Wacker and Moreno Victorious at USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships

Foggy skies with temperatures in the mid-50s greeted the nearly 250 runners competing in the Birkie Trail Run Festival Half Marathon, which hosted the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships on Saturday, September 26. To comply with state and local COVID-19 guidelines, the race featured staggered starts with small groups of runners. The USA Track & Field women’s field of 19 athletes started first at 8 a.m., with the men’s USATF field of 29 following two minutes later. The remaining trail runners in the open field started in waves with up to 30 participants, each wave being released five minutes apart.

Birkie Trail Run

In the women’s race, a battle for the national trail championship title was waged early on between Janelle Lincks, 26, Boulder, CO, and Dani Moreno, 28, Santa Barbara, CA, who broke away from the field soon after the start. By the 4.5-mile point, Lincks and Moreno, both with trail experience, were nearly a minute up on the third place woman, Bria Wetsch, 32, Broomfield, CO, a talented road racer, but new to the trails. In fourth and fifth place were defending USATF Half Marathon Trail Champion Samantha Lewis, 26, Moscow, ID, and Alyna Sonnesyn, 24, South Londonderry, VT, two minutes off the lead.

At mile 7, the top three places were unchanged, but Sonnesyn had overtaken Lewis. By mile 10, Moreno had taken the lead and had built a nearly two minute cushion over Lincks. Wetsch was another minute back, still running in third with Sonnesyn two minutes back, and Lewis in fourth another two minutes back.

Having summited Telemark Hill (elevation 1650′) at 12 miles in the lead, Moreno charged to the win in 1:21:28 (pictured below), followed by Lincks in 1:23:16. Wetsch finished third in 1:25:36, with Sonnesyn in 1:29:24 for fourth and Lewis rounding out the top five in 1:31:05. First master was Jessica Hruska, 40, Dubuque, IA, sixth overall in 1:33:52, the only masters’ woman in the top 10.

Trail Championships

In the men’s national trail championships, it was a runaway from the start with Andy Wacker, 32, Boulder, CO, leading by more than two and a half minutes by the 4.5-mile point. Running in second place was Adam Condit, 37, Eau Claire, WI, followed by first-time trail racer Patrick Brady, 34, Madison, WI, who, after his finish, said that he went out as if he was running a road race, and quickly realized that was not a good strategy and slowed his pace. Wacker’s lead had stretched to four minutes by mile 7, but by the 10-mile mark, his lead was reduced to just two minutes over Condit. Brady was trailing five minutes back from Wacker.

The altitude-trained Wacker then put the gas on heading up Telemark Hill, and sped to the finish line timed in 1:13:55, well ahead of Condit’s 1:18:26. Brady cruised to the finish in fourth posting a time of 1:21:23, followed by Daniel Pederson, 23, Madison, WI, 1:24:55. First master and fifth overall in 1:27:20 was Kelly Mortensen, 49, St. Paul, MN.

Masters age group winners for the 2020 USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships are:

  • 40-44: Jessica Hruska, 40, Dubuque, IA, 1:33:52 and Aaron Usher, 42, Cadillac, MI, 1:30:23
  • 45-49: Lisa Hane, 46, St. Paul, MN, 2:08:25 and Kelly Mortenson, 49, St. Paul, MN, 1:27:20
  • 50-54: Christine Anderson, 54, Cumberland, WI, 2:13:47 and John Karas 51, Elroy, WI, 1:50:49
  • 55-59: Jessica Standefer, 58, Lino Lakes, MN, 3:12:41 and Rich Mayne, 56, Chippewa Falls, WI, 1:49:01
  • 60-64: Kathleen Miller 60, Plymouth, MN, 2:01:25 and Rob Class, 60, Woodbury, MN, 1:37:21
  • 65-69: Karen Manske, 65, Stillwater, MN, 2:18:42 and Craig McCoy, 67, Minneapolis, MN, 2:00:45
  • 70-74: Jo May, 72, Houston, TX, 3:02:06 and Jim Cihak 70, Amasa, MI, 2:04;12
Trail Championships

Prize money totaling $1600 was distributed with Wacker and Moreno each taking home $500 and Lincks and Condit earning $250 each. Brady and Wetsch each netted $100. The top 10 overall were awarded USATF medals as were the top three in each masters age group in five year increments.

Six national trail championship finishers were subjected to drug tests by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). These tests were funded by our national athletics federation – USA Track & Field.

Race results for all events in the 2020 Birkie Trail Run Festival can be found on runsignup.com.

A complete list of 2020 USATF Mountain, Ultra, Trail Running National Championships can be found on this website.