2021 was an odd year for international orienteering competition. With no World Championships in 2020 due to the pandemic, the organizers for 2021 scrambled to incorporate additional sprint disciplines into what was originally scheduled to be a ‘Forest’ program. With the pandemic still raging around the globe, many countries outside Europe elected not to send teams to WOC at all this year.
Due to issues related to family and coronavirus concerns, many of the standing US Team members elected to sit this year out as well. Veteran member Eric Bone (COC) is no stranger to WOC, making his 19th WOC appearance this year but teammates Sydney Fisher (WPOC) and Will Enger (COC) have each been to WOC once before this year. Three of the six WOC novices on this years team are currently members of the Orienteering USA Junior National Team as well (AJ, Diana & Alexis with Thomas Laraia from MNOC having recently aged out). So this year was looking to be a great experience building year and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Leading up to WOC2021, team member AJ Riley (DVOA) got a head start by competing at the WOC Selection races and training in Europe beginning in early June. Joe Barrett (QOC) arrived in the Czech Republic a few weeks later and put in some solid training time well in advance of WOC. Diana Aleksieva (QOC) and Alexis Merka (QOC) did some training at Kost and the mother/son duo of Angelica Riley (DVOA) and AJ did a final tuneup race at Bukovel in Ukraine.
TeamUSA officially came together July 1st for their official COVID tests, registration and check-in followed by some easy explorations of the surrounding areas and sprint venue. AJ was selected by the IOF to take over their Instagram feed for the day – detailing some of his training, taking questions and more. You can catch most of the 40+ posts over on our Facebook page – Part A & Part B.
First up in the competition schedule was the individual sprint at Terezín, a former military fortress composed of citadel and adjacent walled garrison town. Organized as a series of 6 qualification heats in the morning and a final in the afternoon, the racing was fast and furious. Unfortunately none of our TeamUSA athletes qualified for the finals, but AJ did give a nice post-race interview for the IOF.
26th – Will Enger
26th – Thomas Laraia
25th – AJ Riley
24th – Diana Aleksieva
– Angelica Riley
22nd – Alexis Merka
Sprint Qualifier Results
Alexis – “Everyone seemed so fast I felt like I had to push that fast too, slightly forgetting that I’m nowhere near being in such good shape as them… But running down the finish chute was an amazing feeling..“
Thomas – “Annoyed about losing focus to 9 and missing where I was exiting the track and generally not taking enough time to look at all the options. Too many legs where that hurt.”
Day 2 took us to the town centre of Doksy with its irregular street network. The terrain consisted of urban areas with paved streets and parkland with grass surfaces. Artificial barriers added navigational challenges to the course. The US Team for the sprint relay was composed entirely of WOC novices with Angelica taking the leadoff leg.
She started into town on the heels of some of the fastest women in the orienteering world including the likes of Tove Alexandersson(SWE) and Simona Aebersold (SUI). A clean run, but well behind the leaders, she handed off to son AJ for the second leg. Though largely running a solo race at this point, AJ ran strong and clean and was caught up by some of the 3rd leg leaders, being pulled through the spectator control hot on the heels of race leader Gustav Bergman from Sweden. AJ handed off to Joe Barrett who admitted sprints weren’t his strong suit, but he had a clean run nonetheless handing off to anchor leg Alexis Merka to round out the race. Unfortunately the team was over the official time limit, but all indicated that they enjoyed the racing regardless.
AJ – “Apparently I was on TV with my homie Gustav so that’s cool.”
Joe – “Mostly running solo, just a few of the leg 4 women at the very end of the course. No major misses. Just hesitant in some circles, and felt I was reading really slow around all the fake fences at 9 and 10… It was a good low pressure way to start.”
Alexis – “It was a super fun race, I enjoyed the course and I’m definitely satisfied with it… So we got pretty much completely lapped, but that’s okay. I think that definitely helped me focus a lot more on my own race and on pacing myself better than I did yesterday. It was really fun.”
