Thursday, April 2, 2009

A-Meet Update: Ran-it Granite

In addition to introducing you to members of the US Orienteering Team through interviews and profiles, we are now starting a new series dedicated to providing updates on A-Meets and other large national orienteering events in the US. This will normally be done through reports from some of the competitors, in addition to pictures, maps and summaries of the results, in particular in classes where US senior and junior team members compete.

The first A-Meet in the series is Quantico Orienteering Club's Ran-it Granite, which took place just outside of Baltimore, Maryland this past weekend. The A-Meet offered an unusual format, with 5 races in three days, as well as the US Intercollegiate Championships. The five races were two sprints on Friday, a middle distance and a handicapped sprint relay on Saturday, and a classic distance on Sunday.

Here is a competitor's eye-view report from the races by US Team Member Ross Smith:

Getting there

The A-meet was a real blast, and although the woods were pretty bland and courses fairly routine, I think that overall the meet was a great success.

Sam [US Team member Samantha Saeger] and I left from Boston on Thursday night and arrived actually 20 minutes early in Baltimore. Eddie Bergeron came and picked us up from the airport, took us back to his place and fed us shrimp gumbo (made using his grandma's recipe) and french "everything" bread which was a delightful cross between an everything bagel and a baguette. In the morning, Eddie drove us to the sprint location because he was needed to do a lot of set up work for the event.

Ross Smith, photo by Jan and Dasa Merka

The sprints

As for the races themselves, Swedish junior Erik Nystrom had some impressive performances, winning one of the sprints and coming 4th in the other one. 16-year-old future star Carl Underwood also excelled, finishing 3rd out of everybody on the second sprint. The top females were Canadian junior Emily Kemp and Sam, who beat a number of US men's team members on both sprints.

I was in 2nd place only 2 seconds ahead of West Point cadet and junior team member Jordan Laughlin on the first sprint. (I had a pretty embarrassing mistake on the first sprint, coming down into a re-entrant and getting distracted by a bridge that I couldn't see on the map. It was embarrassing because I had just passed Sam, and she followed me into my mistake and had to relocate and find the control for me) I started only a minute behind Jordan on the 2nd sprint and caught him at #7, but on the way to #9 he made a mistake and started orienteering to #10, dragging another cadet with him.... This left me to my own devices to finish the course on my own. Jordan realized his mistake, and I saw him coming back from 10 as I was leaving 9. For both sprints the woods were spectacularly open. Just a few long re-entrants to play in and not too many features, fairly easy orienteering; but at high speeds, anything can happen.

Middle distance

The next morning the weather was a bit colder and damper. We parked in a giant field and everyone was worried that it would turn to mud and all the cars would get really stuck. The start was at the corner of the field and as we were warming up we could see people finishing. Someone told me that there was an estimated winning time of 25 minutes for the Blue course (5.2 k) and that seemed pretty daunting. I don't think it was a realistic goal if it was even true. I actually had a pretty great race, I was pushing hard running like it was a sprint and spiking controls. Felt in contol the whole way and physically felt very strong. Well this was until control 9, at which point I was leading in M21. As I came out of 8 I was too far right and got onto the wrong spur. This was bad enough except that as I was running down the spur I glanced over and saw a control on the next spur even farther to the right. When I reached the end of the spur I was on, I saw that it was the wrong control and immediately went over to the right to check out the other flag I had seen. Silly silly, now I was even farther away and just confusing myself.... I relocated and had to work my way back to the proper feature.... I lost a good 4 minutes there, looking at the splits. I didn't fully lose my flow but my confidence was shaken a bit. I was also getting tired and had to walk a couple of the hills (up to 10 and up to 12). I finished as best I could but was not pleased by how many people beat me. Erik Nystrom won the blue course (M21) with a time of about 32 minutes, 5 seconds ahead of Canadian Jon Torrance and another 7 ahead of Australian Will Hawkins, who was not completely satisfied with his run. Ken Walker was the best American in 4th place with a decently good race and a stylin' blond goatee. His small daughters are both way cute and were dressed in matching pink rain gear. On the women's side, Sam won F21 with an okay run, finishing several minutes ahead of Kseniya Popova and Corinne Porter, while Emily Kemp took some scalps running the men's course.

Team "I can haz sprint relay?", photo by John Landers

Sprint relay

Next up was the handicapped sprint relay. Sam and I teamed up with Cristina Luis, thus creating team "I can haz sprint relay?" The buzz beforehand was about the stellar and unbalanced Canadian team of Jon Torrance, Eric Kemp and Emily Kemp. unbalanced because although all three member were running blue for the A-meet they would get to run down to their age categories for the relay. Emily was running orange/brown and Eric was running red. Another seemingly stacked team (I mean, besides our own) was the last minute team of Will Hawkins, Nikolai Nachev, and Nate Lyons. There was also a family originally from Halden in Norway that was pretty impressive.... it all came down to how well the courses were handicapped. The handicap was arranged so that all the men had to run an extra penalty loop when they finished the course. The finish chute had two sides; women went straight to the finish banner and men had to run out along the edge of the field and then loop around the stake with their course length on it. The blue stake was probably almost 80 meters down the field. The girl from Halden, Ane Sofie Nass Björgul finished first, then a few of the younger runners with speedy legs (Zach Lyons is one to watch for the future). As Jon Torrance arrived in the finish he was leading a group of runners with him, as they all headed out to do their manly penalty loops. Sam streaked in and Cristina went out in a nice position (6th, 3 minutes down on the lead). The relay was spectator friendly, and you could see the courses crossing the field in a couple of areas. The second leg of the relay was dominated by Carl Underwood who torched the thing and moved his team into first by almost 5 minutes. But the Canadians were not to be beaten.... Emily Kemp had a solid finish to win the thing by over a minute ahead of the Childs family from Vermont, featuring former and future US team members. Halden came third, another minute down. The Underwood/Williams team came in 4th and our team edged the Rochester team for 5th even though Nate Lyons went out with a pretty good lead on the last leg.

