USA Mountain Running Champions Win by Mere Seconds
Joe Gray and Morgan Arritola dominate at Cranmore Hill Climb
Joe Gray on his way to first place, with Glen Randall close on his heels. Photo by Joe Viger
On Sunday, July 21, top athletes poured in from all over North America to participate in the 26th Cranmore Hill Climb in North Conway, New Hampshire. The race served as this year’s USA Mountain Running National Championships, with the top six U.S. men and top four U.S. women earning spots on the USA Mountain Running Team, to compete in this year’s World Mountain Running Championships on September 8 in Poland.
For men, the Hill Climb course was 12 kilometers, with three loops. The women’s race was two loops, an eight-kilometer course in total.
Joe Gray, 27, of Renton, Washington, crossed the finish line in 56:23, just five seconds ahead of Zachary Ornelas, 22, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Max King, 33, of Bend, Oregon, followed seconds later, snagging the bronze medal in 56:45.
Gray’s main goal for this year’s race was to be aggressive and keep the pace honest from start to finish. He says he struggled to stay in front: ”It seemed like every time I took the lead, someone would surge hard and overtake me. Everyone was hungry for the win so there was no lag time at all.”
Finishing fourth, Glen Randall, 26, of Mesa, Colorado, made the team for the second time. Ryan Hafer, 27 (fifth place), and Alex Nichols, 28 (sixth place), both of Colorado Springs, Colorado, will be first-time National Team members, along with Ornelas.
Former Olympic Nordic skier Morgan Arritola, 27, of Ketchum, Idaho, proved her successful transition to mountain running by taking first in the women’s race with a time of 42:31, besting Stevie Kremer, 29, Crested Butte, Colorado, by just 19 seconds.
Morgan Arritola breaks the tape at the finish line. Photo by Joe Viger
Joining Arritola and Kremer in Poland for the World Championships will be former U.S. Olympian, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, 39, Oakland, California, and Megan Kimmel, 33, of Silverton, Colorado. They hope to defend their 2012 gold medal.
Arritola thrived on the race’s positive atmosphere. “I am a very competitive person when the gun goes off , but before and after I just enjoyed being there,” she says.