After a successful first year at the Snowbasin Resort last year, the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship will make its way to the picturesque site near Ogden, Utah, again in 2012.
More than 600 runners representing more than 30 states from across the country will gather on the breathtaking trails off the Snowbasin Resort to determine XTERRA's national champions of trail running for 2012.
Oregon's Max King is the four-time defending champion of the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, and he will be back to defend his title again. His first three national championships came in his hometown of Bend, Oregon. Last year was his first race in the state of Utah, and he ran away with another convincing victory.
"The Snowbasin course is a great all-around course," said King, 32. "You need to have some speed but also some good technical skills, along with good climbing and descending as well. It is a beautiful course with great single track, great views, and it will really test each runner's abilities to the fullest."
King's victory at Snowbasin last year was significant, not just because it was his fourth. The day before the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, he was in Oregon winning the USA 50K Trail Championships. He got on a flight immediately after that race, and arrived in Utah late Saturday night. He managed to get a few hours of sleep before going out and dominating the XTERRA Nationals yet again.
"I had had a lot of very good training going into this race last year and my body was feeling very good," King said. "This year I'll just have to see how my body handles the 50k the day before. I was surprised last year to come out of the weekend of racing so well. I was tired and somewhat sore after the half but overall I would say that I handled it well."
It worked so well last year that he's going to try it again this year - race in the 50K event in Bend on Saturday, then in the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals 21K on Sunday.
There will be a slew of contenders from around the country hoping that King might show up a little more tired than normal this year. Among the elites looking to take King's crown are: Mario Mendoza, who placed second at last year's XTERRA Nationals; Ben Bruce, who placed second to King several times at the XTERRA Nationals and Worlds races; Will Christian, who placed second to King at the XTERRA Worlds two years ago; J. Marshall Thomson, who scored an impressive victory at the XTERRA Beaver Creek Trail Run 21K in July.
The title of Women's XTERRA National Champion is up for grabs, as none of the previous female winners is in the field this year.
Among the contenders are first-time XTERRA Nationals entries Megan Kimmel from Colorado, Nicole Hunt from Montana, Tara Gormley from Georgia and Sarah Breevoort from Virginia.
Kimmel has had several impressive finishes in 2012, most notably a victory in the USATF 10K Trail Championship at North Carolina, and a second-place showing at the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championship at Oregon.
Hunt is a former member of the USA Mountain Running Team, and won the U.S. Mountain Running Championship in 2006. She recently took some time off after giving birth to twins in 2011, but is now getting back into competitive running.
An intriguing entry is 12-year-old Kaytlynn Welsch from Alvin, Texas. A month ago, she beat several elite female runners to win the overall women's division of the XTERRA Cameron Park Trail Run 21K at Waco, Texas. Her younger sister, Heather, placed third overall at that race. Heather, 10, is also registered to run at Snowbasin Resort, and she will be the youngest runner in the 21K field.
The home-state Utah runners could also take advantage of the opportunity, as close to half of the field will consist of competitors from the Beehive State.
Eleven different regions conducted XTERRA Trail Run Series in 2012: Alabama, Arizona, Southern California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pocono, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Texas. All of the age-group winners from those regions were invited to participate in the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals, and close to 100 will make the trip to Utah to represent their respective region.
The XTERRA Trail Run National Championship is being held one day after the XTERRA USA Championship off-road triathlon, and some of the professional triathletes could enter the trail run. Women's XTERRA triathlon world champion Lesley Paterson entered the Trail Run Nationals last year and placed fourth.
Of course, last-minute entries and dark horse contenders are the norm for XTERRA races, so the winner could literally come from anywhere in the country, or the world for that matter.
In addition to the overall national champions, age-group national champions will also be crowned. Returning age-group champions from last year include Keegan Dove (male 10-14), Jimmy Patterson (male 15-19), Mario Mendoza (male 25-29), Max King (male 30-34), Brian Stanley (male 50-54), Kevin Tuck (male 55-59), Bob Evers (male 60-64), Hans Unger (male 65-69) and Don Hildebrand (male 75-79).