US Youth Skyrunning Team Poised For World Championship Success in Italy

Announcement from John Kerrigan, US Skyrunning youth team coach. Learn more about how the American Trail Running Association helps to support Skyrunning.

US Skyrunning is proud to announce the selection of eight young athletes to represent the United States at the 2021 Youth Skyrunning World Championships coming up July 30 to August 1 in Fonte Cerreto, L’Aquila, Italy. Organized by the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF), this will be the 5th edition of this unique championship and the fourth time youth skyrunners from the United States have raced.

The Youth Skyrunning World Championship races are divided into three age group categories: Youth A (15-16-17 years), Youth B (18-19-20 years) and U23 (21-22-23 years).

About the first U.S. team to attend this championship in 2017, “Ryan and I arrived in Andorra with nine local Vermont athletes. We were not expecting much from our ragamuffin group of local runners. We were just hoping that our kids would have a wonderful experience. They had a great time but also made an impression on the world skyrunning stage,” said U.S. Youth Skyrunning team assistant coach John Kerrigan. John Kerrigan is also Head Cross Country coach at Harwood Union high school and was an inducted into the Run Vermont Hall of Fame in 2019.

Youth Skyrunning

Elliot Singer

At the 2017 Youth Skyrunning World Championship Sam Hodges (Cornwall, VT) placed third overall in the 18 and under age group. Erin Magill (Moretown, VT) placed an impressive second in the vertical kilometer (VK). Having two runners on the podium and a fourth place team finish earned the U.S. team an automatic invite to the 2018 Youth Skyrunning World Championships held in Italy.

The team’s initial success at the 2017 championship skyrocketed in 2018 and 2019. Lake Tahoe’s Sophia Sanchez (pictured top of page) achieved the coveted gold medal in the VK in 2018 and won the SkyRace in 2019. Portuguese skyrunning coach João Paulo Quieros remarked, “I have never seen an athlete that young actually run the entire VK.” Former U.S. team youth skyrunner Hillary Gerardi refers to skyrunning as skycrawling. “You are often trying to run on your hands and knees gulping for air” says the native Vermonter now living in France. Gerardi is now one of the top ranked female skyrunners in the world.

Mikey Connolly (Chugiak, AK) earned a podium finish in the 18 and under VK at the 2019 Youth Skyrunning World Championship. In the 2019 SkyRace, the U.S. team finished an impressive fifth overall out of 30 teams participating.

Sadly, this championship was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic but returns to L’Aquila, Italy as the 2021 Youth Skyrunning World Championships.

Youth Skyrunning

Finn Tower Pierce

What is Skyrunning?

Skyrunning is a relatively new sport in the United States but evidence of skyrunning dates back 6,000 years with the discovery of the body of Ötzi found buried in glacial ice in the Austrian Alps just over the border from present day Italy. Ötzi (the iceman) may have been the first skyrunner. On his body were seeds of flowers taken from fields located in valleys hundreds of kilometers away. Also found on Ötzi were shells of sea creatures from the warm seas of the Mediterranean. It is believed that Ötzi was a trader. Pedaling his wares from the Mediterranean thru the high sheep pastures up and over what is now the Italian and Austrian Alps. Ötzi was also a warrior. DNA evidence has shown that he died from a fatal wound incurred in a fight while carrying the body of a wounded companion.

Skyrunners are also warriors. They brave extreme steep climbs in thin air; precarious descents along knife edge ridges and are exposed to dramatic changes in the weather. “I have seen 85 degree temperatures, blinding sun, pelting rain and ferocious ice storms all occurring during one vertical kilometer race,” said U.S. Skyrunning Coach Ryan Kerrigan.

The modern day idea of skyrunning came from Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti and a handful of fellow climbers. They pioneered races on Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa in the early 1990s. Just months later, with the support of the Fila sportswear company, skyrunning took off across the world’s mountain ranges reaching from the Alps to the Himalayas, to Mount Kenya and the Mexican volcanoes.

From sea to sky, skyrunning spans the great outdoors, across the world’s mountain ranges and the imagination of thousands of participants and fans. It’s a sport born in the wild, where the goal was to reach the highest peak in the shortest time from a mountain town or village. Today it represents the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality and has 200 races worldwide with over 50,000 participants from 65 countries.

“In Andorra, I learned how skyrunning got its name. While observing the race summit from a distance it looks as if runners were literally dropped out of the sky” said John Kerrigan. “Trail and mountain running are chill and can be a lot of fun but skyrunning just burns into your soul.” said U.S. Skyrunning Team head coach Ryan Kerrigan.

Jakob Eggert

U.S. Youth Skyrunning Team

The eight young American runners participating the 2021 Youth Skyrunning World Championships are:

  • Nowelle Spencer (19) Anchorage, Alaska
  • Naia Tower (19) East Burke, Vermont
  • Elliot Singer (20) San Francisco, California
  • Jakob Eggert (21) Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Wendell Lorenzen (23) Sequim, Washington
  • William Haig (22) Middlebury, Vermont
  • Finn Tower Pierce (16) East Burke, Vermont
  • Parke Chapin (17) Bend, Oregon

For more information about the US Skyrunning program contact Ryan Kerrigan, Head Coach of US Skyrunning (usskyrunning@gmail.com). Follow the team at https://www.skyrunningus.com/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skyrunningus/

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