Arritola, Smyth Win Collegiate Mountain Running National Championship Titles
The Loon Mountain Race served as both the U.S. and Collegiate championship race and is one of the steepest trail races in North America
The first-ever Collegiate Mountain Running National Champions were crowned as part of the 2014 Loon Mountain Race in Lincoln, New Hampshire on July 6, 2014. The Loon Mountain Race also served as the US Mountain Running Championships and was the only team selection race for the upcoming World Championships in Casette di Massa, Italy. The top six men and top four women automatically qualified for the US Mountain Running Team and the top five male and female college students split a $6,000 prize purse for their efforts, making the competition fierce and competitive in both races.
A record number of entries and participants were on hand for the races and 15 colleges were represented in the Collegiate Running Association’s Mountain Running National Championships. With new NCAA legislation (August 2013) permitting varsity NCAA DI athletes to accept prize money, the newly formed Collegiate Running Association provided $6,000 in prize money specifically reserved for college students who were enrolled in at least 1 college course at any level (undergraduate, graduate or post graduate) between January 1 and the day of the race. The women’s race was 4.8 miles while the men competed in a 12K (~7 miles) climb that included over 3,000 vertical feet of elevation gain. The final 1,000m ascent, fittingly called “Upper Walking Boss,” reached inclines in excess of 40%. Known in the running world as a race to put on your “bucket list,” competitors agreed that the Loon Mountain Race met every expectation.
Nearly ideal temperatures of about 60 degrees greeted runners at the start of the women’s race, and as a result there was little hesitation among the field as the competitors attacked the course at a blistering pace early on. The gradual climbs of the first two miles allowed a quick pace to be set, and mountain running legend Morgan Arritola (University of British Columbia) and new-comer Megan Deakins (Stanford University) quickly took advantage and separated from the rest of the collegians in the field. Though their mountain-running pedigrees are quite different – Arritola a seasoned veteran with international experience including a 3rd place finish at the 2012 World Mountain Running Championships in Ponte di Legno, Italy, and Deakins a former standout midfielder on the Duke Field Hockey team who only recently began racing competitively, there was little difference between the during a majority of the race as they reached 2K to go nearly together, well ahead of their competition. It was not until a steep technical downhill section right before the infamous “Upper Walking Boss” that Arritola was finally able to shake Deakins and build a slight lead that she would maintain to the finish line. Arritola eventually crested the mountain in 48:07.15, winning the Collegiate National Championship by 24 seconds over runner-up Deakins (48:39.40).
Along with being named the first-ever Collegiate Mountain Running National Champion, Arritola earned $1,000 for being the first college finisher, while Deakins claimed $750 for her second place effort. Additionally, both Arritola and Deakins garnered spots on the US Mountain Running Team for the 30th World Mountain Running Championships as they finished 2nd and 4th overall in the US Championship race. Rounding out the top 5 for women’s college students were Tori Tyler (Berkeley City College), Emily Graber (University of Richmond) and Marisa Ruskan (University of Richmond). Tyler, Graber, and Ruskan won $600, $400, and $250 respectively for their finishes.
While the women’s race had a great duel for the top 2 spots in the Collegiate Championships, the men’s race had a runaway winner. Patrick Smyth, a former seven-time NCAA DI All-American for Notre Dame now completing his Master’s degree, earned the $1,000 top prize and bested his nearest collegiate competitor by almost eight minutes. Smyth found himself battling the defending US Champion Joe Grey in the open race and the two would put forth an incredible effort, decimating the rest of the field, with Grey eventually pulling away for the victory and Smyth finishing about a minute behind in 2nd place overall.
In 2nd place for collegians Jordan Chavez (University of Richmond) who narrowly missed a spot on the US Mountain Running Team as he placed 7th overall. Chavez is entering his junior year of undergraduate work at the University of Richmond was awarded $750 for his effort. He was a member of 2012 and the 2013 US Junior (under 20) Mountain Running Teams and will compete for the US again this summer, this time for the senior team, in the NACAC Mountain Running Championships in Mexico on July 20.
Andrew Benford (Princeton University) was the third collegiate finisher and also finished 9th in the US Championship. Benford, who is currently beginning graduate work at Princeton University, was a former NCAA DI All-American in the 3,000m Steeplechase for the University of Richmond. He was crowned Atlantic 10 Cross Country Champion in 2010 and helped the Spiders to a 24th place finish in the 2010 NCAA DI Cross Country Championships. Benford also has international experience in mountain running, as he was selected to the 2006 US Junior (under 20) Mountain Running Team (USMRT) and ran his way onto the 2009 USMRT.
Rounding out the top five college men were Drew Best (UMASS) and Patrick Rich (Concordia University). Rich was featured by the Collegiate Running Association prior to the race and has had quite the journey to becoming one of the top mountain runners in the New England area. Read more about Rich here.
Collegiate Running Association Co-Founder, Steve Taylor, was ecstatic with how the first-ever Collegiate Mountain Running Championships turned out. “This was all that we could ask for and more. It’s incredible to have three college students earn spots on the senior USMRT and another, Marisa Ruskan, earn her way onto the junior team. The college students that competed here today loved their experience and I believe we will have many more students join us in the future.”
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