Five Storylines For The National HS Trail Championships

By Kenny Wilcox

Since 2017, the National High School Trail Championships (NHSTC) have hosted many of the top young trail runners in the United States and that looks to be true again in 2023. Want to know how you might fare on the international stage? The NHSTC might provide you with an answer to that question as well. Perhaps you are looking to gauge where your current fitness is at or you are simply looking for an adventure for you and your teammates. No matter how you slice it, the NHSTC and Beas Knees Citizens' Race has you covered!

 Story Line #1

Who Are The Individual Favorites?

The NHSTC does not have a qualifying race so that means the race field updates daily and therefore, trying to peg a favorite at this juncture would be foolish. However, you can be certain that some of the athletes who represented the USA at the International U18 Running Cup in Annecy France on May 27, will be toeing the line. Considering the USA came away with a team gold on the men's side and the women were just a single point away from a team gold themselves, you would be a fool to not consider any one of these athletes as a serious favorite.

Story Line #2

What Teams Will Be in the Mix?

A year ago the Mountain Vista boys contingent squeaked out a narrow victory in what was the closest team battle in the history of the event. Under the score three format, the top four teams were separated by a mere four points; Mountain Vista 46, Longmont 47, Fort Collins 47 and Central Grand Junction 50. Do you think the taste of coming oh, so close to the title of the trail just might be on the minds of a few of these teams? Fort Collins, with three team titles, has a nifty habit of winning in every odd numbered year. Based on that stat, '23 could be a Lambkin year.

On the girls' side of the ledger, Lewis Palmer will be looking for the hat trick. After surviving a close battle with Central Grand Junction in 2021, Lewis Palmer had much more breathing room a year ago and they have already carved their names onto the start list for the seventh edition of the NHSTC. Of course, this is not to say that a Lewis Palmer victory is assured. Steamboat Springs rattled off two consecutive team titles in '17 and '18 before Eagle Valley reigned supreme.

Story Line #3

Will We See a Winner From Outside of the Centennial State?

There's a few things we can say with 100% confidence. One, Colorado is loaded with trail racing talent. Two, we also know there are plenty of other states that understand how to get it done on the trail. When it comes to the girls' championship, no one from outside of Colorado has made a serious run at the individual title. It would make for an intriguing narrative to see someone from outside of Colorado crack the top five.

As for the guys', New Mexico's Gilbert Valdez has posted back-to-back top five finishes in recent years but has yet to break onto the podium. Could this be his year? The closest anyone has come to winning it all goes to North Dakota's Sean Korsmo. Korsmo was denied an individual title by Battle Mountain's Sullivan Middaugh in 2020. This year also marked the tightest individual battle as the top four placers were separated by less than four seconds.

Story Line #4

Records Are Made to Be Broken

2020 was a very fast year for the guys' race with four under 32 minutes. Yes, your math is correct, that's sub six minutes per mile average on trails with over 500 feet of elevation gain and everything above 7000 feet of elevation. Sullivan Middaugh holds the boys' championship record at 31:52 and Taylor Stack, Salida High School alum and Western Colorado national champion in the '21 steeple chase, holds the record for the citizens' race with a 32:11.

Keeghan Edwards put Aubrey Surage's girls' championship record on high alert last summer, but Surage's record from 2021 stood firm by seven seconds. Surage has made the Beas Knees Citizens' Race and the NHSTC courses (they are the same course) her personal playground. She now holds both records, 37:28 for the girls' championship and 37:47 for the citizens' race. In other words, her hands are full! If you are looking to take down the citizens' race record, you will have to go through the champ herself as Surage is on the startlist!

Story Line #5

Brett Beasley Memorial Scholarship

The Beas Knees Citizens' Race supports the Brett Beasley Memorial Scholarship. Brett played a key role in helping to advocate for and develop many of the trails we frequently enjoy here in Salida. We are honored to be able to keep the spirit of Brett alive through this event.

So come join us. Whether you are vying for a national title, lost a bet with your high schooler or just want to support a worthwhile cause, we encourage you to write your own storyline with us on Saturday, July 29.

Oh, and don't forget to rub some dirt on it!