Two Golden High School graduates have been running around the Rocky Mountains nearly all their lives. But now, Brian Whitfield and Jeshurun Small have the unique opportunity to race against a …
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Two Golden High School graduates have been running around the Rocky Mountains nearly all their lives.
But now, Brian Whitfield and Jeshurun Small have the unique opportunity to race against a competition pool of worldwide athletes in the Alps.
“They’re very talented,” said Josh Eberly, the head coach for the Trail Running Team at Western Colorado University. “I’m excited for them to get to go to an international competition and see what it takes to be a top trail runner.”
Whitfield and Small attend Western Colorado University, which is located in Gunnison, and are on the university’s Mountain Sports Trail Running Team. Thanks to a sponsorship by Adidas Terrex, they are two of six student athletes on Western’s Trail Running Team who will be heading to Gastein, Austria, all expenses paid, to compete in the 2019 adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships June 27-30.
“Our team has done well in the U.S.,” Small said. “It will be cool to see how we stack up against everyone else in the world.”
Small, 21, Golden High School Class of 2016, is a junior studying chemistry with minors in mathematics and physics. He has been on the Trail Running Team for all three years he has been at Western.
Whitfield, 22, of Wheat Ridge, who graduated from Golden High School in 2015, is studying environmental sustainability with minors in data analytics and business administration. This is his second year on Western’s Trail Running Team.
The two were buddies on Golden’s track and cross country teams, Whitfield said, recalling fond memories of the cross country team’s trips to Breckenridge.
“I love running,” Small said. “I use it as a way to explore the mountains.”
Western’s Mountain Sports athletic program is fairly new — it got its start in 2012 but did not have coaches for the first two years. The school decided to invest in the program five years ago, and brought on experienced people to coach the student athletes. Eberly, for example, who was born and raised in Arvada, has more than 20 years’ experience as a runner, and through the years, can boast six team national championships in cross country and an individual national champion in the 10,000 meters. As well as coaching Western’s Trail Running Team, he is an Adidas Terrex athlete.
Disciplines of Western’s Mountain Sports include trail running, skiing and snowboarding, and mountain biking. The program functions like any NCAA team, Eberly said, in that it is a competitive program that offers elite coaching. The student athletes train on world-class terrain, Eberly added, and have the “opportunity to compete in some of the world’s most iconic trail running races.”
However, Eberly said, the Trail Running Team is unique because, as far as he knows, Western is the only college that offers trail running as a collegiate sport. This means the student athletes regularly compete against pros and semi-pros, as well as the general public.
“The best part about the team is that everybody has really big goals,” Whitfield said. “That makes it fun to train with each other.”
There are about 35 student athletes on Western’s Trail Running Team, so it would have been impossible to select the six candidates who will race in Austria from a single performance during one recent race, Eberly said.
Therefore, the student athletes were selected through a process that included their academic GPA, ability to demonstrate leadership, attendance record for practices and their skills of being able represent and creatively market the adidas Terrex brand through social media and blogs, Eberly said.
Ultimately, three women and three men on Western’s Trail Running Team will race in Austria. Joining Whitfield and Small for the men, is Skylar Drakos. The women are Elle Walton, Kendall Cox and Maddie Hart. Rya Berrigan will serve as the women’s alternate.
Whitfield is especially looking forward to the race because he has never been to Europe, he said. And, he is excited to race alongside his teammates. The adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships is a unique setup because it will be a relay race, he added.
“It will be a group effort,” Whitfield said. “Everyone will matter.”
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