Waterville Valley, NH / Words by Josh Eberly / Photos by Mike Scott, Bill Hibdon
This past weekend was a first of many for the trail runners at Western. For the first time during season they traveled via plane over to the east coast for a National Championship Race. The USA Mountain Running Championships is an event where all of the top mountain runners from the nation race for an opportunity to be selected for the World Mountain Running Championships. The top 4 from each race automatically get their ticket punched for the Argentina – Championships and get to proudly represented the USA for Mountain Running.
This year, as normal was stacked on both the men’s and women’s race. It was held at the beautiful ski resort of Waterville Valley, in the hills of New Hampshire. It did not disappoint the athletes. The grueling up and down course provided challenges that would test the athletes abilities across the board.
As for the Western crew, this was one of the most competitive races that most of them have ever competed at. They lined up with the same stellar athletes that they follow on social media and idolize. When asked about the competition, trail runner Jeshurun Small said:
“It was really cool to toe the line and race with these professional athletes. I have always wondered how I would rank among racing these guys.”
The athletes did just that. They came, they ran and they conquered. Racing in a competitive race like this will just ignite the hunger of these athletes wanting more. The learning process and experience gained was a massive step in providing these trail runners with the right resources to be the best that they can become.
The women’s race was first and started at 8:30am. Elle Walton (senior), Megan Bamford (sophomore), and Lindsey Herman (senior) toed the starting line as the siren initiated the start. All three ladies had a great start of this gnarly 7 mile looped course. The course had 3 significant climbs that where anywhere from 19%-25% grade and lasted anywhere from .25 miles to just over 1 mile on the longest climb. This was nothing new for these Western Trail Runners, as they get to train on similar terrain throughout the Fall and Spring season.
Elle Walton, a senior at Western, finished up in 21st place. She pressed on the gas and was passing girls the entire race. Elle recently had a great opportunity this past summer to compete in Austria for the adidas Infinite Trails World Championships.
When asked about the race, she said – “It was very competitive, and was a race where you had to pay attention and focus the entire 7 miles.”
Her teammates Megan Bamford (sophomore) and Lindsey Herman (senior) finished up in 34th and 39th place respectively. This was by far the most competitive race they have both competed in via trail running.
Coach Eberly said “It was a great learning experience for these girls. It all needs to start from somewhere, and I am a true believe to give these athletes an opportunity to advance. This is one of those races, where they will remember the feeling they had when racing the nations best and only grow their motivation to work harder.”
As the women finished up, Jeshurun Small (senior), Brian Whitfield (senior) and Coach Josh Eberly were on their warm up run before their 10am start. Brian and Jeshurun both competed in Austria for their first international racing experience this past summer. The single-looped course was a great advantage for both of these runners. The uphills followed with the steep downhills were nothing but familiar for these athletes.
Coach Eberly stated firmly, “that both of these runners had “break-through” races.”
Which to say, gives them nothing but confidence in training under the Mountain Sports Trail Running program and a true testament to their work-ethic.
Coach Eberly finished up in 7th place with Brian Whitfield seconds behind to capture a top 10 in a National Championship Race. Jeshurun Small wasn’t too far behind in 13th place and excited to finish up so close to the top of the field.
“The Trail Running community took note upon the younger generation of Trail Runners that are coming onto the scene. Giving them a look at what their future can look like is very satisfying as a Coach.” Head Coach Eberly explained.
In other trail running news, athletes Maddie Hart and Josh Jones competed in the Crested Butte 55k Ultra this past weekend as well. Maddie Hart (senior) finished up in 5th place in a competitive mountain ultra race. While Josh Jones had a few challenges along the way, but showed his true grit by finishing up the race with a soft smile crossing the finish line.
The trail team is heading over to Flagstaff, Arizona to compete in the Flagstaff Sky Peaks 25k, 55k and 50 mile distance this coming weekend. Follow us on social media to stay up-to-date with the latest stories and news!