This past Saturday, the 5th annual National High School Trail Championships (NHSTC) was held in the small mountain town Salida, Colorado. This youth trail running event attracted a new crop of talent and was a successful follow up to last year’s race which had a record number of participants. In addition to hosting more young trail running talent, this years championship saw trail shoe brand Hoka One One stepping in as the race sponsor.
While there are always unknown talented young trail runners coming into this event, many have gone on to see success on the world stage. National High School Trail Championship alums include Colin Szuch who went on to race for the US team at the 2018 WMRA U18 International Mountain Running Youth Cup. Joslin and Samantha Blair have also represented the US at the U18 International Mountain Running Youth Cup with Joslin winning the prestigious event held in Italy in 2018. Environmental campaigner and current Dartmouth College student Soleil Gaylord won the 2018 NHSTC and represented the US team at both the U18 International Mountain Running Cup, World Mountain Running Championships and NACAC Mountain Running Championships.
The Venue and Events
The 5.4-mile trail running championship course started on a dirt road along the Arkansas River near downtown Salida — elevation 7,057 feet –and reached a high point of 7,558 feet. After less than a mile, the course continued on the Salida Mountain Trail System, with terrain comprised primarily of mountain-bike friendly single-track switchbacks. After a loop on Salida Mountain, the race finished on the grass of Riverside Park in downtown Salida.
In addition to the girls’ and boys’ high school trail championships, participants of all ages could compete in The Beas Knees Citizen Race, which followed the same course. For all the races combined, this year’s events attracted 136 participants.
The Boys’ Championship Race
This year’s boys’ championship race was tightly contested from the start, with cross country state champions and some of the best high school runners from Colorado in the field. Last year’s winner, Sullivan Middaugh, made an aggressive move on the first climb, but hot on his heels was his younger brother Porter Middaugh, followed closely by local Salidan Elijah Wilcox, Jordan Leblow and fourteen-year-old Benjamin Anderson.
As the course continued through rolling single track and approached the high point of the course the Middaugh brothers established their dominance. Sullivan pushed the pace, with his brother hanging on just a few feet behind. The only runner in the field to remain within sight of the brothers was Wilcox, who pushed a daring solo chase for the majority of the race.
Arriving at the finish the Middaugh brothers gave the crowd a dramatic moment that will remain a classic in NHSTC history. Running side-by-side to the line, Porter dove but was out-leaned at the line by his older brother, who won in a time of 33 minutes and 32 seconds. These brothers demonstrated their exceptional talent for the trails and are clearly taking after their father, Josiah Middaugh, accomplished XTERRA, snowshoe and trail running athlete.
Rounding out the podium was Wilcox, who was able to hold off the rest of the field and finished less than 20 seconds behind the brothers. The team trophy was won by Fort Collins High School, with an impressive 27 points. The second place team was Central High School (41 points), followed by the local Salida High School (51 points).
The Girls’ Championship Race
The girls’ race went out even more aggressively than the boys’. The top three girls established a 20-second gap on the rest of the runners by the top of the first climb. This “power-trio” was led by Ella Johnson, followed by Tristian Spence and Aubrey Surage. The three appeared to be making tactical moves and although they were all within 10 seconds of each other they chose to run separately as opposed to working together as a group.
Although Johnson looked extremely strong on the first climb, it soon became apparent that Surage had more gas in the tank. Surage made her move at the high point of the course to take the lead. Johnson ran strong to hang on to Surage on the downhill for as long as she could, but throughout the more technical, winding descents Surage’s lead grew.
All the way to the finish, Surage’s lead only continued to grow and she finished with an impressive time of 37 minutes and 28 seconds, breaking the previous course record by just one second. One minute and a half behind was Johnson in second place, followed by Spence in third. Despite an aggressive start, the top three girls from the beginning all managed to keep it together and hold onto their podium positions. Lewis-Palmer High School, led by Surage, took the team victory with 35 points, narrowly edging out Central High School (38 points). Placing third was the local Buena Vista High School (49 points).
Other top performances of the day included those by two fourteen-year-olds. Benjamin Anderson finished 12th place in the boys’ championship, and Emerson Reed placed 22nd in the girls’ championship. Chaffee County locals, Elijah Wilcox and Zaila Smith also get a shout out for their top-five performances in the boys’ and girls’ championships respectively.
Complete race results are available on raceresult.com.
See event more images from the race on Google Photos.