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Former UCSB Track Star Dani Moreno Earns Spot On U.S. Long Distance Mountain Running Team

She will race at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Italy on Aug. 6

Dani Moreno will represent the United States at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy. Click to view larger
Dani Moreno will represent the United States at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy. (Nick Presniakov photo)

Once Dani Moreno took to Santa Barbara’s front country trails for runs, she was hooked.

Burned out on track and road racing, running the trails ignited a new fire in her belly. And she’s pushed herself to new heights, going from the foothills to the mountains

Today, the former UCSB distance-running standout is considered an athlete on the rise in the sport of mountain running.

The 24-year-old has been selected to the U.S. Long Distance Mountain Running Team for next month’s World Mountain Running Association’s World Long Distance Mountain Racing Championships in the Italian Alps town of Premana. The race is part of an annual event called the Giir De Mont.

Teams of five women and five men will tackle a technical 32-kilometer loop course in the mountains high above Lake Como on Aug. 6. The course peaks at 7,874 feet.

“This will be very grueling,” admits Moreno, who’s altered her training regimen to prepare for the challenge.

“I have made a lot of changes but I would say one of the largest components of my training has been my long runs. I have been doing three- to four-hour-long runs every week to build my stamina and endurance. My race, although it is 19 miles, is supposed to take between three to four hours because there is about 2,400 meters of climbing.”

She expects it to be “one of the hardest, if not the hardest, race of my life.” 

But, she points out, “the way I see it is, if you are running in a world mountain championship, you need to run a very tough course to truly find out who is the world’s best mountain runner.

“I am honestly very excited to participating on such a global stage and know what ever the outcome is I will walk away knowing what steps I need to take in order to continue bettering myself as a mountain runner.”

Moreno’s performances in trail and mountain running races put her on the radar of the USA Track & Field’s Mountain, Ultra and Trail Running Executive Committee.

She took first place overall in the Hells Hills 25K in Texas in April; was the fourth woman and 25th overall finisher at the USATF Trail Half Marathon in rainy Bellingham, Washington last October; was the second woman finisher and 34th overall at the La Sportiva Cup Final in Park City, Utah in July 2016; placed ninth at the USATF Mountain Running Championships (10K straight up) in Loon, New Hampshire in July 2016; was the first woman (third overall) at the Valley Crest Trail Half Marathon in Los Angeles in June 2016, and the women’s champion (10th overall) at the Marin Ultra Challenge 25K in Sausalito in March 2016.

She set course records in the Valley Crest and Marin races that were previously held by former USA Mountain Team members.

“They select us based on multiple performances from a pool of top candidates,” Moreno said of the team selection process. “For me, I am unaware of which races exactly I was chosen, but I am pretty sure it was my consistency across the board. I won multiple big races last year and even won a few overall.”

Moreno, a 2015 UCSB graduate, is coached by Santa Barbara's Terry Howell.

Moreno described her joy of trail running in a blog.

After hitting the trails of the Los Padres National Forest, she wrote: “… trail running immediately appealed to all aspects of my personality in a way that no other type of running had before. It was dirty, painful (all the time), required a new set of skills, had an ever-changing environment, and required true knowledge and faith of one’s body. It was as if someone had taken to me to another planet named Dani and just dropped me off and slapped me as they were leaving as to say, ‘It’s been here all along, eggnoodle.’”

Trail running reinvigorated Moreno and she aims to do her best wearing the USA jersey for the first time in her career.

“I feel grateful and honored for being named to the U.S. Long Distance Mountain Running Team,” Moreno said in her USATF bio.

“While I am looking forward to many things in Italy, toeing the line with such experienced and inspiring women may be one of the things I am looking most forward to. I am also looking forward to competing, as I feel that I can do very well despite being the young’un of the group! I can’t wait to make the best of this opportunity.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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