2015 US Mountain Running Championships Men’s Preview

A preview of the men’s race at the 2015 US Mountain Running Championships to be run outside Bend, Oregon.

By on July 20, 2015 | Comments

USA-Mountain-Running-LogoFor the first time, iRunFar will be attending the US Mountain Running Championships (USMRC), which are being run on Mount Bachelor outside of Bend, Oregon this year.

Aside from determining the U.S. mountain running national champions, the race also sets the American squad to compete at the World Mountain Running Championships (WMRC) to be run in Wales on September 19. In reflection of the annual change in the style of the WMRC course, the USMRC course alternates between up-only courses (2014) and up-and-down Nike Trail logocourses (2015). The men’s race consists of three laps of the same four-kilometer course totaling 12k.

We’ll be covering the races live on Saturday, July 25th. The men start at 10 a.m. PDT, an hour after the women’s 9 a.m. start. (Here’s out full preview of the women’s race.)

Many thanks to Nike for their generous support of our 2015 US Mountain Running Championships coverage!

Top Men 2015 US Mountain Running Championships

Top Contenders

Max King

Max King

He’s a local. He’s a former World Mountain Running Champion (2011). He’s Max King (pre-race interview) and he’s surely one of the favorites for this weekend’s race. While quite a bit longer, Max was third at the Mont Blanc Marathon at the end of June. Max last raced the USMRC in 2013, when he took third at the Cranmore Hill Climb. [Edited 7/21 — Final sentence corrected.]

While Max has a great resume and a distinct home-course advantage, Joe Gray (profile, pre-race interview) has been one of, if not the best, U.S. mountain runners of the past half decade. Despite having followed his career for quite a while, I’m excited to watch Joe race in person for the first time this weekend. He’s likely got as much U.S. national, NACAC (North America, Central America, and Caribbean), and world-championship experience as anyone in the men’s field. Gray took 18th at the WMRC last September after taking seventh at the WMRC a year earlier. He also happens to be the defending USMR champion (not his first win). Is he fit now? YES! He just set the American record at the historic 7.6-mile Mount Washington Road Run early last month.

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth (pre-race interview) was last year’s runner up at the USMRC, 40-some seconds behind Gray in the 45-plus-minute uphill race at Loon Mountain. He backed that up with a 10th-place finish at the WMRC, which made him the top American man in the race. He’s won the past two XTERRA Trail World Championships, besting prior XTERRA champions King and Gray at the 2013 race. In June, Smyth ran a 1:03:20 at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. Earlier in the year he made a foray into ultra-distance trail racing with great success as he won and set a new course record at the Way Too Cool 50k in 3:04:48.

He might not be on the entrants list yet, but Zach Miller (profile) is in and there’s no doubt that he’ll be charging all-out up Mount Bachelor’s slopes. While better known for his exploits in the ultrarunning world and particularly at 50 miles (wins at JFK 2013 and Lake Sonoma 2014), Zach took fourth at last year’s USMRC. He didn’t fare as well at the WMRC where he took 52nd. Last year, he was also fourth at the Mount Washington Road Run. He improved to third this year.

David Roche has been running short mountain races competitively for a few years now. Last August, he won the USATF 10k Trail National Championships. Last July at the USMRC he finished sixth, qualifying him to represent the U.S. at the WMRC in Spetember, where he finished sixth American man and 59th overall. He had a rough go at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships a few weeks ago in Zermatt.

Mario Mendoza is a former U.S. runner at the NACAC Mountain Running Championships and a frequent competitor at USATF Trail National Championships. For example, he was second at the 2014 USATF Trail Marathon National Championships at the Moab Trail Marathon. In mid-June of this year, he has second to King by 23 seconds at Bend’s Dirty Half Marathon.

Earlier this month, Matt Shryock was sixth at the highly competitive Mount Marathon Race in Alaska, a race of a similar duration as the USMRC. Aside from routinely crushing races in Alaska, he was second at The Rut 50k in 2013.

