USA’s Joe Gray and Grayson Murphy won the senior races over the classic distance, 14km, on the first day of the World Mountain Running Championships in Villa La Angostura on Friday (15).
The heavy rain and strong winds had an impact on all four races as they included river crossings, which were quite high due to the rain. Both were up and down courses, concluding with fast descents.
The senior races started in the centre of Villa La Angostura and had a mix of dirt roads, forest tracks, a waist-deep and fast-moving river crossing, and a swift descent back down to the road. It seemed to favour the runners who are fast over the runnable terrain over those more adept at technical descents.
Gray led the men’s race from early on, but the gap was never far back to Italy’s Cesare Maestri. Gray pushed hard while he and Maestri were pursued by Czech duo Marek Chrascina and Jan Janu, Britain’s 2019 World Cup champion Andrew Douglas and Jacob Adkin, and several other runners.
Gray eventually held them all off to win in 1:05:13, just eight seconds ahead of Maestri. Chrascina took third in 1:05:57.
The river crossing took its toll on a few athletes, Douglas included. He slipped and fell on the slippery log serving as a bridge and lost precious ground, ultimately finishing in seventh place, 25 seconds shy of the podium.
The Czech Republic took team men’s gold, with the USA taking silver and Italy bronze.
The women’s race played out in similar fashion. Murphy, who won the US trials, struck out into an early lead. With a background in the steeplechase and having recently turned her hand to mountain running, Grayson flew on the fast sections of the course.
Elise Poncet of France was chasing hard, while Britain’s Philippa Williams was a little way behind, with several more runners bunched closely behind her. Grayson negotiated the final fast descent and held on to win in 1:15:20 with Poncet 21 seconds in arrears. Williams took the bronze in 1:16:45.
France took the gold in the women’s team event, with the Czech Republic taking silver and Great Britain bronze.
The rain was at its heaviest during the U20 men’s event, the first race of the day, and already the usually dusty tracks were turning into mud. It was a fast and furious race, with Britain’s Joe Dugdale leading right from the start, being chased hard by Sebih Bahar of Turkey.
In the end just 17 seconds separated the first five men, with Dugdale taking gold in 32:44, Bahar silver in 32:50 and Yael Paniagna Morales of Mexico bronze in 32:50. With Dugdale’s teammates Matthew Mackay and Matthew Knowles completing the top five, Britain won team gold. Turkey took team silver and Italy team bronze.
The rain still didn’t abate during the U20 women’s race. The river was getting higher and conditions were tough. The lead women weren’t as close together as the men had been, but it was still a hard-fought race.
Angela Mattevi of Italy was the clear winner in 37:12 with Barbora Havlickova of the Czech Republic taking silver in 37:56 and Jade Rodriguez of France bronze in 38:48. In the team competition Italy took gold, with Turkey in silver and the Czech Republic in bronze position.
The two-day championships conclude tomorrow with the long distance men’s and women’s races where more exciting performances – and hopefully less rain – are expected.
WMRA for World Athletics