WILMINGTON- Junior Sarah Hamon, of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington’s women’s cross country team made the international trip to Saparva Banya, Bulgaria, this week after being selected by USA Track & Field to join three other runners representing the United States at the 32nd World Mountain Running Championships.
The 19-year-old Hamon, from Cary, North Carolina, led the Seahawks in five of seven races last fall and was named Team MVP after pacing the team at the CAA Championships. A graduate of Cary Academy, Hamon is majoring in Biology at UNCW.
“It’s a huge honor and not one that I expected,” Hamon said. “I’m looking forward to contributing to the team. It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done before.”
Hamon worked over the last few mounts “trying to get a feel for it” by running incline intervals on a treadmill to simulate mountain terrain.
“This is a great opportunity for Sarah,” Layne Schwier, UNCW’s interim cross country/track and field coach, said. “Anytime you have a chance to represent your country, it’s a huge honor. It’s an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.”
Members of the team must be under 20 years of age before January, 2017, and are selected on the basis of their running resume and letters of recommendation. Hamon will be joined on the team by Soleil Gaylord, 16, Telluride High School, Telluride, Colorado; Claire Graves, 18, Citrus Valley High School, Highland, California; Julia Jaschke, 18, Kent Denver School, Greenwood Village, Colorado.
“The junior team has been an important development program for the U.S. Mountain Running Team since 2002,” said Richard Bolt, Team Leader for the U.S. Mountain Running Team. “After reviewing close to 50 applications I’m confident this most recent crop of young runners is the strongest we’ve ever brought to the world championships. I’m excited to watch them race in Bulgaria and think they have an excellent chance to win both team and individual medals.”
“This is a great opportunity for Sarah. Anytime you have a chance to represent your country, it’s a huge honor.” – Layne Schwier, UNCW cross country/track and field coach.
Hamon and her new teammates will be tackling an uphill course of 3.6k with 531 meters of elevation gain. A junior men’s team will also compete in Bulgaria and USA Track & Field will send senior men’s and women’s teams as well.
“Sarah has had to be creative with her training,” Schwier added. “She just has to get as fit and strong as possible and see what happens. The CAA Championship and NCAA Regionals were both held on rather hilly courses, but those courses will seem like nothing after she climbs a mountain.
“To represent the USA, especially in an Olympic year, and to represent UNCW on the national and international level is always special,” Schwier said. “I’m sure Sarah will give it her best and represent us well. She’ll benefit in so many ways from this experience.”
Hamon, who plans to graduate from UNCW in May, said mountain running is “very different” than cross country and “very different than anything I’ve ever done before.” She has never been to Eastern Europe before and hopes to see some of the country during training runs.
“I hope to explore some of the area during runs,” she said. “I can’t really set time goals for this. The biggest thing will be to work on consistency and not going out too hard, maintaining a pace and sticking with it.
“I just want to place the best that I can,” she said. “I’d like to be counted as a scorer for the team. I’m excited to see what I can do.”
Scroll down for video of Sarah Hamon and Layne Schwier, UNCW’s interim cross country/track and field coach, talking about Sarah’s trip to Bulgaria.