Written by John Kerrigan, team leader, US Skyrunning Team.
The International Skyrunning Federation’s (ISF) Youth World Championships return to Mt. Comapedrosa, Andorra this weekend. The American Skyrunning Youth team made their first appearance at this venue in 2017. After a pilot event was held in 2016, 2017 marked the first official year that the Youth Skyrunning World Championships were held. For the past three editions the event has been held on Gran Sasso near L’Aquila, Italy.
In 2017, Coach Ryan Kerrigan arrived in Andorra with seven athletes from the state of Vermont. “We were a mixed bag of high school cross country runners, Nordic skiers and track and field athletes. Several did not even know what the acronym VK stood for!”
Despite the lack of experience the team of Vermonters did surprisingly well. The US team finished 4th overall against a 9 team field with two athletes earning podium finishes. Sam Hodges of Middlebury, VT finished third in the combined U18 (Skyrace and Vertical Kilometer) and Erin Magill of Moretown, VT captured silver in the VK and bronze in the combined.
The numbers of US team members has continued to grow, as has the diversity of representation. In 2018, a dozen athletes wore the stars and stripes. Sophia Sanchez from California took the gold in the U20 VK and Mikey Connolly of Alaska captured the bronze in the U18 VK.
Numbers and performances have remained steady and in 2019 the U.S. Team captured 5th place overall and earning two podium finishes with Sanchez capturing the gold in the Skyrace.
Unfortunately the 2020 Youth Skyrunning Championships were postponed due to COVID-19. “Despite Covid and travel challenges we were able to make an appearance in 2021. Although none of our athletes reached the podium we did have several outstanding finishes. Parke Chapin of Bend, Oregon finished 4th in the U18 VK and Nowelle Spencer of Anchorage, Alaska finished 5th in the U20 Skyrace. Despite the absence of podium finishes, the team remained competitive finishing 9th overall.”
Five athletes will be representing the U.S. in Andorra for the 2022 Youth World Championships. These athletes have the most experience of any U.S. youth team entered. All have had the experience racing VK and/or Skyraces.
The 2022 U.S. Youth Skyrunning Team has an international flavor this year with several of the US athletes having dual citizenship. (France, Mexico and Spain).
The U.S. Team
Naia Tower-Pierce (East Burke, VT & Maranz, France) Age 19
Naia has attended more Youth World Championships than any other U.S. athlete. Naia participated in 2018,2019 and 2021.
Finn Tower-Pierce (East Burke, VT & Marnaz, France) Age 17
Younger brother of Naia, Finn has participated as a U18 in Gran Sasso in 2021 finishing in the top 20 in both the VK and Skyrace. He hopes to improve his 2021 finish as he still remains in the U18 category.
Josh Taylor (Wasilla, AK) Age 22
Josh is a student at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. He finished 5th overall at Matanuska Trail race (12 miles, 11,000’ of vertical) and 8th overall at the Kesugi Ridge Race in Denali State Park.
Sophie Mayers (Anchorage, AK) Age 18
Sophie has dual citizenship in the United States and Mexico. She has participated in the Cirque Series in Alyeska, a 6.2-mile trail race with almost 4000’ of vertical. She also placed second overall in the tour of Anchorage 40 Km nordic ski race.
Beñat Froemming (Minneapolis, MN & Idiazab, Spain) Age 19
Beñat attends the University of Minnesota. His home in Spain is very near the well-known Zegama trail race course. He placed 20th overall in the T2T Mountain race and was first in age group at Cannelle Trail race.
Coach Ryan Kerrigan (Stowe, VT)
Ryan is an Ultra-runner and former Nordic Ski Racer from University of Vermont. He is attending his 5th Youth Skyrunning World Championships as coach of the U.S. Team. Ryan is also the team leader the U.S. (Adult) Skyrunning Team. He will be in Domodossola, Italy at the World Skyrunning Championships this coming September.
Applications for the World Skyrunning Championships remain open but need to be sent by August 1 to [email protected].