Stewart and Akerhielm prevail for first time in XTERRA Texas Series
The XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series is all about discovering new adventures in new places, and Mitt Stewart and Tracie Akerhielm did just that at the latest race.
Stewart was the overall winner and Akerhielm was the top female at the XTERRA Muleshoe Trail Run, which was completed on May 18 at the Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area in Spicewood, Texas. It was the fourth of seven races in the 2013 XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series.
"It was challenging," Stewart said of the 16-kilometer course. "It was full of rocks and low branches, so you had to be very alert. No mental breaks or you'd go down."
Stewart completed the course in 1 hour, 14 minutes, 57 seconds. He lives in Sandy, Utah, but happened to be in Texas on a business trip and decided to enter the race as a way to stay in shape. His main sport is mountain biking, and he often races in the professional division.
Dylan Johnson from Dripping Springs, Texas, had the lead for most of the race, but he took a wrong turn late in the course and it dropped him to second place. Stewart said he was unaware of Johnson until the very end of the race, when they both made a sprint to the finish line.
"To my surprise with about two miles to go I caught third place," Stewart said. "I was stoked! I passed third place with strength and knew I was going to podium. About a half-mile from the finish, I looked over my shoulder and saw someone that I hadn't seen or passed all race. He was gaining fast! So fast, that I had to full-out sprint to hold him off. Turns out he was in the lead and had gone off course."
Johnson finished three seconds behind Stewart, and displayed sportsmanship after the race.
"I got off course probably the last quarter-mile of the race," he said. "I was running alone for quite a while when a volunteer told me that I had gone the wrong way … while trying to catch up to the leader I didn't have to pass anyone, it was just me and him battling it out for the win. I have been running XTERRA races for many years now, and this little mistake will not stop me from racing XTERRA in the future. I love XTERRA!"
Akerhielm placed seventh overall with a time of 1:20:17, and her persistence paid off in more ways than one. She has entered all four races so far in the 2013 Texas Series, and she had finished second in the previous three.
"My goal for the race was to improve on pacing," Akerhielm said. "It is still far from perfect, but headed in the right direction. Prior to my other race performances in the series, I think I am improving in my endurance and my ability to pace appropriately with the various terrain."
Akerhielm, a former track and cross country runner at Texas Tech University, said the course offered several unique Texas challenges.
"What the course lacked in vertical challenges, it made up for in the footing," she said. "There were several areas with big loose rock beds and a section of the course that went entirely off-trail and you had to dodge cactus, rocks and branches for a place to put your foot. But like every race so far in the series, it was absolutely beautiful and I loved the venue."
Kaytlynn Welsch, the 12-year-old running phenom from Alvin, Texas, had won the previous three races in the Texas Series. She placed second to Akerhielm at the Muleshoe race by about four minutes.
"Kaytlynn is a fantastic runner and is no doubt headed for great things. I think it is an honor to get to race next to her," Akerhielm said. "After the first couple of losses, I just settled in and tried to run my best race and to enjoy the trail as much as possible."
Akerhielm is currently a doctoral candidate at Texas Woman's University. She discovered trail running only this year, and is hooked on the XTERRA Texas Series. "The Muleshoe win is very encouraging to me," she said. "I can feel my aerobic fitness beginning to return and hope to run even faster for the next events in the series."
The next races in the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series will be held on back-to-back weekends: the XTERRA Gator Bait Trail Run in Huntsville on June 16, and then the XTERRA Cameron Park Trail Run in Waco on June 22. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR A TEXAS SERIES RACE OR LEARN MORE ABOUT IT.