After a Rest Day, the action moved on to the Middle Distance races which took place in some challenging mountain terrain. Physically demanding steep slopes with granite boulders, cliffs with broken ground and some marshy areas were prominent features on this map. Morning qualification heats – top 15 in each heat plus additional spots for under-represented countries advancing to the final.
29 – Eric Bone
21 – Thomas Laraia
29 – Joe Barrett
26 – Diana Aleksieva
– Angelica Riley
27 – Sydney Fisher
Middle Distance Qualification Race Results
Thomas started out with a great run in his heat, pretty much matching pace with the eventual heat winners through the first 4 controls, then hit a patch of green which slowed him down more than the stronger Euro runners who moved right through it. He finished only 10 minutes back which earned him a spot in the final. Team mate Eric Bone filmed a nice interview with Thomas after his run. Sydney was also happy with her race, losing a little time to small bobbles, but otherwise running cleanly to secure her spot in the women’s final.
Thomas: “Felt a bit of pressure and heart racing but it calmed down a lot through warming up and didn’t feel it anymore on the start, so good to see.… Strength lacking, will prioritize being faster and stronger next time. Goals for future are qualifying for the final on merit alone”
Sydney: “Pretty satisfied with this race. Small bobble on 1. A lot of hesitation to 5. Overall pretty clean though. Legs didn’t feel too energetic, but no one (around me anyway) was moving that quickly up the hills.”
Moving on to the afternoon’s Middle Final:
Sydney: “Disappointed in this race. I had no flow – lots of time lost in the circle and a couple of big mistakes. I started too fast and was tired from running earlier. Good experience though! So many cameramen/drones out in the woods.“
Thomas: “Mostly a pretty good race. Things I remember, fat mistake to 22 being too high and seeing some random crags…. Big pack going to 15, absolutely running on fumes there, wish I could’ve passed and kept attempting to catch people but I was pretty ruined. Nice to work as a group on 15-18 with Paul and somewhat Tomas.”
After another rest day that saw much of the team getting more training done, the competition then moved to the continental sandstone terrain of Kokořínsko with its intricate morphology consisting of valleys and reentrants crowned by massive sandstone rock formations. This venue would host both the relay and Friday’s long competition. Running the women’s race were Sydney > Angelica > Alexis. Sydney got in a clean run before the rains began, but the day would only get darker and damper as it progressed.
Sydney – “In a normal year I would not run first, but I was excited for the experience. Goal was to stay with the pack through the arena, plan a route to 1, and then run my own race.… The terrain was amazing and I felt good physically…Hopefully next time I’ll have the speed to stay with a pack.”
Alexis – “…worst race of my life. Not because of the rain or the dark, i liked that. Just the hills were seriously way over my ability and I was completely dying. The cameras gave me a few anxiety attacks, which really didn’t help… I’m still glad I have this experience. Everyone has to have their worst race someday, and frankly I’m kind of honored mine is a WOC race.”
By the time the Men’s Relay started the rain was coming down pretty good, but AJ navigated well and hung with the pack for quite a while, making an appearance on the first couple TV controls. Eric, concerned about increasingly dark conditions, switched places with Will and ran second wearing a headlamp in order to read the map in the dark woods with the intention of handing it off to Will at the exchange. Things didn’t exactly go to plan though…. The photo of Eric below isn’t a poorly exposed shot – it was just that dark out there…
AJ – “I love relays and honestly had a great time. Good to see that I can be competitive with the top guys if I was a bit more fit.”
Will – “This was enjoyable and the terrain was awesome – but the experience was clouded somewhat by me not being able to orienteer normally due to the impending darkness. … [Eric] ran the second leg with a headlamp, and was going to pass it to me, but then they made us mass start just after Eric passed through the arena, so I never got it… Still a fun experience, but would’ve been a lot better under reasonable circumstances.“
Back at Kokořínsko on Friday for the Long Distance race utilizing the same arena as Thursday’s relay, and used a larger version of the long narrow relay map with the latter portion of each course coming back through the terrain used on Thursday. Long legs frequently offered up long trail runs to avoid the steep, intricate cliff areas and many runners took full advantage of them but some options were clearly better than others.
