Opportunities for Youth in Mountain, Trail and Skyrunning

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

One of the highlights of my running career has been competing for Team USA in the junior race at the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships in Wales. It was my first time traveling to Europe, first time meeting some of the world’s best trail runners, and first time representing my country in international competition. The experience was also my introduction to the incredible world of trail and mountain running and I’ve been hooked on running mountains ever since. However, had it not been for the encouragement of my coach, Rob Conner, Head Coach of Cross Country and Track and Field at the University of Portland, I never would have known about this race. I feel extremely lucky to have been connected with the right people to introduce me to the many opportunities that exist for young athletes in trail and mountain running.

Tayte Pollmann (#461) at the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships.

Although there are a lot great opportunities for youth in trail running, many of them are not well known in the larger youth running community. There aren’t many high school or collegiate running programs that encourage participation in trail races or even know it exists as a running discipline. Young runners typically run cross country and track in middle school and high school. A select handful compete collegiately in these disciplines, while others run recreationally. Most youth have no idea they could be representing Team USA at world championships in trail running or training specifically for trail races in middle and high school, college and beyond. In this article, I’ve put together the top opportunities for young runners looking to learn more about why and how they should get involved in trail running.

Elite Youth & Junior Teams

US Junior Mountain Running Team
Competition: World Mountain Running Championships
Organized by: World Mountain Running Association (WMRA)
Championship founded: 1985 (San Viglio di Marebbe, Italy)
First year USATF sent a team: 2002
Ages: 16-19 in the year of competition
2019 date and venue: November 15, Villa la Angostura, Argentina
Course: 6.6 km, 797 m ascent & descent

Part of the IAAF athletics federation system? YES
US Team selected by: USA Track & Field’s Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) Running Council
How to be considered for the team: Send running resume to Paul Kirsch at [email protected].
Team website: http://www.usmrt.com
2018 World Championship Team USA post race article.

Why try out for this team? Opportunity to get exposure to international mountain running. A great running resume booster. Demonstrates versatility and strength to college coaches. Some of the top professional runners in America have been a part of this team, including Allie Ostrander, Brooks Beasts, and Jeff Thies (Tinman Elite).

Juniors Quinn McConnell and Anna Shults at the 2018 World Mountain Running Championships.

US Youth Skyrunning Team
Competition: Youth Skyrunning World Championships
Organized by: International Skyrunning Federation (ISF)
Championship founded: 2016 (Gran Sasso, Aquila, Italy)
First year the US sent a team: 2017
Ages: A (16-17 years), B (18-20 years) and U23 (21-23 years)
2020 date and venue: Gran Sasso, Aquila, Italy
Courses: 3.5 km Vertical Kilometer and 21 km Sky

Part of the IAAF athletics federation system? NO. Skyrunning is part of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA).
US Team selected by: US Skyrunning
How to be considered for the team: Send running resume to Ryan Kerrigan at [email protected].
2019 World Championship Team USA post race article.

Why try out for this team? Gain familiarity with the sport of skyrunning, which is defined as “mountain running above 2,000 meters over extremely technical terrain.” Compete against runners from around the world. 28 countries competed at the 2019 edition. Learn more on the Skyrunning website.

Sofia Sanchez (Kings Beach, CA) racing at the Youth Skyrunning World Championships.

US Youth Mountain Running Team
International U18 Mountain Running Cup
Organized by: World Mountain Running Association (WMRA)
Championship founded: 2006 (Susa, Italy)
First year USATF sent a team: 2014
Ages: 16 to 17 in the year of competition
2020 date and venue: June 20 in Ambleside, U.K.
Course: 5 km, 400 m of ascent and descent

Part of the IAAF athletics federation system? YES
US Team selection by: USA Track & Field’s Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) Running Council
How to be considered for the team: Resume submitted to [email protected] and Mark Weeks at [email protected].
Team website: https://www.skyrunningus.com
2019 World Championship Team USA post race article.

Why try out for this team? Gain international racing experience. Top athletes from around the world have competed at this championship, including Olympic triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, and professional runners Robbie Simpson and Marc Scott.

Joslin Blair on her way to winning the 2018 WMRA International U18 Mountain Running Cup. Photo by Sportdimontagna.

Events Open To All Youth Runners

Collegiate Trail Running Championships
Event website: https://www.collegiaterunning.org/2020-trail-championship
Organized by: The Collegiate Running Association (CRA)
Championship founded: 2014 (Lincoln, New Hampshire)
Eligibility: Open to anyone taking college courses. Eligibility details here.
2020 date and venue: Hosted by the Thunderbunny Trail Runs, May 8, 2020 in Athens, OH.
Course: 12 km with 1,099 feet of elevation gain

Why compete in this championship? It offers an opportunity to race in a collegiate running championship apart from Cross Country or Track & Field. Connect with other collegiate trail runners from across the country. Earn prize money.

National High School Trail Championships
Event website: http://nationalhighschooltrailchampionships.com
Organized by: Kenny Wilcox
Championship founded: 2017 (Salida, CO)
Age: Runners in grades 9-12
2020 date and venue: Date TBD, Salida, CO
Course: 5.4 miles
2019 post race article.

Why compete in this race? It’s a good resume booster for athletes interested in applying for the US Junior Mountain Running, U18 and Youth Skyrunning Teams. See where you stack up against some of the country’s best high school trail runners.

Max King Trail Running Camps
Camp website: http://www.maxkingtrc.com
Organized by: 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Max King
Camps founded: 2017
2020 Camp dates and venues: Bend Youth Day Camp is TBD. Mt. Shasta Youth Camp: July 6-10, 2020 Mt. Shasta, CA
Ages: 11-14 (Bend Youth Day Camp), 15-20 (Mt. Shasta Youth Camp)
Mileage: 30-50 miles for the Mt. Shasta Youth Camp, TBD for Bend Youth Day Camp

Why attend one of these camps? It’s an opportunity to learn from mountain and trail running legend Max King. Improve your knowledge of trail stewardship, wilderness skills, trail running technique and training methods.

The Western Colorado team at the 2015 USATF Trail Marathon Championships.

Western Colorado University’s Trail Running Team
Team website: https://www.western.edu/mountain-sports/trail-running
Location: Gunnison, CO
Head coach: Josh Eberly – [email protected]
Season: Competitions in Fall and Spring with practices in the winter
Distances run: Half-marathon up to 50 miles

Why consider this team? Pursue a collegiate trail running career. Hone your trail running skills with experienced coaches, compete in challenging races and join a team environment. Live and train at an elevation of 7,700 feet. Avoid scholarship pressure or burnout from the competitive NCAA athletic system.

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