presented by Nike Trail Running and Visit Bend
The MEN’s ELITE FIELD
The qualifier for the USA Mountain Running Team is this Saturday in Bend Oregon. Top 6 men will be heading to Wales for the World Championships on Sept 19th. This years team is looking to be a medal contender for sure. With arguably the most competitive US field assembled on any trail/mountain/ultra course in the country, here are the guys with the best chances of making the team. Expect to see a lot of lead and position changes. In a race this competitive, guys can gain or loose multiple spots within seconds. Come watch the race unfold on a very spectator friendly 4k loop. Men will be running it 3 times with an elevation gain of 248 meters each loop.
The Top 4
It’s extremely hard to imagine any of these top 4 guys not making the team. It’s looking like a slug fest between these 4 guys on who will be crowned the national championship and then another slug fest with about 15 guys fighting for the last two spots. The national title will likely come from these top 4. These guys are not just track/road/cross country studs (making USA teams), but they’ve proven themselves plenty of times in the trails, mountains, and even ultras, setting records all over the place and winning National Titles.
1) Patrick Smyth – Nike Trail Team, 1:02 Half Marathoner Patrick Smyth has pretty much won every trail race he’s entered, other than his runner-up at last years Mountain Championships (likely his first mountain race). His first year on trails he won the Xterra Trail National Championships and then the World Championships finishing ahead of both Joe and Max. His second year he finished second at the Mountain Championships and 9th at the World Chanmpionships (top American there), and won titles at the USA Half Marathon Champs and the Xterra World Champs. He also went ahead and took down Max King’s course record at Way To Cool 50k and it seems as if nobody has been within 2 minutes of him at any trail race he has run in the last year and a half.
2) Joe Gray – Scott Sports, 1:03 Half Marathoner Joe is the two-time defending National Champ. He’s won the USA Mountain Runner of the Year the last who “knows how many years” in a row and wins at least 3 National Titles every year (including club xc and NACAC). Joe is both a great climber and descender. The 10-12k distances seem to really suit him and training in Colorado Springs will help on a course like this being run at elevations of 6,000-7,000 ft.
3) Max King – Salomon, 1:03 Half Marathoner Hard to imagine a former World Mountain Running Champion on an up-down course not win the national title on his home course. Max is a great competitor and you can bet he will be after the title. Max has won more national titles than you can count and has people chasing his course records all over the country. He also has two World Championship wins under his belt (Mountain Running 2011 and 100k in 2014). Need to say more? Just google max king and you’ll see 😉
4) Andy Wacker – Adidas, 1:03 Half Marathoner There are plenty of reasons why Andy has a good shot at the National Title. First reason is he is a great climber and appears to be even better at altitude (which will play a factor in this race). He was 3rd at last years Pikes Peak WMRA Challenge and Runner up at this years World Long Distance Mountain Championships in Switzerland (Leading team USA to a Silver Medal in Zermatt). He appears to be in the best shape of his life finishing 2nd at Mt. Washington and winning the Barr Trail Race after starting the race 7 minutes late. The guy crushes kenyans on the climbs and the question here will be how well he can handle 4 minute miles on the long descents and be able to climb fast back up
After being on the course multiple times, speed will definitely come in handy. The downhills are not technical and they are pretty gradual so you likely won’t see the track studs faltering. It’s scary to think that there are still plenty of sub 14 minute 5k guys in the field, guys who’ve made the USA Mountain Running Team many times before, and guys who have won Trail National Titles who will go home without a spot on the team.
Here are the next batch of guys who will be battling for a spot.
Zach Miller (Nike Trail Team) – 4th at last years Mountain Running Champs and 3rd at the Mt. Washington Road Race. Rumors have it that Zach is a great downhill runner. Combine that with his climbing abilities and altitude training and he has a great shot at making the team.
Ryan Bak (Nike Trail Team) – Bendite who was 8th at last years Mountain Running Champs (while dealing with an ankle issue) and looking to improve on that this year. When Ryan Bak is healthy he is one of the best trail/mountain runners in the country and if he is fit and ready could be a contender for a top 3 spot or even a win. He’s qualified for multiple USA XC Teams and also has 13:30s 5k on his resume with plenty of great performances on the trails.
