Article written by Team USA staff members Jason Bryant, Nancy Hobbs and Paul Kirsch. Photos by Nancy Hobbs and Paul Kirsch.
On Friday, Nov. 15, 38 countries converged in Villa La Angostura, Argentina for the 35th edition of the World Mountain Running Championships. It would be a great day for Team USA with three total medals including individual gold for Joseph Gray and Grayson Murphy and a team silver for the senior men.
Sunny and mild conditions in the days leading up to the race, morphed overnight into wet and cooler conditions for race day with temperatures hovering the 50s. The Junior races opened the day on a course that was altered two days before. Originally, planned to be a single 7 km loop, the juniors course became a two loop 8 km route.
The Senior men and women would do battle on a 14 km course that climbed and descended just under 2500 feet. The wet conditions were compounded by the earlier two Junior races, leaving the trails increasingly difficult to traverse for the Senior races. Fortunately, challenges such as this, can merely mean more opportunity for fun.
Junior Races Feature Heavy Rain
The US junior team arrived at the start area in a steady downpour. The wind would pick up periodically as the athletes were warming up and at the 9:45 a.m. start. For the junior men, the rain was heavy and created pools of water along the short section of dirt road they would run up to the single track on the early stages of the course.
Athletes lined up by country with one member of each delegation on the start line, with the remaining team members in a single file row behind. The start was fast and aggressive and Tyman Smart got a good early start for Team USA followed by his teammates.
US Junior Men’s Results: Tyman Smart [6th], David Cardenas [20th], Michael Hancock [26th], Anthony Hancock [31st]
In the junior women’s race, sisters Samantha and Joslin Blair built on their past experiences at the WMRA U18 International Youth Cup event and lead Team USA to 8th and 15th places respectively.
US Junior Women’s Results: Samantha Blair [8th], Joslin Blair [15th], Maggi Congdon [23rd], Lydia Russell [27th]
US Senior Athletes Primed for Gold
The men took to the muddy and slick course first for the Senior races. Joseph Gray would establish a position at the front right from the gun as the morning rain continued to fall.
As the senior men climbed up Mount Belvedere, Gray maintained his place at the front taking over the top spot by the top. Andy Wacker, David Sinclair and Seth DeMoor followed not too far behind.
During the second half of the race, Gray continued to be challenged all the way down the mountain by Italy’s Cesare Maestri. As the two hit the dirt road with 900 meters to the finish, Gray held 20 meter lead on Maestri.
Sinclair would be next to appear at the trailhead in a small group. Soon thereafter Wacker emerged in a gap holding down 21st position.
Gray would hold of Maestri of Italy by a small margin of just 8 seconds, claiming his second World Mountain Running Champion title with a winning time of 1:05:13 to Maestri’s 1:05:21. Gray earned his first World Mountain Running Championship in 2016 in Bulgaria.
Marek Chrascina of Czech Republic claimed third a little farther back in 1:05:57. Sinclair fought off a couple of fast approaching runners in the finishing stretch to take 12th place in 1:07:38. Wacker rounded out the men’s scoring, holding down 21st place in 1:09:04. DeMoor pushed through in 31st place in 1:12:14.
The USA men’s team score of 34 gave them a silver medal, just one point ahead of Italy with 35 points. The Czech Republic raced to the team gold medal with 17 points.
US Senior Men’s Results: Joseph Gray [1st], David Sinclair [12th], Andy Wacker [21st], Seth DeMoor [31st] – TEAM SILVER MEDAL
For the senior women’s race, the cloudy skies suddenly cleared right before the sound of the starter’s signal. This time it would be Grayson Murphy staking her claim to pace the group at the front of the leading pack.
The other Team USA women were all just behind Murphy heading for the trails leading to Belvedere Climb. Murphy would be the first woman to show coming off the trails having an 80 meter lead over her nearest competitor, Elise Poncet of France.
US Senior Women’s Results: Grayson Murphy [1st], Kimber Mattox [17th], Kasie Enman [21st], Sam Lewis [29th] – 5th Place Team
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