Samantha Saeger, photo by Jan and Dasa Merka

Long distance

Sunday morning we drove to the start on another damp, but much warmer, day. I started exactly 3 minutes behind Erik Nystrom. I would need to pass him and get a 6 second lead to win overall :) The woods were awesome so I was happy to wear shorts for the race and I felt like the race started well. The first control was in a depression right off the side of the trail. However, this depression was on top of a hill, which was confusing when you were expecting to see the terrain take a dip. I was cooking along until control 6 where I made a small error (30 seconds). I was following the edge of some green. I was told afterwards that the holly bushes extend past the edge of the marked green section because it only gets slow to run through deeper into the shrubs... which helps explain why I was 15 meters off and on the wrong cliff when I relocated. I guess I had been catching up to Erik but I lost that ground here, and I'm not sure I would have ever gotten him in sight even with even a really clean run. I kept working hard, seeing people every once in a while out in the woods. One area had an option to ford a shallow river a couple of times.... I didn't take advantage but some others did. There was a route choice from 13 to 14 on the blue course (9-10 on red) that was pretty divisive. One route had you stay high, take a few contours and run through a field and then come down into the control... the other obvious route was to run alongside the river on a trail and then climb several contours right at the end. I got suckered into running the trail but looking at splits later it was far better to stay high. This is where I really lost the race to Erik, I think. I talked to a bunch of people and a few went high and a few low. The last 6 controls on blue were all grouped together in a very cool feature-dense area. After such open woods, many people got tripped up in the fine navigation here at the end. I was able to stay at top speed, and felt pretty good about my last section. My race was good enough for 2nd place on the day, 16 seconds behind Erik and just ahead of Will. Sam won the women's course well ahead of Kseniya and US Team veteran Pavlina Brautigam in 3rd.

Intercollegiates winner Neal Trump, photo by Jan and Dasa Merka

Elsewhere in the results, West Point cadet Neal Trump won a close battle with teammate Jordan Laughlin to take home the Men's Varsity Intercollegiate trophy, and Martin Hawkes-Teeter finished 3rd. In the women's Intercollegiate class, Cascade Orienteering Club's Holly Kuestner (University of North Carolina) and Tori Borish (Williams College) were head and shoulders above everyone else, with Holly taking the overall prize. Michelle Alderson of West Point finished 3rd.

All told it was an awesome time to hang out with Quantico. The maps were well printed, the woods were clear, and even if things were very simple and straightforward the chance to run hard in the woods with friends was very much appreciated by me at least. All the controls were in the right spot too, and results were up quickly on WinSplits. High quality.

Maps (from Route Gadget)
Middle distance
Long distance

Summary of Results

Sprint 1, 2.5km, 95m, 16 controls

1. Jon Torrance OOC 13:24
2. Ross Smith CSU 14:06
3. Jordan Laughlin USMAOC 14:08

1. Emily Kemp OOC 16:03
2. Samantha Saeger NEOC 16:30
3. Ane Sofie Nass Bjorgul QOC 18:17

Sprint 2, 2.4km, 75m, 11c
1. Erik Nyström WCOC 12:11
2. Ross Smith CSU 12:20
3. Carl Underwood NEOC 12:45

1. Samantha Saeger NEOC 14:39
2. Emily Kemp OOC 15:10
3. Ane Sofie Nass Bjorgul QOC 15:47

Middle distance
M21, 5.3km, 215m, 15 c
1. Erik Nyström WCOC 32:52
2. Jon Torrance OOC 32:57
3. William Hawkins CSU 33:04

F21, 4.7km, 200m, 13c
1. Samantha Saeger NEOC 37:43
2. Kseniya Popova HVO 41:15
3. Corinne Porter DVOA 42:27

Long distance
M21, 11.8km, 425m, 23c
1. Erik Nyström WCOC 78:17
2. Ross Smith CSU 78:33
3. Will Hawkins CSU 79:25

F21, 8.1km, 260m, 19c
1. Samantha Saeger NEOC 65:28
2. Kseniya Popova HVO 72:04
3. Pavlina Brautigam WCOC 75:15

US Intercollegiate Championships - 2-Day Overall Results
1. Neal Trump USMAOC 95:54
2. Jordan Laughlin USMAOC 96:35
3. Martin Hawkes-Teeter EMPO 99:31

1. Holly Kuestner COC 93:58
2. Tori Borish COC 97:10
3. Michelle Alderson USMAOC 123:37

Full results are available here

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