The 30th World Mountain Running Championship was hosted Sept. 14 in Massa, Italy, where a University of Richmond cross-country runner secured a silver medal for the United States team by the smallest of margins.
Paul Kirsch, USA Track & Field Mountain/Ultra/Trail championships chairman, and an accompanying committee selected Marisa Ruskan, a sophomore at Richmond, to represent the United States as a member of the National Junior Mountain Running team. Ruskan competed in the United States Mountain Running Championship this past summer at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, where she got the attention of the sport’s administrators.
“Because I had run the Loon Mountain race, it was really helpful for the committee so that they could see that I could actually run up a mountain, not to mention that was an incredible experience for me as a runner,” Ruskan said.
Ruskan was selected along with two other runners, Mandy Ortiz from University of Colorado and Tabor Scholl, a senior at West Grand High School in Colorado, to fill the three roster positions for the United States Junior Women team, according to United States Mountain Running Team’s official website.
Ruskan, along with Richmond cross-country coach Lori Taylor, flew to Italy Sept. 10 and immediately began mentally preparing for the race.
“We got to the hotel that night, and obviously had to run and train the next day,” Ruskan said. “I started to meet with my new USA teammates, who had come from all over. We spent a lot of our time eating well and running.
“I think I got a little bit overanxious Friday night when I was trying to fall asleep. I was obviously excited the entire time but it was keeping me awake that night. I’m glad that happened two nights before and not the evening right before the race.”
That Saturday morning Ruskan and the rest of the junior women lined up for the start of the 3.8-kilometer race through an area of what the official World Mountain Running Association called “a basin surrounded by steep and rocky mountains,” and a route lined by large marble blocks.
Ruskan described the race itself as very competitive, and said she had been simply trying to run the best race she could for both herself and her teammates.
The difference between a silver medal and bronze medal for the United States came down to a two-second time difference between Ruskan, who finished eighth overall, and Carmen Idris Beshirova of the Czech Republic who finished two seconds behind Ruskan for the ninth overall position.
“The way the scoring works is that only the top two finishers from each team get assigned points, and both us and the Czech Republic finished with 12 points,” Ruskan said.
So while both the teams finished with 12 points, it was Ruskan’s two-second advantage over Beshirova that won a silver medal for the team.
“I had no idea that that would be the difference. I had no idea that this girl behind me would be from the team that would essentially decide the final ranking.”
Ruskan said she looked forward to competing with the United States mountain running team in the future as a member of its senior women’s team. She also said her experience in Italy had further sharpened her focus on Richmond’s cross-country season, and that she expected this season to be one of her best.
Contact Collegian reporter Gabriel Obregon at firstname.lastname@example.org