Harwood runners excel at world championships

Harwood runner Erin Magill competes during a 2015 race. Magill recorded a podium finish in her age division last weekend at the Youth Skyrunning World Championships in Andorra. JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR / STAFF PHOTO

Erin Magill led the Harwood girls cross country running team to its eighth straight Division II championship in 2016.

Last Friday the rising senior was on top of the world in a different way.

Competing at the 2017 Youth Skyrunning World Championships in Andorra, Magill raced to a podium finish while defeating national team athletes from many other countries.

Magill earned a top-three finish in her age category in the KV Arsinal, a grueling 3.5-kilometer race with an elevation gain of 1,020 meters. The race began at 1,500 meters at the Arinsal ski station before ending at 2,570 meters at Alt de la Capa. Skyrunning events all finish above 2,000 meters and feature an incline that exceeds 30 percent, though the climbing difficulty must not exceed a certain grade.

Harwood teammates Brendan Magill, Seth Beard, Jonas Merchant and Willa Yonkman also delivered top-notch results. Highlanders coach John Kerrigan was surprised by the success considering the pool of elite athletes in the race. Middlebury’s Sam Hodges and former Harwood runner Morgan Baughman were also in solid form while representing The Green Mountain State.

“ We bring over seven Vermont kids to compete and find out that this race is the world championships for youth sky running,” coach Kerrigan said via email. “All the other racers are on their national teams going through a rigorous selection process. The other coaches are calling Ryan (Kerrigan) and I the U.S. coaches, and we had four (top-five) finishes. Just a bunch of Vermont hill climbers showing the rest of the world that we can compete at their level. We have been invited back next year to represent the USA. My head is still spinning. What an experience.”

On Sunday competitors tackled the Skyrace Arsinal, a 15K race with an elevation gain of 1,415 meters.

The original Skyrunning World Championships were held last year in Italy, with racers from eight countries competing. This year 54 medals were distributed in three age-group categories, and a combined title was awarded. The age-group categories were: A (16-17), B (18-20) and U23 (21-23).

“ The federation here are recognizing us as the coaches for USA Skyrunning,” John Kerrigan said. “ They want us to bring more kids from different parts of the country next year. This has been the greatest youth event I have been involved with in 40-plus years of coaching. And we are considering two trips: one for kids who qualify for world championships and another for VTXC kids.”

Ryan Kerrigan is a coach for VTXC, a Stowe-based group that focuses on cross training and endurance fitness.

One of the top VTXC athletes has been Hodges, who led Middlebury to last year’s Nordic skiing state title. Hodges placed fourth in the KV Arsinal and fifth in the 15K event, placing third overall in his age category.

The Vermont crew will spend a few rest days on Mediterranean beaches before returning home Thursday.

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