lead on descent of Cerro Bayo, Cristina pulled away in the final kilometers to win the World Champion title for Romania in 3:49:57. The French pair would stay close all the way to the finish for second and third with Roche in 3:51:56 and Lhirondel in 3:52:07.

Rachel Drake negotiates the steep descent of Cerro Bayo.

Emily Schmitz fought to claim a 10th place finish in a time of 4:01:30. Ashley Brasovan and Dani Moreno passed more runners on the descent to place 16th and 19th respectively, in 4:07:45 and 4:12:05. Rachel Drake and Kasie Enman finish one place apart in 28th and 29th respectively, 4:20:51 and 4:22:03. Like David Sinclair, Kasie Enman also raced in Friday’s World Mountain Running Championship (short distance) event where she finished 21st.

With two women in the top 3, France also left with team gold scoring 17 points. Spain put another team on the podium for silver position with 20 points, Romania taking team bronze with 27 points. Team USA had a solid showing for 4th place team with 45 points.

Mountain running is a team sport and Team USA is all in!

Gold – Cristina Simon Rom 3:49:57
Silver – Adeline Roche France 3:51:56
Bronze – Blandine Lhirondel 3:52:07

10th – Emily Schmitz 4:01:30
16th – Ashley Brasovan 4:07:45
19th – Dani Moreno 4:12:05
28th – Rachel Drake 4:20:51
29th – Kasie Enman 4:22:03
(find complete results here)

Women’s Team Points
France 17, Spain 20, Romania 27, USA 45

You can view even more photos of Team USA on Google Photos.

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