USATF 50 Mile Road Championships – Race Preview

Written by Mike Casper.

Strong runners set to vie for national title at Tussey race

STATE COLLEGE, PA— Keely Henninger, an accomplished distance runner who placed second in this race as a Penn State senior five years ago, will run for the win on the roads of Rothrock State Forest on Oct. 7 at the 19th annual edition of the Tussey Mountainback, which again will serve as the USA Track & Field 50 Mile Road Championship race.

The challenging, loop course, comprised mostly of dirt and gravel roads, starts and ends at the Tussey Mountain Ski Area in Boalsburg. This year it will be run clockwise for the first time, which will make this race a new experience for every runner.

Henninger won the 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Miler and Chuckanut 50K, placed 5th at the Lavaredo 120K in the Italian Alps and was a member of Team USA for the Trail Running World Championship last summer. She will be the featured speaker at the event’s pre-race dinner on Oct. 6 at Toftrees Golf and Resort Hotel.

Also going for the women’s title is Danielle Filipek (Michigan), who captured the 2017 USATF 50-mile trail championships title in Ithaca, N.Y. Filipek led the Mountainback race last year but did not finish, and is back to win this time. Emily Collins (Ohio) placed second in last week’s 24-hour national championships. Three-time Mountainback winner Connie Gardner (Ohio) is also expected to challenge the field.

A strong contender in the men’s race, Will Brewster (North Carolina) won the 2018 John Dick Memorial 50K, setting a new course record, and finished 6th at the USATF 50K road championships. Brewster also posted quick times at his alma mater, Davidson College, including 14:07 for 5000 meters and 3:49 for 1500 meters.

Men’s title contenders also include Zachary Ornelas (Michigan), who twice won the Windsor-Detroit Marathon in impressive 2:20 times and placed second in the 2013 USA Mountain Running National Championships.

In the masters arena, Roy Pirrung, 70 (Wisconsin), is coming from earning his 87th national title in Cleveland, where he ran over 100 miles at the 24-hour national championships.

This year’s prize purse is more than $5,000.

Information about the relay and ultramarathon event is available at

Proceeds of this year’s event will support Team Ream Foundation, a Centre County-based non-profit organization whose mission is to assist the everyday lives of financially disadvantaged individuals in State College and surrounding areas who have been affected by cancer and other serious medical conditions.

The Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau is a major sponsor of the Tussey Mountainback event. Sponsors of the event also include CaliWagnerMillward, of RE/MAX Centre Realty, Subway Restaurants, Wegmans, Appalachian Outdoors, The Bicycle Shop, East Coast Health & Fitness, McClarren Financial Advisors, Nittany Valley Running Club, Rapid Transit Sports, The Sign Stop and Tussey Mountain Family Fun Center.

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