What are the chances that the first U.S. finisher in both the men’s and the boys’ IAAF World Cross Country Championships last Sunday would be from Maine?
Ben True, a native of North Yarmouth, ME (pop. 3,565) finished sixth overall in the senior men’s race, leading the U.S. to an unexpected team silver medal less than two hours after Matt McClintock of Athens, ME (pop. 1,019) fought his way to 20th in the junior boys’ event despite getting knocked to the ground in the early stages of the snowy, muddy race.
“Ben thought the conditions were going to hurt other people and weren’t going to hurt him,” said Mark Coogan, his coach. “Matt probably wasn’t overwhelmed by the conditions, either. I’m sure the junior men picked up on the senior men’s attitude.”
True, 27, was an All-American at Greely High School in Cumberland, ME, twice finishing in the top 10 at the Foot Locker national cross country championships. He went on to compete for Dartmouth University, where he was an All-American in not only track and cross country but also Nordic skiing, in which he led Dartmouth to the 2007 NCAA title.
All that skiing experience may have helped prepare him for the cold and wet conditions on the World Cross Country course they faced in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Or maybe just growing up in Maine was enough.
“I got here and I didn’t know if I was … here for a ski race or a running race,” he told LetsRun in a video interview before the competition. “Trail running back home in the springtime; it’s basically that.”
True, who still trains in Hanover, NH, has won four U.S. road-racing titles—at 5K, 10K, and 15K.
McClintock, a freshman at Purdue University, was a three-time Class C State Cross-Country Champion and a 2011 Footlocker All-American while competing for Madison High School in Madison, ME.
An authority on Maine running predicted more success on the way from the trails and roads of the Pine Tree State.
“It’s no surprise!” declared Joan Samuelson, the Olympic marathon gold medalist and lifelong Mainer. “I always knew Ben was capable of going to the top in either running or Nordic skiing once he made the decision to focus on one discipline. He is very strong and knows that there is no substitute for a hard Maine work ethic—even though he is currently residing in New Hampshire. And Matt is similar to Ben. I think Ben has been a great role model for the likes of Matt and others to follow. Stay tuned!”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg