Reno was the home this year for the 2009 USATF Junior Olympic XC Championships. The buzz however was all about the snow. Will they plow the course, pack the course, or just leave it. When we arrived Thursday there was already several inches of snow on the ground and it started again on Friday with a cold windy blizzard. Saturday the weather was cold but the flurries didn't begin until after the Bantams and Midgets raced. Local meet organizers along with Youth Chair Lionel Leach were making minute- by-minute decisions on how to handle the course....they ultimately gave it a light pack and delayed the first start time by one hour which gave everyone time to get on the shuttle and make their race.
The wide uphill start in San Rafael Park leads into a narrow trail at the top of the hill and to the right. Runners that started in the boxes to the left had to make their way over or get caught in the pack. Although they did a pretty good job of packing the snow down on the course it was still a tough race. Some runners described the start as running in sand, plus the cold temperatures and pelting snow in the face made it even more challenging. Warm tents with plenty of heaters were waiting at the end though. The course was littered with lost shoes and one runner we met ran most of the race with only one shoe.
Once out of the start the course wound through some windy and slippery turns in the back, but if you were standing in the middle you could see them coming by several times. Under the conditions it was not always the kids coming in with the fastest times back home that won. Consider not just the weather, but deciding on half inch spikes or quarter inch at the last minute, getting to the course on time, sleep, food, the air - throw all of that into the blender and hey, it was a tough race day all the way around.
Here's some of the highlights.
In the Youth Boys race Mitch from the Bowerman Club led for most of the race but may have made a tactical error towards the end and let ________ pass him around 400 meters to finish second. We poked our camera in the team tent to talk with Bowerman boys but Mitch didn't seem too happy with second place as he came to win. However, second in the U.S. is nothing to sneeze at.