Written by John Kerrigan, US Skyrunning Youth team assistant coach. The American Trail Running Association is an International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) associate member.
US Skyrunning is making a third appearance at the 2019 Youth Skyrunning World Championships to be held in L’Aquila, Italy in the Apennine mountains, the same mountain range in which the US 10th Mountain Division infantry helped free the Italians from German occupation during World War Two.
The Youth Skyrunning World Championship races take place on the slopes and ridge-lines of Gran Sasso (Big Rock). The event starts with a Vertical kilometer (VK) on Friday, August 2, followed by a 25 km Sky Race on Sunday, August 4.
The US youth team placed 4th in 2017 among 70 athletes representing 14 nations. Last year the team also placed fourth against much stiffer competition, as there were 140 athletes from 18 countries. The 2019 event will be the most competitive to date. This year the event will host 192 athletes representing 28 nations.
Spain is the defending youth team champions. According to Spanish Coach Rogelio Macías, the sport of Skyrunning has exploded in Spain. The numbers of youth entering Skyrunning events has multiplied immensely in the past 3 years. Spain returns a very strong team led by Daniel Osanz the winner of the under 20 event last year.
The American team’s top returnees are Sofia Sanchez of Kings Beach, California and Mikey Connelly of Chugiak, Alaska. Sanchez blew away the field last year in the VK and earned a silver medal in the Sky race. Although Mikey did not podium, his fifth place finish in the VK was impressive especially considering he was in the first year of the age group. It was also was his first appearance in an international Skyrunning event.
Vermonters Brendan Magill and older sister Erin will be making their third appearance at the Youth Skyrunning World Championships. Erin won the silver medal in the VK in Andorra in 2017 competing in the U18 category.
Gavin Block, also of Alaska will join Jeffrey Bert of Oregon and Californians Phoenix Sanchez and Andrew Owens. Vermont is well represented with Naia Tower-Pierce and William Haig who will join fellow green mountain state Erin and Brendan Magill.
“This is the most experienced and diverse group of athletes to represent the United States at the Youth Skyrunning World Championships.” Said Ryan Kerrigan. Ryan is a native Vermonter who is in his third year of coaching the US youth team. “Our team is particularly stacked in the U18 Boys and the U20 girls’ categories.” Said Kerrigan
“There are currently no official youth Skyrunning events in the United States making this is an exciting opportunity for these Americans to make their mark as Skyrunners on the world stage” said Coach Kerrigan.
With many of these athletes having several years of eligibility remaining, the future looks bright for US Youth Skyrunning.