John Kerrigan, Duxbury, is a retired Harwood Union High School teacher and coach of cross country, Nordic skiing and track and field for over 40 years. His teams have compiled over 40 Vermont state championships during his tenure. His son Ryan Kerrigan was a UVM Nordic skier and has become an outstanding ultra runner. The International Skyrunning Federation chose both in 2017 as the U.S. coaches.
Skyrunning is one of the oldest sports known to man. It has been part of the culture since "Ootzi" (the Iceman) ran from village to village over the summits of mountains in the Italian and Austrian Alps, 6,000 years ago. Today thousands of individuals from over 50 countries compete in the two disciplines of skyrunning; the Vertical kilometer (a run straight up a mountain) on July 22 and the Sky Run (a distance race along the crest of mountains) on July 24. When viewed from the valleys below, it appears that runners have been dropped from the sky, hence, the name skyrunning.
At the World Youth Championships, the U.S. runners (ages 15 to 22) get to compete against youth runners from over 30 countries. Many of the youth sky runners from international teams are fully funded by their countries of origin. They receive a team uniform, skill training, education, equipment and experience running with other adult and youth sky runners from their countries in preparation for the World Youth Championships. Spain alone has over a dozen skyrunning "academies." These are equivalent to U.S. ski academies that have produced many of national alpine and Nordic Olympians. Italy now has a skyrunning major at the University in L' Aquila.
NO OPPORTUNITIES TO TRAIN
“Since our mountain ranges are many and very spread out, our American youth don't have the opportunities to train with one another and build a unifying team spirit. Many of the international youth runners live in a specific mountain region in their respective countries; Spain, the Pyrenees; France and Switzerland, the Alps; Italy the Apennines and Alps; Norway and Sweden, the Scandes mountains; Czech Republic, the Sudeten mountains. We have had youth runners that started running in their own backyards of the Sierras (California), Chugiak’s (Alaska) Wasatch (Utah), Rockies (Colorado), Tetons (Wyoming), Blue Ridge, (Virginia) and the list goes on,” Kerrigan said.
“Despite these disadvantages our American Youth Skyrunners have made an impression on the world stage. In 2018 and in 2019 Sophia Sanchez from the Lake Tahoe region of California placed first among all youth women. Also, in 2019 Mikey Connelly (who trains near Mt. Marathon, Alaska) received the bronze medal for U-18 youth male runners. Our U.S. team, although one of the fewest in number, consistently finishes in the top five in the team score,” he added.
Presently, youth representing the U.S. have to be fully individually funded. They have to provide their own transportation and accommodations. Only those runners that have the support of their families have been able to make the trip, Kerrigan said.
The Kerrigans, father and son, hope to add to the evolution of running in the U.S. Presently in the U.S. there are youth programs for many sports: soccer, ice hockey, Nordic and alpine skiing, baseball, football, gymnastics, swimming, track field, etc. It is only after high school and college that most Americans are exposed to trail and mountain running.
“It is our hope to develop a pipeline of sky runners in this country. We hope to add to the strong culture of running in the U.S. by exposing more American youths to skyrunning. We would like to give skyrunning an identity in the United States of America,” Kerrigan said.
See the link for more information on U.S. skyrunning: Skyrunningus.com
Here is a link to the Go Fund Me account to raise funds for the U.S. participants: