Megan Kimmel leads the way for Team USA women, Mario Mendoza leads for the men.
Post-race report written by USA Team Leader Jason Bryant.
Days of rain throughout Europe final gave way to sunny skies for race day at the WMRA World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Podbrdo, Slovenia, on Saturday, June 18.
Athletes from 22 countries raced the difficult course of the 42-kilometer Gorski Marathon. Team USA’s Mario Mendoza commented, “That was a challenging course; 2800 meters of climbing in a marathon distance, with slick descents that left you searching for stability.”
With a mixture of technical terrain, complete with rocks and mud, the footing was challenging on many parts of the course. Those with tentative descending skills were quickly left behind by those who were more sure-footed. The climbs were long and steep, some referred to them as unrelenting. The short paved road sections allowed for a longer stride, but also required gear changes. The best runners on the day were those who were proficient in all types of mountain running technique.
The 2800 meters of elevation came by summiting and descending two peaks, Cez Suho (1760 meters) and Porezen (1590 meters). The second climb that began at mile 16 boasted a 19% average grade for over six continuous and punishing kilometers. It may seem like the course was all about climbing and descending skills, but Megan Kimmel who finished first among the US women’s squad in eighth place overall with a time of 4:40:28 noted, “That was a legit world course with the two big climbs, lot of descending, very technical, along with some fast terrain.”
In addition to Kimmel, Team USA included a diverse group with a wide range of skills to take on the challenging course featuring Anita Oritz, Kristina Pattison, Cam Mayfield, and Maria Dalzot.
Ortiz, 52, the oldest entrant in the field, finished in 13th position with a time of 4:44:57, found the most challenging sections her favorite saying, “It was great to work together with teammates early on the first climb. The flatter and smoother sections required me to focus on being patient for the technical and climbing sections where I could go mountain goating up.”
Pattison finished as the third scoring member of Team USA in 24th with a time of 4:59:34, commented, “It was an honor to be a part of Team USA. Knowing I was in a scoring place for the team fueled me as I thought about my teammates and our common goal.”
Mayfield, who at 23 years old, is relatively new to the mountain scene fresh from collegiate athletics commented, “It was the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever taken on. The camaraderie among countries working through the challenges together was a cool experience.” Mayfield finished in 26th position with a time of 5:03:26.
One of the great things about the connection among the mountain community is that those relations know no boundary. The host area of Gorski Marathon, which covered four regional villages, was a perfect location for the event. The valley where the race took place is home to a small number of residents, so the more than 600 volunteers came not only from the region, but from other areas around the small country whose population is less than two million. In addition to the volunteers, many spectators came out to support and cheer all the runners, regardless of their nationality. Dalzot, who ended her race at 28 kilometers, noted, “My day got tough early with some lingering issues. But strong teammates and the kindness of the local community kept me positive about the whole experience.”
The women’s team finished in a solid fourth position with a cumulative time of 14:24:59. Italy won gold placing two athletes in the top five positions resulting in a score of 13:48:18. In silver medal position was the host country, Slovenia, with a score of 13:59:51. Great Britain, whose top runner Annie Conway earned individual gold in a course record time of 4:29:01, led her country to the bronze. Their score was 14:04:02.
Mendoza led the way for the US men finishing in eleventh place with a time of 3:59:58. The Bend, Oregon resident said, “I enjoyed the challenges of the course, and was blessed to have a good day.”
Second for team USA was Matt Shryrock, whose goal was to start out conservatively, “I went out at what I thought was smart for me, then steadily picked people off throughout the race. It worked well for me today and I’m a stoked to get 15th place.” Shyrock’s time was 4:01:28.
Peter Maksimow took the final scoring position for the US men in 32nd place with a time of 4:21:52. Noted Maksimow,“It is challenging when you know that you are a scoring place, but you are not having your best day. You fight for your team and to represent the USA well.”
Ted Farley, the youngest of the men’s team, endured a foot injury during the race, but still managed to finish in 37th place with a time of 4:24:14. Farley said, “People don’t go away easily here. Most races when you pass someone you never see them again. In this race, competitors fight for every place.”
Andy Wacker took the race out in a commanding fashion in spite of a stomach bug he endured for the past week, gapping the field by nearly three minutes by the top of the first climb. Unfortunately, he dropped out near the 28-kilometer point, because his fuel reserves were depleted. Wacker remained positive and stood at the finish line to cheer on all of his fellow team members. He related, “So proud of my teammates today and inspired by the effort they put in. Mario had a good day going under the previous course record. I’m glad to see some new faces getting into long distance mountain running, and Matt really had a good one.”
Although the men didn’t all have their best performance on the day, as a team they posted a solid fifth-place finish with a time of 12:23:18. The Italian men took the top two spots with Alessandro Ramaldini setting the course record in 3:44:52, followed by countryman Marco De Gasperi in 3:46:12, to lead their team to a gold-medal finish with a time of 11:32:19, just five minutes ahead of the silver-medal Great Britain squad. Rounding out the top three was Germany with a score of 11:56:57. The host country was fourth in 12:11:11 led by bronze medalist Mitja Kosovelj in a time of 3:46:33.
Photo enclosed of Team USA, more photos on the USMRT Facebook page, the WMRA Facebook page, and follow the team on Twitter #TeamUSASlovenia