Nick Coury and Rachael Cuellar both had reason to celebrate at the XTERRA Black Canyon Trail Run last weekend.
Coury capped an impressive season in the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series with his third consecutive victory, and Cuellar celebrated her 31st birthday on the day of the race (March 24) by dominating the women's division.
Coury, 25, completed the 21-kilometer course in 1 hour, 31 minutes, 49 seconds, which was more than four minutes ahead of the other top runners.
"The course was in great shape," said Coury, who resides in Phoenix. "The desert is extremely green at this time of the year, and the flowers are just starting to come out, creating a relief from the light browns we're so accustomed to. The temperature was just edging on warm, but a breeze kept the air cool enough for a good race."
Coury got in front after the first mile, and then gradually increased his lead over the remainder of the course. Coury is an experienced distance runner with the Aravaipa Running team in Arizona, but he said he rarely gets to run at Black Canyon. The only other time he ran on those trails was at the 2012 XTERRA Black Canyon Trail Run, when he placed second overall.
"Last year was my first and only time on this section of the Black Canyon Trail, but it helped me know what to anticipate," he said. "The trail is constantly changing. Last year, the twists and turns left me unsure how to pace for what was ahead. This year I expected the roller coaster and ran accordingly."
Coury skipped the first race in the 2012-13 XTERRA Arizona Series, but entered the last three races and placed first overall at all three.
Nathan Rath from Chandler, Arizona, placed second in 1:35:53, and Dan Kuch from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, was third in 1:36:11.
Cuellar was an impressive fourth overall with a time of 1:38:58 - which was nearly 12 minutes faster than the other top females.
Cuellar, her boyfriend Cornelius Puiulet, and their 4-month-old daughter made an eight-hour drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to get to the race and visit friends in Arizona. Puiulet placed second overall in the 9-kilometer short course race earlier in the day.
"Everything worked out perfectly," Cuellar said. "There was a lot of climbing, more than 2,600 feet according to my Garmin watch. The trail was rocky for most of the course and at the first river crossing we had to run through a bed of river rocks and some sandy sections. There were a lot of switchbacks going up and down hill. The scenery was picturesque and worth looking at if you dared to take your eyes off the trail."
Cuellar said she was not aware of the other females behind her because she was focused on the tricky sections of the trail.
"From the start, I found myself running with the top males," she said. "I could hear some ladies chatting behind me, but I was too focused on the rocky trail and keeping up with the guys in front of me that I slowly forgot about everyone else. It was nice running with some of the guys; they kept me motivated."
This was Cuellar's first time racing in an XTERRA Arizona Series event, although she is no stranger to XTERRA Trail Run success. She placed third overall at the 2011 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship.
Scottsdale runners Paulette Zilmer and Terri Antonio placed second and third, respectively. In the 9K short course, Arthur Lopez and Bree Bielenberg were the top male and female finishers. Bielenberg won all four short course races in the Arizona Series.
The entire field of more than 500 runners actually had reason to celebrate also, as it was the finale of a successful 2012-13 Arizona Series. The top runners in each age group from the overall series standings received a free entry to represent Arizona at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Ogden, Utah, in September.
Here is a list of the 2013 XTERRA Arizona Series champions:
|Female 15-19||Sierra||Robinett||Phoenix, AZ|
|Female 25-29||Angela||Axmann||Phoenix, AZ|
|Female 30-34||Kristi||Johnson||Phoenix, AZ|
|Female 35-39||Terri||Twarkins||Paradise Valley, AZ|
|Female 40-44||Terri||Antonio||Scottsdale, AZ|
|Female 45-49||Dawn||McKenzie||Oro Valley, AZ|
|Female 50-54||Kelly||O'Halloran||Waddell, AZ|
|Female 55-59||Leigh||Garvie||Spruce Grove, CANADA|
|Male 15-19||David||Buehler||Peoria, AZ|
|Male 20-24||Foster||Kleinstiver||Goodyear, AZ|
|Male 25-29||Nick||Coury||Phoenix, AZ|
|Male 30-34||Nathan||Rath||Chandler, AZ|
|Male 35-39||Dan||Kuch||Lake Havasu City, AZ|
|Male 40-44||Jason||Ford||Gilbert, AZ|
|Male 45-49||Rob||Decot||Flagstaff, AZ|
|Male 50-54||Bob||Platt||Surprise, AZ|
|Male 55-59||Bruce||Bornhurst||La Canada, CA|
|Male 60-64||Steve||Averill||Glendale, AZ|
|Male 65-69||Ron||Harding Jr.||Chandler, AZ|