56 – Joe Barrett
54 – Sydney Fisher
55 – Diana Aleksieva
Long Distance Results
Joe – “Definitely the best race of the week for me. Read the cliffs in the circle pretty well. Only going down the wrong gap to #4, and then left #5 in the wrong direction without map aligned, and got blocked by an unexpected cliff... the cliffs did create route options to gain/lose time“
Sydney – “Time wasn’t great, but the course was a lot of fun. I just didn’t have the speed on the trails around, or the endurance… the course used a lot of rock passages, which was really neat… I like longs”
Sydney – “It was a great experience and I am glad I got to race. The sandstone terrain was fantastic. I haven’t (yet) traveled many places to orienteer, but it was definitely one of my favorites… I had a couple of good races and a couple not so good. I was a lot closer (% time wise) to the leaders than I was in Norway so I’m moving in the right direction… Goals for next time are to be more fit (I have 2 years to get faster…seems like plenty of time) and to hopefully spend some time in relevant terrain more than a few days in advance.“
Will – “I never thought I’d get a second opportunity to finally run a forest race at WOC, and it took a funky, unique year with a lot of our best guys injured or declining, so I’m thankful for the memorable experience in any case.“
Joe – “Super fun time for my first WOC… Sprint Relay was alright, not a whole lot of expectations going in, clean race, no major misses… Long definitely my best race of the week, felt strong, good pace (for me) through most of it… could have looked ahead more on short legs, not just the long ones“
Kevin Fisher (TeamUSA Official) – “I think things went pretty well considering my complete lack of training or expertise in this area. Everyone got to their races on time and to and from the airport, which was honestly my main goal… it was inspiring to spend time with all of these athletes, and really fun to watch them compete, hear their experiences in the woods, and talk about routes… I would highly recommend the WOC experience to anyone (wait for a normal year though!)”
So that wraps it up for this year. 2022 will feature a Sprint WOC on June 26-30 in Denmark and sprinting will also feature prominently when the world’s best come to Alabama two weeks later on July 7-17 for The World Games 2022. Mark your calendars and plan to come to Birmingham to be a part of the action as the US hosts the world’s best orienteers for what is sure to be some great competition!
Photos courtesy: Kevin Fisher, Dasa Merkova, Angelica Riley, Tomáš Bubela, Lukáš Budínský, Jiří Čech, Petr Kadeřávek & Petr Háp plus screenshots from official IOF & WOC2021 video feeds.
The JWOC Selection Committee (Erin Schirm, Anton Salmenkylä and Jon Torrance) is pleased to announce the 2021 US Team selected to compete at the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) to be held September 5-10 in Gebze, Kocaeli, Turkey, about 50km from Istanbul.
The US Senior Team Review Panel, consisting of Peggy Dickison, Glen Tryson & Jeff Saeger, are pleased to announce this year’s team to compete at the World Orienteering Championships to be held in early July in the Czech Republic.
AJ Riley (pictured here competing in the middle distance race in Czechia on Saturday) earned an automatic spot at last month’s team trials. Since he was the only TeamUSA athlete competing at the Team Selection races this past weekend in Czechia that event became a non-factor in the selection, but the Review Panel elected to wait until after the Selection Races for other results.
The US Team Trials 2-day scoring list was used as the primary selection tool, but the panel also used the Team Trial Sprint results as well as 2019-2020 rankings and other race results. The Team Trials had some very strong results and some close scoring made the selection process interesting.
AJ Riley – automatic selection
Joe Barrett – automatic selection
Greg Ahlswede – declined
1st alternate – Michael Laraia
2nd alternate – Thomas Laraia
Angelica Riley – automatic selection
Sydney Fisher – automatic selection
Four TeamUSA athletes had previously earned personal starts for this year’s WOC. Unfortunately, all four have declined: Ali Crocker and Tori Borish for family reasons, and Morten Jorgensen and Anton Salmenkyla because of injuries. We wish them all the best and hope to see them back next year.
The ESC would also like to announce that Dasa Merka, a Czech native and Alex’s mom, has agreed to act as the Team Administrator. Congratulation to all the athletes that will represent the USA at the World Champs next month!!