David Roche (Nike Trail Team) – 6th at last years Mountain Running Champs and won the 10k Trail Championships. David was also just part of the USA Team who took silver in Zermatt and appears to be better at the 10-12k distances. After doing some altitude training, David is prepped and ready to make another USA Team.
Andrew Benford (Team Run Flagstaff) – 9th at last Years Mountain Running Champs and only American male to run for the US as both a Junior (2006, 12th) and, later, Open (2009, 13th) running at the WMRC. An 8:39 steeplechase PR does not hurt!
David Laney (Nike Trail Team) – David is a 2:17 Marathoner who has blazed plenty of trail and ultra marathoners. He was recently part of the USA Team that took silver at the 50 mile World Championships (he was 2nd scorer and 12th overall), and finished 9th at the 2013 Mountain Running Championships.
Mario Mendoza (Nike Trail Team) – Bendite who is writing this preview so he is not allowed to talk about himself. He just got married and went on a honeymoon so don’t expect too much 😉
Ryan Woods (La Sportiva) – Ryan has made plenty of USA Teams before and will be one of the most experienced guys in the field. He also has a sub 14 5k PR and recently placed 6th at the NACAC Mountain championships. He has both the climbing and descending ability to make the team.
Zach Freudenburg – former team USA member at the World Mountain Running Championships. former team USA member at NACAC Mountain Running Championships. Battled Michael Wardian for US Marathon record while pushing a baby stroller.
Jordan Chavez – 7th at the 2014 Mountain Running champs and 7th at the 2015 NACAC Mountain Running Championships
Wait, there is still more! If the field was not stacked already, there are still plenty of sub 14 5k guys who will be making the Mountain Running Debut and could potentially pull a Sage Canaday and either win the title or take a spot on the team.
Track Studs in the Elite Field with potential to make the team.
Thomas Morgan – New Bendite and also a 13:25 5k guy. Thomas has been gaining experience on the trails. First placing 3rd at the Horse Butte 10 Miler behind Ryan and Jarred. And then placing 3rd at the Dirty Half Marathon behind Max and Mario.
Jared Bassett – New Bendite and also an 8:36 Steeplechase PR. Jarred is a former University of Portland All American and has also been gaining experience on the trails placing second to Ryan Bak at the Horse Butte 10 miler.
Kenyon Neumon – 13:40 5k guy who ran for CU and lives and trains in Boulder. Kenyon grew up in Bend and has done very well at the Cross Country championships and has torn up the racing scene around Boulder.
Other Elites Contending for a Spot
Nick Schuetze – 2007 NACAC Mountain Running Champion
David McKay – Bendite who was 4th 2013 Pikes Peak Ascent 2013; 14th 2014 USMRC; DIII XC All-American and Regional Runner of the Year at Luther
JP Donovan – Multiple-time Squaw Mountain Running Champ.
Ian Sharman – Bendite known for his ultra-running success and 100 mile wins but recently placed 4th at the Dirty Half Marathon and is a great competitor all around.
Jason Bryant – Multiple USA Teams and a straight up mountain goat. Jason will be competing for the Master’s win but could potentially knock out some of these young bucks.
Closing Remarks: I apologize if I missed anyone or missed some of your PR’s and amazing race results. The goal of this blog is to help people realize the type of competition out there on the course on Saturday and to help get the sub ultra distances more exposure. Being an ultra runner myself, I believe this is the strongest USA men’s field assembled on any trail/mountain/ultra course. There are some serious studs in this race and even though speed does not matter as much going up a hill, a lot of these talented track/road/xc guys have already proven to be aerobic machines on the mountains and in Ultras. Hoping to have a crowd out there on the course this saturday. I know the Bend community is really excited for this race. Thank you to Visit Bend, and Nike Trail Runner for helping sponsor this event. And huge thanks to USA Mountain Running, Nancy, Richard, and Max for building up the sport and organizing this event (http://www.usmrt.com/).