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Gray leads way for U.S. team qualifiers in Loon Mountain Race

Union Leader Correspondent

July 06. 2014 7:58PM
Joseph Gray, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colo., makes his way to the finish line — and victory — on Upper Walking Boss Trail in the men's section of the ninth annual Loon Mountain Race. The race determined the makeup of the US National Mountain Running Team that will compete in September in Italy during the 30th World Mountain Running Championships. (JOHN KOZIOL/Union Leader Correspondent)

LINCOLN — In an inverse of Horace Greely’s famous advice, the best mountain runners in America came east on Sunday with Coloradans sweeping the men’s and women’s honors in the ninth annual Loon Mountain Race.

Although the Granite State was well represented and can claim one team member as a native, though not current resident, the majority of the 10 spots on the USA Track and Field’s U.S. Mountain Running Team went to runners who hail from west of the Mississippi.

Joseph Gray, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colo., won the men’s race with a time of 45 minutes, 52 seconds. Gray, who won the 7.6-mile Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race on June 21, was followed by Patrick Smyth, 27, of Salt Lake City, in 46:39.

Also qualifying for the national team were Eric Blake, of West Hartford, Conn., 35, 52:37; Zach Miller, 25, of Manitou Springs, Colo., 52:44; Joshua Eberly, 33, of Gunnison, Colo., 53:30; and David Roche, 26, Millington, Md., 53:39.

Sunday’s Loon Mountain Race served as both the qualifier for that national team as well as the Collegiate Running Association’s inaugural Collegiate Mountain Running Championship.

The first six men and the first four women across the finish line at the Upper Walking Boss Trail on Loon’s North Peak earned spots on the team; the first collegiate male and female runners each earned $1,000.

Jordan Chavez, 20, of Southlake, Va., nearly accomplished both feats, finishing the men’s 6.95-mile course in 54 minutes, 23 seconds, which made him the top CRA runner. He was seventh in the USATF competition.

At 17th overall, the top men’s finisher from New Hampshire was Brandon Newbould of Nottingham, who had a time of 56:56. In the men’s top 50, Kris Freeman of Thornton was 21st; Jim Johnson, of Madison, was 31st; and Alex Hall of Hanover was 34th.

The winner of the women’s 4.83-mile race was Allie McLaughlin, 23, of Colorado, Springs, with a time of 47:12; Morgan Arritola, 28, of Ketchum, Idaho, was second at 48:15; Kasie Enman, nee Wallace — a former cross-country and track and field standout at Manchester High School Central, who now calls Huntington, Vt., home, was third at 48:20; and Megan Deakins, 24, of Mountain View, Calif., earned the final spot on the national team with a time of 48:39.

Christin Doneski, 43, of Hopkinton, who won the LMR in 2013, was the top-placing New Hampshire woman at 53:16, which was good enough for 10th overall.

Other Granite Staters in the women’s top 50 were Abbey Wood, of Laconia, 28th; Kristina Folcik, of Northwood, 32nd; Dawn Heinrich, of Wolfeboro, 41st;; Andrea Munoz, of Manchester, 42nd; Michelle Roy, Hampton, 44th; and Sarah Schlaack, of Hillsborough, who was 45th.

Also one of seven USATF-New England mountain running contests this year, Sunday’s Loon Mountain Race was directed by Chris J. Dunn and Paul Kirsch of acidoticRACING, who are from Stratford and Madison, respectively. More than 500 runners registered. Competitors had generally good conditions, although, as Kirsch pointed out, it was a bit warm, and mountain runners prefer rain because it helps keep them cool.

The LMR boasts an average grade of 10 percent. In some spots, it can exceed 40 percent.

Gray, who ran for the first time at Loon Sunday, called the venue “awesome” and the course challenging.

“It was a muddy day,” said Gray, “and I ended up sliding around a few times,” he said. But knowing that Smyth was close behind — and having battled against him several times — was motivation enough for Gray to run uphill at an average clip of 6:34 per mile.

Enman, who in 2011 won both the U.S. and world mountain running championships, said that having run the LMR five times before Sunday was a big help because she knew the course and its demands.

“There’s always one more, steep climb,” said Enman, who with her husband, Eli, has two young children. Although now a resident of the Green Mountain State, Enman said she still has her roots here in New Hampshire. Her parents live in Rumney.

Dunn said the 2014 LMR broke the attendance record for a USATF-NE event; the only regional mountain race that’s bigger, he said, is the annual Mount Washington Road Race, which draws more than 1,000 runners.

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