Sugar Bowl’s Sofia Sanchez claims pair of golds, silver at Skyrunning Youth World Championships
Special to the Sun
Sofia Sanchez is the real deal.
The recent graduate of Sugar Bowl Academy shocked the mostly European field at the International SkyRunning Federation Youth World Championships last summer when she simply ran away from the competition in the Vertical Kilometer race. This season, she returned to the championships in Gran Sasso, Italy with a target on her back.
In fact, many of Sanchez’s competitors have followed her since she opened the season at the International Sky Running Federation’s World Cup at the Broken Arrow Sky Run in Squaw Valley. At that event last June, she took silver in the Vertical Kilometer, sandwiched between two overall world champions at the event. The result encouraged athletes from across the world to train just a bit harder as they prepared for youth worlds. The championships, which took place in early August, marked the fourth year the event has been held, and according to organizers, featured a record number of athletes.
“No doubt she had some girls really gunning for her this year,” said Sugar Bow Ski Team & Academy Nordic Director, Will Sweetser, who coaches Sanchez in both skiing and SkyRunning. “They knew they had to run a course record to beat her.”
In the end, one youth competitor and one U23 competitor did just that, topping Sanchez on Friday, Aug. 2, in the Vertical Kilometer, which served as the opening event of the championships.
Ekaterina Osichkina, of Russia, was 42 seconds faster than Sanchez to take the gold in the race, which was 3.5 kilometers and featured 1,000 meters of climbing. Osichkina finished the race with a time of 45 minutes, 46.58 seconds. Sanchez earned silver in the youth women division with a time of 46:28, which was 15 seconds faster than her time last year. An Under 23 competitor from Switzerland, Alessandra Schmid, was 18 seconds ahead of Sanchez to win the U23 category.
“I really can’t be upset,” Sanchez said from Italy following the race. “I’ve had compromised training over the past month due to a hip injury, and I still ran 15 seconds faster than last year. The field is just bigger every season as the sport grows — there were 28 teams at this year’s race compared to just 18 last year. And that Russian girl has been scoring points in European World Cup events.”
Her upbeat attitude and improved pacing paid off two days later in the 21-kilometer SkyRace, historically a weaker event for her.
Sanchez topped all the field of women by more than 9 minutes, 30 seconds, finishing the race with a time of 3:07:56.92. Her performance earned her the Combined gold medal, which is awarded to racers based on the sum of their Vertical Kilometer and SkyRace times.
In two years of competition, Sanchez has picked up three gold medals and two silvers.