Announcement from American Trail Running Association (ATRA) partner Collegiate Running Association (CRA). Southeast Ohio Trail Runners (SEOTR) is an ATRA member.
Race was held within the Thunderbunny 11K in Ohio’s Strouds Run State Park
Hannah Kemp (West Liberty University) and Josh Park (Ohio University) were victorious in the Collegiate Running Association’s 2022 Trail Running National Championships this evening in Athens, Ohio. Held within the Thunderbunny 11K in Strouds Run State Park, Kemp and Park each claimed their first ever collegiate national title.
Runners were greeted with rain soaked trails and dark skies with evening temperatures in the upper 60’s at the start, making for contentious conditions. Despite muddy trails due to the rain, college runners came ready to attack the course. And attack, they did.
On the women’s side, a strong field was led by Hannah Kemp (West Liberty University); Mary Kate McElroy (Ohio Wesleyan University/Ohio University); Jessie Hartman (Ohio University); Madelyn Bartolone (Ohio University) and Mikayla Heydt (Illinois).
As the race started it was West Liberty University’s, Hannah Kemp who went to the lead with Madelyn Bartolone (Ohio University) and Mary Kate McElroy (Ohio Wesleyan University/Ohio University) in close pursuit over the opening two miles of the race. Kemp seemed to effortlessly cruise over the slick, muddy trails and, at times, rough terrain. By four miles she had amassed a commanding lead while McElroy had moved into second with Bartolone only a few seconds back.
As the runners entered the scenic back-half of the course the order would remain the same to the finish. Kemp extended her lead with an effortless stride to claim victory and the 2022 Collegiate Trail Running National Champion title in a time of 50:45.5. By virtue of her win she also obtained the course record on the newly formed 11K race layout and as the national champion she was eligible for the $750 prize as the top collegian.
Ohio Wesleyan University graduate, McElroy now in graduate school at Ohio University, pushed hard over the final miles to claim the runner-up position and the $500 second place prize money running 54:27.3. Ohio University teammate, Bartolone stayed strong to earn third place running 54:58.7. She earned $250 for her efforts while Hartman grabbed fourth place with her 58:01.4 performance.
“This is by far the most fun I’ve ever had in a race”, said women’s champion, Hannah Kemp. “I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never done a trail race before. I’ve done trails in training before, but oh my goodness this was so much fun. Getting in the mud. Going around the turns, it was just such a great experience. The weather. I couldn’t have asked for better. It’s great conditions even though it’s really wet. It was just a lot of fun.”
The men’s race was loaded with the 2019 runner-up Joshua Park (Ohio University); 2019 4th place finisher Noah Campbell (University of Richmond); 1500M standout Michael (Tony) Tonkovich (Ohio University); recent Collegiate 10K Road Race Championships 4th place finisher, Jordan Bendura (University of Richmond); Jack Myers (Ohio University); Jake Ethridge (Ohio University) and Ian Switzer (Ohio University).
The men’s race also had great competition featuring local favorite, Josh Park who has enjoyed a tremendous career at Ohio University. With a personal best of 29:16 on the track for 10K the Bobcat graduate student stayed with the pack over the opening mile, which they covered around 4:50 on the Strouds Run Park Road, before the race turned onto single track trail. At that point Park led slightly over Bendura, followed by Tonkovich, Campbell, Myers and Ethridge in close pursuit.
After two miles Park started pulling away, while the remaining top-six men all continued to run in close pursuit of each other. By four miles it was clear, barring a fall, Park would not be caught as he extended his lead to 55 seconds over Tonkovich who was chased closely by Richmond’s Bendura. Myers, Ethridge and Campbell rounded out the top six respectively.
After 7 miles of aggressive racing, Park emerged from the Thunderbunny Trail, with only 250m left to race on the road leading to the finish. He crossed the line in 44:54.05 to claim the 2022 Collegiate Trail Running Championship title and collect the $750 first place prize as the top college finisher.
“The trails were very, very slippery”, said Josh Park. “It was definitely a game of ‘don’t fall’. So I knew I wanted to string it out pretty quickly so I went out, not terribly hard, but better than five minute pace. Then I got enough of a lead on the trails that I was pretty comfortable maintaining the lead. At that point I knew that I was probably going to be able to secure the win, so I shut it down and stayed safe going into the USATF 25K Championships in Michigan next weekend.”
“I love these trails and the race”, continued Park. “Mike Owen and the entire race crew and sponsors do such a great job with this event. As an OU graduate we have these trails right off campus. It’s just a great place to run.”
The Collegiate Trail Running Championship runner-up for the men would become an epic battle between Bendura and Tonkovich. After exchanging leads several times on the course they actually gained back some time on the leader, Josh Park. This would come down to a sprint to the finish between these two. With 250M to go, Bendura made a charge for the lead coming out of the woods, holding a one-step advantage on Tonkovich heading into the final 100m, however Tonkovich would have one final surge about 50m from the finish line that would propel him even with Bendura as they leaned for the finish line. Bendura’s time of 44:37.135 and Tonkovich’s 44:37.144 were separated by only nine thousandths of one second as they claimed the $500 and $250 cash prizes for finishing 2nd and 3rd in the collegiate championships.
Myers (46:20), Ethridge (48:17) and Campbell (50:39) rounded out the top 6 collegian finishers respectively.
“We are so happy to be back here after two years of COVID interruption,” said CRA co-founder Steve Taylor. “We were extremely impressed by the college athletes this evening. They were running fast up front in both races. It is exciting to note this was the first trail race for 4 of the top 5 college men and the top 4 college women today. There is no question this is a destination event and these are destination trails everyone should experience. The amazing wild flowers found throughout the old forest growth and amazing rock formations throughout the course are some of the most unique I’ve seen in a race.”
“We couldn’t be happier to partner with an event that opens the trail running community and opportunities to participants of all ages. The word will spread about these trails and this event so others get out and explore a truly unique place to run and exercise. Promoting healthy lifestyles through running is the CRA’s mission, and opening opportunities for college students through trail, mountain and road running is something we continue to do. There is no better way to accomplish our mission than to work with the Southeastern Ohio Trail Runners (SEOTR), an organization dedicated to exactly that.”
“SEOTR continues to be excited to partner with the CRA to bring the Collegiate Trail Running National Championship to Athens and the Thunderbunny 11K. The Thunderbunny Trail Runs is already such a great weekend and this makes it even better with more opportunity for college runners” said Michael Owen, Southeast Ohio Trail Runners Director. Owen added, “I’ve been a big promoter of college runners getting into the sport of trail running, and SEOTR shares that same belief. I teach a trail running course at Ohio University, and it’s always exciting seeing the passion this age group has for the trails. So, bringing the Collegiate Trail Running National Championship to Athens gives not just OU students, but college runners all around country, a great opportunity to fuel their passion for trail running. Whether a recreational runner, or an elite runner, they’ll have an opportunity to be part of a great sport, and I hope this type of opportunity motivates them to stay involved beyond college”.
Complete race results [PDF]
More race photos can be found on Facebook.
Details on the 2023 Collegiate Trail Running Championships and Thunderbunny Races, which return to Strouds Run State Park next year, are found on CollegiateRunning.org.