The final battle of WOC 2014 was fought at Campomulo, the same area as the middle distance final from the day before. We learned from the middle that the area was tricky and, when you add in a mass start, forking, and the pressures of relay -- you know it is going to be exciting! People were dreaming of a repeat of the exciting women's relay of WOC 2011 in France.
This year there was added pressure for many teams as the placing in the relay is a major factor in how many start places a team has in the middle and long finals next year. The US women are currently in division 2, which means they have 2 starts spots in the middle and long finals. Points for the division placings are awarded based on finishing place in the middle, long, and relay. At the end of WOC the countries at the bottom of division 2 are relegated to division 3, and those at the top of division 3 are promoted to division 2 (two teams in each direction).
Based on unofficial standings before the relay, the US women were ahead of Spain, Germany, and Hungary, but not by enough to guarantee they'd stay in D2. A DNF or being walloped by Spain or Germany would result in relegation to D3 -- and only one start in middle and long next year.
Things didn't look good for Team USA as over the course of several minutes every runner came through the first radio control -- except Sam. She had trouble with two of the early controls on the course and ended up all alone running through the arena to start the second loop, in 28th place. She made an excellent recovery, however, and passed an amazing 10 teams before coming back into the finish!
Alex had an excellent 2nd leg run and brought the team up one more place, exchanging to Ali in 17th. There was more shuffling of places around Ali on the 3rd leg (AUS moved up, CAN moved down) as she ran a mostly clean run. In the end, a triple success -- 17th place (2 higher than last year), ahead of Canada, and with enough points to stay D2.
The men's race followed, with Giacomo, Ethan, and Eric running for the US. All three did what they needed to do, finishing in 28th (27th last year) and also beating Canada. Unfortunately this blogger has not had a chance to hear from any of them about their races, else this section would be longer.