[Editor’s Note: This article is written by guest writer, Jim Graham. Also, our article with Sunday’s 2023 USATF Mountain Running Championships results is now live.]
From smooth dirt road to slick roots, mud, and rocky climbs with grades up 40%, New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee delivered every condition imaginable over four miles and 1,900 feet of gain to test top mountain running talents in the 2023 USATF Vertical Mountain Championships.
In the women’s race, Grayson Murphy took home the win via a huge gap on the rest of the field, to become the 2023 USATF Vertical Mountain Championships winner.
In the men’s open race, Canadian Alexandre Ricard was victorious, while second place and the first American home was Joseph Gray, 2023 USATF Vertical Mountain Championships winner.
On day one of the two-day 2023 USATF Mountain Running Championships, hosted this year by the Sunapee Scramble, the USATF Vertical Mountain Championships saw the top-three women and top-four men vying for national team selection for the World Trail and Mountain Running Championships in Austria, from June 6 to 10. The 2022 World Mountain Running Championships Uphill champion, Allie McLaughlin, earned an automatic spot to compete on Team USA’s vertical team in Austria, leaving one less women’s spot to be claimed at this event.
Runners return to Mount Sunapee on Sunday, April 30, for the classic up/down mountain race, the USATF Mountain Running Championships, an 8.2-mile, two-loop race — and with heavy rain in the forecast overnight, a proving ground for both mountain runners and mud-taming trail shoes. Awarding $6,000 in total prize money, the Sunapee Scramble weekend is the first time that the U.S. has hosted a two-day championship to select Team USA’s vertical and classic up/down teams.
2023 USATF Vertical Mountain Championships Women’s Race
Grayson Murphy opened a commanding lead from the get-go, hitting the singletrack more than a minute up on the field, and extending the gap through the gnarly climbs and winning the USATF Vertical Mountain Championships title in 35:47, more than four minutes up.
Taking second was Rachel Tomajczyk, 40:28; and Alexandra Lawson, 41:03, with the top-three women punching their tickets to Austria.
A cold drizzle that arrived mid-race turned into steady, wind-driven rain, adding a new level of challenge for even the top women finishers.
“I wanted to go out hard and see if I could open things up before we went on the singletrack,” said Murphy, who is also racing Sunday’s classic up/down event. “Then I was hoping I could just chill on the second half, where it was so technical I knew it’d be harder for anyone to make up a lot of time.”
2023 USATF Vertical Mountain Championships Women’s Results
- Grayson Murphy – 35:47
- Rachel Tomajczyk – 40:28
- Alexandra Lawson – 41:03
- Karley Rempel (Canada, lives in the U.S.) – 42:13
- Laurel Moyer – 42:28
2023 USATF Vertical Mountain Championships Men’s Race
Strategy proved critical over the first 1.5 miles, with the leaders jockeying for position on a smooth gravel road before dropping down onto rugged singletrack, where steep, wet, and technical climbs made picking a line and passing an added challenge. Canadian Alexandre Ricard led a tight pack of five into the woods and never let up, taking the overall win in the open race, in 32:12.
Leading the U.S. men and winning the USATF Vertical Mountain Championships title was perennial favorite Joseph Gray, second overall in 32:23.
He was followed closely by Daniel Curts, 32:28; Edward Owens, 32:40; and Garrett Corcoran, 32:43. Those top-four Americans earned spots on Team USA.
Following Ricard closely, Gray took a bad fall on the technical second half, dropping to third before recovering to grab another national title. “I took a spill and lost some time there, so I was glad I was able to recover and move back up a bit,” said Gray, who will focus on the vertical race at worlds in June. “I went down pretty hard, so I was a little worried after that and played it safe to the end.”
2023 USATF Vertical Mountain Championships Men’s Results
- Alexandre Ricard (Canada) – 32:12
- Joseph Gray – 32:23 (national champion)
- Daniel Curts – 32:28
- Edward Owens – 32:40
- Garrett Corcoran – 32:43