US Team announced for the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge

Story by Nancy Hobbs.  Photos by Richard Bolt

A talented group of ten athletes – five men and five women – have been named to the U.S. Long Distance Team to compete at the 11th annual WMRA World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge to be hosted by the Pikes Peak Ascent on August 16, 2014.

Of these athletes, three have racing experience on Pikes Peak. Two on the men’s team, one on the women’s team. Eric Blake, 35, West Hartford Britain, CT, was last year’s winner in the Ascent posting a time of 2:13:45, more than nine minutes ahead of his nearest rival. With his victory last year, Blake earned an automatic spot on this year’s team.

+Sage Canaday, 28, Boulder, CO, raced to a fourth-place finish in the Ascent in 2012 with a time of 2:21:16, and earned his spot on the team based on his powerful running resume which included a third-place finish at this year’s Mount Washington Road Race presented by Northeast Delta Dental, one of the selection races for the team.

For the women, +Stevie Kremer, 30, Crested Butte, CO, is last year’s Pikes Peak Marathon Champion. Her ascent time was 2:44:02 enroute to a round trip age-group record time of 4:17:10. This result and her mountain racing prowess including a third-place finish at the Vail Pass Half Marathon and second-place finish at the Mt. Evans Ascent – both selection races for the team – earned her a spot on the squad.

Of the remaining team members, six are Coloradoans. +Joseph Gray, 30, Shannon Payne, 28, and Allie McLaughlin, 23, all call Colorado Springs home and Zach Miller, 25, lives in Manitou Springs near the base of Pikes Peak. Andy Wacker, 24, lives in Boulder, and Nuta Olaru, 43, lives in Longmont.

Gray earned his spot on the team having won two of the three selection races in which he competed – the Vail Pass Half Marathon and Mount Washington. He is also this year’s USA Mountain Running Champion. Payne earned her spot with her win at Mount Washington. McLaughlin, finished second in the Vail Pass Half Marathon and is this year’s USA Mountain Running Champion. Miller finished second in the Vail Pass Half Marathon, third at the Mt. Evans Ascent, fourth at Mount Washington. He was also fourth at the USA Mountain Championships. Wacker and Olaru earned their spots with wins at Mt. Evans.

The final team member, +Morgan Arritola, 28, Ketchum, ID, earned her spot with a win at the Vail Pass Half Marathon.

+Morgan Arritola warming up for the race.

The World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge is regulated by the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) under the patronage of the IAAF. The first World Long Distance Mountain Challenge was held at Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland in 2004. Since then, the event has been hosted primarily in Europe, but also in the U.S. with the Pikes Peak Marathon hosting in 2006, and the Pikes Peak Ascent in 2010. In 2015, the Zermatt Marathon will host the Long Distance event on July 4.

The first team competition took place in 2009. The U.S. Women have won the team title twice and the individual title twice. The U.S. Men have one gold and one silver team titles, along with two individual titles. The top three members on the team score for the team.

Expected to compete are runners representing their national federations from Germany, Italy, Poland, South Africa, England, Scotland, Australia, Austria, Japan, Eritrea, Ireland, Canada, and Slovenia. Many of the countries are fielding full teams, although some countries are just fielding one or two runners.