University of Richmond senior Andrew Benford finished 13th in the World Mountain Running Championships held on Sept. 6 in Campodolcino, Italy.
Benford ran in the senior race for Team USA, which finished 6th in a field of 24 teams. While Benford finished 13th overall with a time of 58 minutes, 9 seconds, he led Team USA despite being the youngest of the six runners on the team.
"My individual goals, I really didn't have a whole lot of them going into the race, Benford said. "I just didn't know what to expect, but in the back of my mind I had the goal of top-20 definitely, and maybe top-15 on a good day. So 13th, I was extremely excited about, and also the fact that I led the U.S. Team."
Benford ran this race in 2006 as part of the junior team. He is the first ever runner from the United States to run for both the junior and senior teams.
The three-lap course stretched 13 kilometers and rose as high as 6,300-feet above sea level. Benford prepared during the summer for this race by living and training in the high altitude of Manitou Springs, Colo. The one thing he could not train for was the different terrain in Italy.
"Colorado was very dry, rocky, and kind of sandy with a lot of dirt," Benford said. "But Italy, we were in the Alps [with] grassy slopes and rugged peaks."
The downhill section of each lap was "a lot more rugged and rocky" than the uphill portion of the lap, Benford said.
"The uphill, there were very few rocks," Benford said, "and on the downhill, just lots of random rocks everywhere."
Richmond sophomore Tim Smith also traveled to Italy with Benford to run in the junior division of the race. The under-20 race was shorter with only two laps and Smith finished with a time of 46:10, good for 55th.
This was Smith's second time running for the junior Team USA. In last year's race held in Switzerland, he finished 5th.
Benford qualified for Team USA after he finished second in a qualifying race in Colorado Springs at the end of July. He continued to live and train in Colorado for the next month to prepare for the race.
Despite having a great race, Benford said he needed to focus on the Richmond season.
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"It was a great experience to go over there and represent the U.S. and our school." Benford said. "But now it's time to come back here and lead this team ... that 's why I'm here, to lead this team along with senior Matt Llano, we both kind of have a dual leadership role.
"You want to enjoy the moment, celebrate it with your teammates and with your friends, but then what do you have next week? You got to move on, keep it in perspective. It was a great opportunity, great experience, but we've got bigger goals here that we need to take care of as a team."
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