Race Preview: 2011 XTERRA Trail Run Worlds
Can anybody catch the King? Who will be the new queen? Those are the two main questions entering the 2011 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch.
This year's world championship race is scheduled for Sunday, December 4, and a record field of more than 2,000 runners from around the world will participate.
In the men's division, Max King of Oregon is considered the favorite, just as he has been for the previous three years. King is the three-time defending XTERRA Trail Run World Champion, and no other runner has come close to him during his reign.
As good as King has been the last three years, he may be having the best year of his career in 2011. He has already won several significant races this year, most notably the World Mountain Running Championship in Albania. He has also won the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, the USA Half Marathon Trail Championships, and the USA Mountain Running Championship, all at different sites.
Several contenders from last year are returning in 2011 for another shot at King. Hawaii's Rivers Puzey (third place), Brandon Mader (fourth) of Alabama, Bruce Rahmig (sixth) from Colorado and Fujio Miyachi (eighth) of Japan will all be on the starting line next to King. Where they finish remains to be seen.
There are several intriguing new entries in the men's field, including a few international entries. Petr Pechek, one of the top distance runners from the Czech Republic, is in the field, along with two elites from New Zealand - Nick Hirschfeld and Matt McDougall.
Others to watch include Jake Puzey and Dany Malley. Jake Puzey is the older brother of Rivers Puzey, and he placed third at a 50K trail race in Oregon this year (Max King won that race, too). Malley, who is originally from Canada, was the top runner on the Hawaii Pacific University cross country team this year.
In the women's division, there will be a new world champion due to the tragic death of last year's winner, Sally Meyerhoff. She was killed in a cycling accident in her hometown of Maricopa, Arizona, just three months after winning the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. Meyerhoff will be honored before the race, and each runner will wear a race bib with her name in the background. In her absence, there are numerous entries that can be considered legitimate contenders.
Last year's runner-up, Kim Kuehnert, is back, along with the rest of her teammates from the Hawaii Pacific University cross country team. Last year, the HPU runners surprised the field by taking three of the top seven places.
Other top-10 finishers from last year who will be running again in 2011 are Melanie McQuaid (third), Rachel Cieslewicz (fifth), Candes Meijide Gentry (sixth) and Heather Singleton (ninth).
McQuaid is a three-time former XTERRA World Champion for off-road triathlon. She says the run course at Kualoa Ranch is one of her favorites because "it culminates with the steepest, longest, gnarliest climb you will ever do, followed by a jungle plunge through muddy singletrack."
There is also former XTERRA Trail Run World Champion in the women's field, as 2008 winner Cynthia Anderson of Hawaii has returned. She placed second overall in 2009, but missed the race last year due to injuries.
There is also a former Ironman world champion in the field, as California's Heather Fuhr has returned. She won the Ironman World Championship in 1997, and placed third overall in the women's field of the 2009 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. She did not enter last year.
There is also a current XTERRA National Champion in the field, as Morgan Arritola of Idaho will be making her first appearance in Hawaii. Arritola, who is a member of the USA cross country skiing team, won the 2011 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Utah in September.
Eva Skalnikova from the Czech Republic is a dual athlete just like Arritola. Skalnikova is also an Olympic cross country skier and an elite runner. There are also elite international runners from New Zealand (Rachel Bowie) and Canada (Lucy Smith, Susan Reynolds).
It is worth noting that a record number of entries (around 2,000) from around the world are expected this year, so a dark horse contender could literally emerge from anywhere to challenge for a world title. Runners from 34 different states and 12 countries will be represented.
It is also worth noting that the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is not just a race for the elites. The races within the race will feature numerous battles for age-group titles.
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