Sunday: Long races held in conjunction with QOC Fountainhead West local event. Clifton, VA
Congratulations to the automatic qualifiers for the WOC Team going to the Czech Republic later this year. The remainder of the Team will be determined after the Czech selection races next month. Previous US WOC Teams can be viewed in the OUSA Library.
Winners of the Sprint: – Anthony Riley – Angelica Riley Winners of the Middle +Long (normalized) – Joseph Barrett – Sydney Fisher
JWOC 2021 has been postponed to September 5-10, 2021 due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on preparations for the event. The deadline for the submission of petitions for selection to the US JWOC team has been extended to June 5, 2021 with the announcement of the team to be made no later than June 15, 2021. Team selection criteria can be found here.
The IOF has announced general COVID-19 policies to minimize risk at world orienteering events. These policies mean that the JWOC experience will be very different this year. All participants at JWOC 2021 will enter and remain in an Event Bubble dependent upon negative PCR tests and there will be strict rules to avoid contacts outside the Bubble and minimize contacts within the Bubble. OUSA will be upholding all of the IOF and local organizer’s COVID-19 restrictions. Please take these policies into consideration when deciding to submit a petition for JWOC team membership.
Following a meeting on April 23, 2021, the IOF made the following announcement regarding the 2021 JWOC:
“The organisers and regional authorities in Turkey have requested that the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) 2021 be postponed from July to new dates in September 2021. The July dates are no longer possible due to planning difficulties caused by the pandemic. The new dates will be confirmed next week.”
The second video highlights the Southeastern Interscholastic Orienteering Championships held in conjunction with the O-Fest.
In addition, Orienteering USA has uploaded much of the raw, unedited video footage to a Google Drive for downloading by schools, clubs and individuals to utilize in creating derivative media for publicity. The majority of clips are sorted/titled by date, school, bib# and name to facilitate identifying useful content. Any media used should credit/tag Orienteering USA. The content in these folders will be deleted at the end of April, so grab any clips you want now.
Orienteering USA’s Junior Team Executive Steering Committee (JTESC) is pleased to announce the athletes in the National Junior Program for 2021. Due to the lack of competition in 2020, no changes to team placement into the Junior National Team (JNT) were made at this time. Applications to the Junior Development Team (JDT) are accepted year round. JDT athletes who applied to be considered for the JNT may be moved up as they reach JNT performance targets.
2021 Junior National Team Diana Aleksieva, QOC Jessica Colleran, COC Christiane Fletcher, GAOC Bridget Hall, NEOC Keegan Harkavy, NEOC Kirsten Mayland, DVOA Alex (Alexis) Merka, QOC AJ (Anthony) Riley, DVOA David Runde, MNOC, KristiansandOK Emilia Schmidt, QOC, Tampereen Pyrintö Adrian Vartia, OK Löftan Sweden
Junior Development Team Max Ahmed, QOC Jack Barkley, COC Ben Brady, COC Ian Dunlap, OLOU Mori Finlayson-Johnecheck, NEOC/CSU Luke Menzie, COC Jasper Ralinovsky, OCIN Oriana Riley, DVOA Zoe Sibthorp, COC Ava Suhocki, DVOA Aubree Winters, COC
The JWOC Selection Committee will choose up to six young male and six young female athletes to represent the USA at the 2021 Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) in Turkey. In order to be considered a candidate for 2021 JWOC Team Selection, a junior (born in 2001 or later) must meet the IOF eligibility requirements and also declare his/her intent to seek selection by petition.
Because of the uncertainty pertaining to the international organization of and ability to travel to JWOC created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the inability to safely schedule fair JWOC Team Trials as well as the lack of orienteering competitions in 2020, the 2021 JWOC Team Selection will proceed by petition for all athletes who wish to be considered for the team.
The petition shall be evaluated by the Selection Committee using the Team Selection Reviewing Rubrics. The completed petition should include as much of the requested information as possible, and be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 5, 2021. The Selection Committee will announce the team on or before May 10, 2021.