HOHENFELS, Germany - The fickle weather gods of Southern Germany were in a good mood Oct. 9, allowing more than 100 Soldiers from 20 companies to compete during the annual U.S. Forces Europe Unit-Level Combat Cross Country Championships.

The morning air was chilly but dry and the sun unobstructed when 110 runners took off for the rugged, wooded hills found at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels.

Wearing their Army Combat Uniform and combat boots - and loaded down with such equipment as full canteen or camel back, first aid pouch, load bearing vest, and ammunition pouches - they wound their way through six kilometers of trails peppered with inclines.

"I was on the first hill when I realized what I'd gotten myself into," said Spc. Stephen Watts from Company B, 173rd Special Troops Battalion in Bamberg.

With a time of 31 minutes, 33 seconds, Watts clinched second place with only three seconds separating him from the first and third place finishers.

Pfc. Enock Nyaenya, from Co. C, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, ran the course in 31:30 to take first place, while Sgt. Seth Vircks from Hohenfels' Headquarters, Headquarters Co., 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, placed third with a time of 31:36.

Nyaenya said "the course was a good challenge with all the hills," which are similar to those found in his native Kenya, where he started running at age 7.

Captain Amanda Wilson, of HHC 173rd STB, won the women's division with a 33:30 finish and said afterwards: "After being in Iraq and Afghanistan, and because I'm airborne, I came to this race in good shape."

Team scores were determined by adding the finishing place of a team's top five runners, as Vircks and teammates Sgt. Victor Diaz (fourth overall), Sgt. Lester Scott (sixth), Sgt. Kevin Sentieri (10th), and Cpt. David Veney (12th), as well as Maj. Sean Fisher and Spc. Robert Smith, formed the HHC, 1-4 Infantry team that won first place with a combined score of 35 - far outreaching the second and third place teams from Bamberg that had scores of 73 (Co. C, 173rd BSB) and 93 (615th Military Police Company), respectively.

"This is a good event because it really serves as team sport," said Fisher, who two weeks ago finished the Army 10 miler in one hour and 17 minutes. "It reinforces that you have to pull your buddy along instead of getting a good time for yourself."

Nyaenya's individual first-place finish helped his team from Co. C, 173rd BSB claim the second place team slot, though they said they are determined to do even better next year.

"We're taking first place next year," said Sgt. Eric Detrick, who, along with his teammates, is preparing for a 24-hour marathon in Bamberg next month, the "Running of the Herd," which commemorates the day the 173rd Airborne Brigade lost 48 Soldiers on Nov. 8, 1965, during Operation Hump in Vietnam.

"We should have done two laps this year [to prepare]," Nyaenya said, promptly eliciting groans from his teammates. There seemed to be a consensus among most of the runners that this year's course was more challenging than previous races.

Even with this year's increased difficulty, the majority of participants said they would be returning next year to once again test their endurance against the harrowing hills of Hohenfels' challenging hills.

(Information provided by Kristin Bradley, USAG Hohenfels Public Affairs Office, and the Installation Management Command-Europe Morale, Welfare and Recreation division)

Page last updated Fri October 17th, 2008 at 11:13