Sequim runners reach new altitudes of competition

The fleet feet of a couple of Sequim High grads had them racing for their country halfway around the world.

Wendall Lorenzen and Jackson Oliver, both 2016 graduates of Sequim High School and four-year members of SHS’s cross country team, competed in the first SkySnow World Championships at Snow Running Sierra Nevada, in Spain, Feb. 4-5.

Skyrunning is a sport founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti that sees athletes race across mountain ranges, challenging themselves and competitors at altitudes and distances that vary by event. According to the International Skyrunning Federation, skyrunning is defined as “running in the mountains above 2,000 meters altitude where the climbing difficulty does not exceed 2-percent grade and the incline is over 30 percent.”

The events kicked off at dawn on Friday, Feb. 4, with the SkySnow Sierra Nevada Vertical, starting at 3,050 meters altitude with a 950-meter vertical climb over 4.3 kilometers.

The next day saw the SkySnow Sierra Nevada Classic race start at dusk. Athletes faced a 925-meter vertical climb over the 12.5-kilometer course wearing headlamps and warm clothing to face the low temperatures after dark.

Lorenzen placed 26th in the 48-competitor Classic with a 1:20:20 finish, while Oliver was 37th overall after finishing in 1:25:56.

Fellow American Mike Popejoy placed second in the Classic race and ninth in the Vertical competition.

Team USA placed ninth out of 15 competing teams. Italy took gold, Spain earned silver and Russia took home the bronze.

Lorenzen and Oliver, both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, served two-year church missions after high school — Lorenzen in Berlin, Oliver in Rome — and both continue to live where they served.

Lorenzen is founder and president of the German Skyrunning Federation.

“I’m way pumped to have the chance to make an appearance for the senior team of US Skyrunning and get to run alongside such great athletes at this first edition of the SkySnow world champs,” he said just prior to the competition.

“I’m especially excited to get have this chance to be on the same team as Jackson, who I’ve been running with since high school. Considering the lack of mountains around my training area, my training hasn’t been what it should be going into this, but I’m optimistic that we can pull off a great result for Team USA.”

The pair said they are appreciative of former Sequim High cross country coaches Harold Huff and Michel Cobb, who led the Wolves to strong finishes in each of their prep careers.

“I couldn’t be happier about the opportunity to represent the United States at this event and to race with Wendall again,” Oliver said.

“My love for running began back in 2009 with the Sequim Turkey Trot and has since grown substantially, thanks in large part to my high school cross country coaches, Dr. Harold Huff and Michael Cobb. They taught me to push my limits and to finish what I start, which has blessed me in all aspects of my life.”