Men's cross country runner Jordan Chavez is the 13th University of Richmond Spider to compete for the United States in the World Mountain Running Championships in the last eight years.
Chavez, a sophomore, first competed in the event last year in Ponte di Legno, Italy. This year, the race was held in Krynica Zdroj, Poland, on Sunday, Sept. 8.
"The experience was pretty crazy," Chavez said. "I think being able to compete in Italy last year helped me because I knew what I was going in to. The race was pretty intense because of its difficulty, but it was awesome."
The course, located on the Jaworzyna Mountain, was 9.08 km long, starting out with a downhill stretch followed by an uphill portion, then one more downhill and ending with another grueling uphill push.
"The race course was just brutal," said men's cross country coach Steve Taylor. "Most of the time in these world championship events, that's the case. Just imagine some of the steepest inclines you can find on a mountain. If you're not technically sound, you're going to twist an ankle or break an ankle."
Chavez finished seventh out of the 67 runners from all over the world who raced in the men's junior heat. His time was 40:12.
"He really has become more and more focused as his time here at Richmond has gone on," Taylor said. "Going back to the summer, he spent a lot of time in Colorado training specifically for this world championship event. He got on the mountains out there with the high altitude and trained hard."
Chavez was one of four Americans to race in his event. Overall, 37 different countries were represented in Poland.
"There was definitely a language barrier," Chavez said. "It's a different style of racing. They're a lot more aggressive and they go a lot faster than people in America do. But overall, it was great to interact with everyone and hear about their experiences."
The selection process for the U.S. junior team event entails submitting a detailed resume to a committee of 15 people who are involved with USA track and field.
"If you're on the team once and you do really well, then they want you to come back," Chavez said.
Chavez finished 17th in the 2012 World Mountain Championships, making him the top American finisher, and being invited back for a second year made him the fifth Spider to run at the event for a second time since 2006. He improved his time from last year by more than 5 1/2 minutes.
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"It's a big thing here," Chavez said. "Coach [Taylor] expects a lot of us to apply. Being able to carry on the tradition of past Richmond runners is pretty awesome."
Taylor has recruited not only his Richmond runners, but also runners from all over the country to apply for this event in the past several years.
"We've been fortunate to attract some of these talented men and women to Richmond," Taylor said. "The whole idea is finding the right people, the ones with the right mental toughness for the race that they're going to see. It's not like any other races."
Chavez's parents accompanied him in Poland, but Chavez faced a challenge by having no teammates or coaches around him for support.
"It's more difficult in a sense that you don't have that comfort zone and routine that you're used to," Chavez said. "But at the same time, it's awesome to be able to represent the U.S. and be there as one of the top individuals."
Upon returning home, Chavez received a lot of support from his teammates and coaches, as well as the Richmond community, he said.
"Everyone was really happy for me," Chavez said. "I was definitely very happy with my performance. I really just want to be able to come back and help our team win our conference this year and do big things."
Contact staff writer Oliver Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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