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Colorado Springs' Nichols 27th, Hafer 29th at World Mountain Running Championships

The U.S. Men's Mountain Running team placed fourth overall on Sunday in the 29th World Mountain Running Championships at Krynica - Zdrój, Poland.

Joe Gray, 29, finished seventh to pace the boys in stars and stripes. He clocked 56 minutes, 25 seconds on a rolling 13.56K course that included about 2,500 feet of elevation gain.

(Photos by Nancy Hobbs)

The U.S. team scored 88 points, placing  four scoring runners among the top 29 - including Alex Nichols and Ryan Hafer of Colorado Springs. Zachary Ornelas, 22, running in only his second trail race was 25th overall in 59:12, followed by Nichols (27th, 59:27) and Hafer (29th, 59:47). Glenn Randall was 73rd overall in 1:04:59.

None of the world teams could touch Uganda, which swept the top four places and won the world team title. Philip Kiplimo galloped to individual championship with a time of 54:22, about 45 seconds ahead of teammate Geoffrey Kusurno.

Team USA's Max King - the only runner in the race capable of breaking up Uganda's stronghold at the front - was in second place when he injured his ankle and failed to finish. Had King held on, the USA runners would have likely collected a bronze medal in the team race.

The U.S. struck gold in the junior women's race as 18-year-old Mandy Ortiz of Eagle, Colo., the daughter of mountain runner Anita Ortiz, charged to the win. She is the first U.S. Junior runner to earn a gold medal at the world championships. As a team, the junior women placed second with Tabor Scholl (16, Kremmling, Colo.) and Emma Abrahamson (16, Carlsbad, Colo.) running 16th and 21st respectively.

Great Britian won team gold, Russia was third.

Ortiz, a freshman at the University of Colorado, covered the 4.6 K course in 22:56, about 10 seconds ahead of silver medalist Lea Einfalt of Slovenia.

“The finish almost didn’t feel real. It was such an amazing feeling, it was hard to believe it just happened,” Ortiz told Team USA staff.“It makes me feel confident that I can run at a high level. It just makes me excited for years to come.”

Ortiz said she thought about her mother's words (Anita Ortiz is a four-time winner of the Pikes Peak Ascent) as she worked the up-hill portions of the race.

“Just knowing I was ready for this. I just remembered things my Mom told me – giving it my best on the uphill. I’m definitely stronger on the uphill. I went into the first uphill in about 10th place. The downhill is not as good for me since I don’t have the leg speed.”

The U.S. Senior women placed fifth, with Magdalena Lewy-Boulet leading the way in 11th place overall (44:56). Italy captured team gold behind Alice Gaggi's first-place run (42:47). Great Britian was second, while Ireland placed third.

Team USA's Christine Lundy finished 29th (47:08), followed by Megan Lizotte (32nd, 42:27) and Megan Kimmel (36th, 47:55).

The U.S. Junior men placed fifth with Jordan Chavez leading the way in seventh place.

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