With less than three weeks to go until the XTERRA World Championship, amateur athletes around the world are training in the hottest time of the day, making meticulous packing lists, and testing their fitness with speedy workouts. Because they also have day jobs, training is squeezed in between commutes and deadlines, mainly outside the hours of nine and five.
And yet, XTERRA amateurs continue to wow us with speed, strength, and stamina. The women amateurs racing at Maui each have very legitimate reasons for toeing the starting line and come from places as far-flung as Brazil and Tahiti and as close as the Big Island. Below is a quick preview of some of the best amateur off-road athletes who will be coming to the XTERRA World Championship from Japan, Europe, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and Brazil.
The fiercest podium battles will likely be seen in the ever-competitive 40-44 age group. From Europe, look for Magalie Moreau from France and Konstantina Sintzanaki from Greece. Moreau had a solid race at XTERRA Malta, while Sintzanaki was strong at XTERRA Greece.
On the US side, four-time XTERRA age group world champ Mimi Stockton, aged up to the 45-49 age bracket, but runner up Deanna McCurdy and 2016 fifth place finisher, Jennifer Razee (pictured below), will be back. They will be joined by Heather Pady, from Canada.
These women have been training like it’s their job, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who comes out on top. McCurdy and Razee went one, two at last month’s XTERRA Pan Am Championship while Pady scooped up the win at XTERRA Mine Over Matter in Canada earlier this summer.
In the 45-49 age group, look for Midwest Regional Champ Mimi Stockton to lead the way as she looks to score a fifth XTERRA world champ title. She’s been racing for years, and the Michigan winters have trained her in the art of being uncomfortable. She’s going to need her experience, because rookie Amy Carver may surprise everyone at XTERRA Worlds in Maui. The Southeast Regional Champ has been undefeated all season, not just in her age group, but has been the top woman in all five XTERRA races she’s done on the America Tour.
Reigning 45-49 age group world champ, Kiki Silver, isn’t on the start list, but last year’s runner up, Jennifer Burtner looked strong at XTERRA Beaver Creek, so we know she’s ready to climb the Maui hills. Also, keep your eyes open for Christy Fritts, who has been making her way back after an artificial disc replacement this year. Fritts has been a guide for blind triathlete, Amy Dixon this summer. The two recently returned from Sarasota, Florida with a gold medal from the ITU Triathlon World Cup.
In the 50-54 age group, Margo Pitts (pictured above) was the runner up in this age group last year to Carol Rasmussen, who won’t be competing this year. At this year’s XTERRA Pan Am Championship, Pitts finished just behind Paula Maresh, who will also be sitting Maui out. This could be Pitts’ chance to nab the win if she can hold off Eden Steele, who was third in Maui last year, and Jennifer Pace, who was fourth. Catherine Gance of France will also be fighting for the podium.
XTERRA Beaver Creek age group champ, Janet Soule, will be representing the 55-59 age group. In the 60-64 slot, Barbara Peterson and Martha Buttner – who placed in that order at the XTERRA World Championship last year – will once again go head to head. In the 65-69 age group, look for Jo Garuccio, the XTERRA Beaver Creek age group champ, to challenge last year’s runner-up, Lynne Pattle, from New Zealand.
Wendy Minor – whose first XTERRA was in 1997 – and Katherine Frank will lead the way in the 70-74 age group.
For the athletes in the 15-19 age group, look for reigning world champ Heather Horton (pictured above), who was the fourth overall amateur female at XTERRA Oak Mountain this year and was first in her age group at XTERRA Beaver Creek. (Horton sat out the XTERRA Pan Am Championship to heal an injury.) She will be challenged by Rina Ishizu, from Japan, who was fifth last year at Worlds. Loane Duvoisin from Switzerland will be flying in to take her shot at the course as well.
The 20-24 age group world champ is anyone’s guess this year. 2016 runner up Pauline Aigon and Katarina Marks – who was fifth – have aged up and will be competing against Elisabeth Sirouz in the 25-29 age group. Sirouz is from Reunion Island, a French island east of Madagascar and was fifth in this age group last year in Maui. Northeast Regional Champ, Amanda Bayer, will also be a contender. Marks (pictured above) looks strong and ready and is coming off a great year where she earned the age group title at XTERRA Beaver Creek and was second in this age group at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship.
Amelia Vonesh, of the 30-34 crew, also won her age group at XTERRA Beaver Creek. Vonesh was third at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship and is looking to place higher than she did last year at Maui, when she was eighth. However, she’s going to have to be faster than Verena Eisenbarth of Germany. Eisenbarth is one of the few athletes attempting the audacious double with the Ironman World Championship October 14th, just a week before the XTERRA World Championship.
Finally, the 35-39 slot is all about Courtney Kaup (pictured top). Kaup, from Vermont, has been excellent all year. She was the 2017 XTERRA Pan Am age group champ and XTERRA Beaver Creek age group champ. Last year at the XTERRA World Championship, Kaup was the second overall female amateur behind Linda Hale from New Zealand. Without Hale this year, the 2017 XTERRA World Championship could be Kaup’s race to lose, and she has a good shot of being the first overall amateur in the women’s race.
Luckily, Kaup seeks out challenges. “As I go into every race, my goal is to do my best and have fun, regardless of the circumstances.”
This is the perfect attitude to have going into the XTERRA World Championship, where anything can – and does – happen.