SILVER AND GOLD FOR U.S.A.
Team USA is at the top of the ultramarathon world in 2011.
At the World 100-kilometers Championships at Winschoten, The Netherlands, on September 10, the American women’s team won the Team Silver Medal for second place in the world, with only the Russian team ahead.
And the American men’s team - for the first time ever – brought home the Team Gold Medal as champions of the world.
These were the 25th IAU World 100K Championships. The event was befitting a jubilee. 280 athletes from 34 countries competed.
The USA men powered to their historic team championship, taking five of the top 18 places:
2nd – Michael Wardian, Virginia, 6:42:49
3rd – Andrew Henshaw, Washington, 6:44:35
6th – Matt Woods, Virginia, 6:50:23
11th – Chad Ricklefs, Colorado, 7:05:53
18th – Joe Binder, California, 7:17:53
The USA men’s team’s sixth runner, David Riddle, Ohio, was unable to complete the race.
Wardian moved up from his stellar 3rd place finish in last year’s world championship race. This was the first world championship race for the promising rookie Henshaw. Woods improved from 12th in the world in 2010.
Team scoring for the team championship is straightforward: total time of each country’s top three runners determines the finishing order. The times for Wardian, Henshaw, and Woods added up to 20 hours, 17 minutes, 47 seconds, besting second-place (and defending champion) Japan by over 47 minutes.
Third place in the team standings went to France, followed by Russia, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Finland, Austria, Ukraine, Great Britain, Belarus, Canada, Slovakia, Denmark, Lithuania, and Uruguay. Other teams were unable to finish the requisite three runners.
The overall individual male winner was the great Italian champion Giorgio Calcaterra. Calcaterra led nearly from the beginning of the race. Calcaterra ran each of his first nine 10K loops in under 40 minutes. His winning time was 6:27:32.
As the day wore on and the weather grew hot and muggy, though, the Americans’ tactic of patient pursuit paid off. It was a real team effort, with the top three Americans running virtually in a pack for the first 50K. Both Wardian and Henshaw finished ahead of the 2010 champ, Japan’s Shinji Nakadai, and Woods then beat the 2010 second-place finisher, Sweden’s Jonas Buud. Ricklefs finished less than two minutes out of 9th place. And Binder broke into the world’s top 20 of elite ultramarathoners, improving on his 24th place finish from 2010.
Ricklefs, age 43, turned in the fastest Masters time in the race, earning him the individual masters world championship. He beat out veteran Czech star Daniel Oralek, who finished less than a minute behind.
The USA women battled in a thrilling all-day team competition. The final order of the teams was too close to call until 3rd American and team rookie Amy Sproston crossed the finish line just seconds ahead of the entire Japanese team to put the USA on the awards podium, one step below Russia.
The American women finishers:
5th – Meghan Arbogast, Oregon, 7:51:10
6th – Annette Bednosky, North Carolina, 7:54:59
11th – Amy Sproston, Oregon, 8:10:11
16th – Pam Smith, Oregon, 8:16:45
26th – Carolyn Smith, Wisconsin, 8:45:53.
The USA women’s team’s sixth runner, Devon Crosby-Helms, California, was unable to complete the race.
Arbogast led the team and repeated her 5th place finish from last year’s world championship race.
Turning in her best-ever 100K time, Bednosky came in next, less than four minutes behind Arbogast, leaving the team in high suspense as to whether the Americans could get their third finisher across the line in time for a place on the podium. Who would it be, and when would she come in?
Coming into the race as the USA’s sixth-ranked woman according to her times, Sproston gamely rose to the challenge. On the final 10K loop, she outran all three of the top Japanese women who finished right behind her in 12th, 13th, and 14th places. And so the Americans locked up the Team Silver Medal.
The Russian women’s team won with a total time of 23 hours, 19 minutes, 40 seconds. The Americans’ 2nd place time of 23:56:20 would have beat the men’s teams of eight nations that day. Japan finished third in the team competition with a time of 24:35:13. Fourth went to the Republic of South Africa. The defending champs, Great Britain, finished in fifth and were followed by Austria, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, and The Netherlands. As with the men, by the end of the day, other countries’ women’s teams were unable to finish the requisite three runners.
Arbogast also won the 50-54 masters age group world championship, setting a new world record for that class.
Bednosky’s effort earned her second place in the 40-44 masters age group, finishing with the third-fastest female masters time overall.
Team veteran Carolyn Smith also ran very well in her masters age group, capturing 2nd place in the age 45-49 class.
All photos courtesy of Darryl Schaffer