Two of South Africa’s rising trail stars Hayley Preen (18) and Chris Strydom (19) carved their spot in international skyrunning on 30 July at the 2016 Youth Skyrunninng World Championships in the Gran Sasso SkyRace® in Aquila, Italy.
Organised by the Federazione Italiana Skyrunning and recognised by the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF), the inaugural youth championships attracted some of the fastest and most technically competent junior trail runners from eight countries across three continents. The 21.6km race was made up of 2,226m of vertical gain over extremely technical terrain, making the course a great testing ground for even the most competent young skyrunners.
Despite being the furthest distance she has ever raced, Preen proved her trail skill and technical prowess by securing second place in the Youth B category (age 18-20), earning her a silver medal. Her time of 3:36:48 was just three minutes behind 19 year old Spanish Laia Aguilar (3:33:34), and well over 20 minutes ahead of bronze medallist Mara Beringues of Spain (4:00:13).
Strydom also excelled in his race, achieving ninth position in the men’s Youth B category, which placed him 21st place in the general men’s category (2:58:40).
Preen says the course was exceptionally tough.
“The race started with a 3,5km vertical kilometre and continued upward for another 200m. The most difficult section was around halfway, when we had to ascend to a peak at 2 500m – it was so steep there were ropes in place for us to pull ourselves up. The downhill sections were also steep and technical. The altitude didn’t affect me too much, it was the steepness and the length of the course that hurt the most.”
At the halfway mark Aguilar had a six minute lead. Preen maximised her downhill skills in the second half and managed to tighten that gap to just three minutes.
Preen says she loved the skyrunning experience. “It was an incredible opportunity to have raced in the Youth Skyrunning World Champs. I’ve met many new runners from around the world and gained valuable experience from it.”
Thanks to South Africa-based company Sportraxs for supporting both Preen and Strydom before and during their trip.