Ryan Woods Hells Hills win

Ryan Woods

Here at iRunFar, we’re most familiar with Ryan Woods from his many years tearing it up on the La Sportiva Mountain Cup circuit. He was 16th at last year’s USMRC, 11 minutes off the win, after taking 13th at the event in 2013. He was third at the USMRC in 2011 at the Cranmore Hill Climb before representing the U.S. at the WMRC. Last weekend, he was sixth at the NACAC Mountain Running Championships.

While I personally know very little about him, Andy Wacker seems to be rising fast in the mountain-running scene. In 2013, he was seventh at the USMRC. Last year, he took third at the Pikes Peak Ascent. Just a few weeks ago, Andy took second at the Zermatt Marathon, which served at as the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. Just this past weekend he was declared co-winner of the Barr Trail Mountain Race after he and then leader went off course due to an official’s error late in the race.

Bend’s Ryan Bak is a late addition to the race. He was eighth at last year’s USMRC, but has the potential to move higher. He’s in great shape this year, having broken Max King’s course record at Bend’s Horse Butte 10 mile back in April and then placing second at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April (post-race interview). We’re not sure how sharp he is for the short stuff at the moment, as he was training for his his 100-mile race, the Western States 100, until late June. [Late Entrant Added 7/21]

Josh Elberly — Top American and 5th overall at recent NACAC Mountain Running Championships; 5th 2014 USMRC; 41st 2014 WMRC; 13:52 5k PR. [Late Entrant Added 7/22: Thanks, Richard Bolt!]

Additional Contenders

  • Jared Bassett — An all-American steepler at the University of Oregon. Second, 90-seconds behind Bak at 2014 Horse Butte 10 Miler. [Added 7/21 — Thanks, Ryan Bak!]
  • Andrew Benford — Only American male to run for the US as both a Junior (2006, 12th) and, later, Open (2009, 13th) running at the WMRC; 2nd 2015 Chuckanut 50k; 3rd 2015 Kendall Mountain Run (last weekend); 8:39 steeplechaser [Late Entrant Added 7/21 – Thanks, Richard Bolt!]
  • Jordan Chavez — 7th 2014 USMRC; 7th 2015 NACAC Mountain Running Championships (last weekend); 9th 2014 NACAC Mountain Running Championships; twice junior member of U.S. team at WMRC (7th 2013, 17th 2012).
  • JP Donovan — Multiple-time Squaw Mountain Run champ. Won 2014 TNF EC–San Fran half marathon. Second to Joe Gray at Power of 4 VK last weekend.
  • Zac Freudenburg — 2nd (to Joe Gray) at 2009 USMRC; 3rd Pikes Peak Marathon 2006; 4th Pike Peak Ascent 2009; 46th 2009 WMRC.
  • David Laney (profile) — 9th 2013 USMRC; 8th 2015 Western States 100; 12th 2015 IAU Trail Running World Championships; 1st 2012 Lithia Loop Trail Marathon.
  • David McKay — 4th 2013 Pikes Peak Ascent 2013; 14th 2014 USMRC; DIII XC All-American and Regional Runner of the Year at Luther [Added 7/21 — Thanks, Ryan Bak!]
  • Thomas Morgan — New Bendite, with a 13:25 5k PR (2008). Has run numerous trail races this year.  [Added 7/21 — Thanks, Ryan Bak!]
  • Kenyon Neuman — Originally from Bend, this 13:40 5ker ran for the University of Colorado. [Added 7/21 — Thanks, David Roche.]
  • Sam Robinson — 5th 2014 USATF Trail National Championships (Flagline Trail Fest); 28th 2014 USMRC; 2nd 2015 La Sportiva Table Rock 27k (in race’s 4th fastest time). [Added 7/21 – Thanks, Richard Bolt!]
  • Nick Schuetze — 2007 NACAC Mountain Running Champion.

Also Running
Top ultrarunner and on-again, off-again Bend-ite Ian Sharman is racing on Saturday.

Call for Comments

  • Who do you think will be the U.S. National Champion?
  • Know of any competitors in particular top form… or anyone who’s injured or won’t be racing after all?
  • Please let us know of other top contenders. This is my first USMRC and I’m psyched to learn about additional racers!
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.