Smith, Akerhielm take Texas Finale

Jul. 19, 2013

Magnolia Hill Trail Run draws more than 200 runners

Season finales are supposed to be about drama, and the XTERRA Magnolia Hill Trail Run did not disappoint.

More than 200 runners participated in the event, which was completed on July 13 at Magnolia Hill Ranch at Navasota, Texas. It was the season finale for the 2013 XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series.

Robert Smith and Tracie Akerhielm took top overall honors for the 21-kilometer race, and both had interesting tales from the trails to tell.

Smith finished first overall with a time of 1 hour, 38 minutes, 39 seconds. Although it was his first XTERRA Trail Run experience, he was willing to call it a victory "by mistake" because two other runners took a wrong turn on the course.

"I got to the last aid station before the finish and asked what place I was in. They said first. I told them I should be in third," Smith said. "I continued and when I finished I told them that there should have been two high school kids in front of me. I assume they went the wrong way."

Indeed, Collin Carter and Blake Devoll were inadvertently directed in the wrong direction, and they wound up running an extra three miles. They were ahead of Smith by at least a minute when they took the wrong turn. Carter and Devoll are members of the Giddings High School cross country team, and their coach was understanding of the situation.

"They were both frustrated, but sometimes these things happen on trail races," said Shaun Carter, head coach of the Giddings team. "Nature of the beast."

Interestingly enough, Smith is the cross country coach for Kingwood Park High School, and is also one of the founders of the Pineywoods Athletic Club in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Ken Rieger from Spring, Texas, was second overall in 1:39:39, and Matt Nedella from Montgomery, Texas, was third in 1:43:24.

Akerhielm was an impressive fourth overall and first among the females in 1:46:45. She finished more than eight minutes ahead of the other top female runners.

"The race course was beautiful with single track that zigzagged through tall pine trees and circled around a small lake near the end," said Akerhielm, who resides in Denton, Texas. "The trees provided so much shade that the trail was almost dark.  The pine needles and sand made the run nice and soft, but a bit taxing on the legs."

Akerhielm's adventure actually started before the race, when she got lost looking for the race site. She eventually drove up to a locked gate at Magnolia Hill Ranch.

"At this point, I was sure I was going to miss the start of the race and so hopped the gate and took off running down the dirt road," she explained. "I hitched a ride on a four-wheeler from a sheriff who drove me down to registration. I grabbed my race bib and pins and jogged down toward the start.  If I had arrived 30 seconds later, I would have missed the opportunity to race!"

Akerhielm has been the dominant female in the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series in 2013. This was her third overall victory in the series, and she placed second overall at four other races.

Aimee Newsom placed second in 1:55:05, and Sharon Ruben was third in 2:16:28.


In addition to the 21K long course, there was also a 6K short course, and a pair of youngsters took top honors. Seventeen-year-old Diego Gomez placed first overall in 27:56, and 11-year-old Heather Welsch was the top female in 30:27.

The XTERRA Magnolia Hill Trail Run was the seventh, and final, race in the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series.

The 2013-14 season is tentatively set to begin next March. For more information, please or

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