XTERRA Trail Run National Championship Preview
King, Anderson return to defend crowns at Snowbasin Resort
After two successful years at the Snowbasin Resort, it is safe to say that the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship has taken a liking to its new home near Ogden, Utah.
More than 700 runners representing more than 30 states from across the country will gather on the breathtaking trails alongside the Snowbasin Resort on September 22 to determine XTERRA's national champions of trail running for 2013. The venue served as host for the event in 2011 and 2012, and received rave reviews from runners.
"That course is one of my favorites for a trail run course," said Oregon's Max King, who won both the 2011 and 2012 races at Snowbasin. "It's beautiful that time of year with the changing colors and the crisp fall morning temps. The course is challenging but you can really run fast on it, which for me, plays to my strengths. I think it's a good mix of technical trail running, good climbing, fast smooth single tracks, and sweeping downhills. It has it all."
King should know. He is the five-time defending champion of the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship. His first three titles came in his hometown of Bend, Oregon, then he proved his worth by winning the next two in Utah.
(Max King pictured, courtesy XTERRA Photos)
Making it more impressive, King won the 2011 and 2012 titles while completing a "double championship" weekend. Both years, he won the USATF 50K Trail Championship in Oregon on a Saturday, then took a flight to Utah and won the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship the next day.
There is no such schedule conflict this year, so King will be able to maintain his focus on the Snowbasin race for the entire weekend.
"Training won't change and neither will the physical prep, but what could easily change is my mentality in approaching XTERRA," he said. "I can't let my guard down and think that it's going to be easy. The minute I do that will be my downfall. Each race you have to approach as if it's going to be the hardest thing you've ever done, that's how you have successful races. So, going in I have to keep the mental strength there as if I were going to being doing the two races."
There will be a slew of contenders from across the country - and even beyond international borders - at this year's race.
Most notable, Joseph Gray from Washington is entered in the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals for the first time since 2008. Gray has emerged as one of the top trail runners in the country, and he tied with Ben Bruce to win the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship (King did not attend that race). Gray has finished ahead of King at several races this year, including the USA Mountain Running Championship at New Hampshire in June.
B.J. Christenson from Salt Lake City has placed third at this event each of the past two years, and looks to be the top home-state contender again. Several other elite runners from Utah are entered for the first time this year, including John Coyle, Jace Nye, Nathan Peters, Patrick Smyth and John Tribbia.
Runners coming from outside of Utah who could contend include Eric Koenig (Florida), Dan Kuch (Arizona), Karl Remsen (Colorado) and David Wall (Alabama).
There are also a couple of first-time entries from Mexico who could be contenders. Victor Mercado is considered one of the top trail runners in all of Mexico, and he recently placed 10th overall at the North America Central America Caribbean (NACAC) Mountain Championships. Also, 17-year-old Mauricio Mendez has burst onto the scene this year as a future triathlon star, and he will try the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals for the first time.
(Liz Stephen pictured, courtesy XTERRA Photos)
The women's field is led by defending champion Lindsey Anderson, who won the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in her first try last year. She resides in South Ogden, so she is accustomed to the weather and conditions, and will only have to make a short drive to get to the starting line. Interestingly enough, she has not been back on the trails at Snowbasin since her victory last year.
"I think it definitely helps to know the course, so it will be nice that it will at least be familiar from last year," she said. "It definitely doesn't hurt to run the course one or more times before the race and I was hoping that I'd get an opportunity to go run up there during the summer but it just hasn't worked out so I'll go off what I remember and be confident that even though I had never run the course last year I was still able to pull out the win."
Liz Stephen, who placed second at the 2011 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, is back this year after missing it last year due to a schedule conflict. She is a member of the U.S. National Ski Team, and participated in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
This year's intriguing first-year XTERRA entry is Maria Dalzot from Bellingham, Washington. She won the 2011 North America Mountain Running Championships and has fared well in numerous national races since.
Other female runners from outside of Utah looking to contend include Polina Babkina (Hawaii), Anna Kharlamova (Colorado), Corinne Malcolm (Montana) and Deanna McCurdy (Georgia).
Of course, last-minute entries and dark horse contenders are the norm for XTERRA Trail Run races, so the winner could literally come from anywhere in the country.
In addition to the overall national champions, age-group national champions will also be crowned at the event. Every age-group winner (male and female) from the 21K course will be considered a 2013 XTERRA National Champion. The age groups range from 9-younger to 75-older.
Among the intriguing age-group entries this year:
- Jake Mackleer (Hampstead, North Carolina) - Youngest runner in this year's 21K field at age 9 (second youngest in history of the event, behind 7-year-old Zoe Allen in 2010). He won the 9-younger division in the XTERRA North Carolina Trail Run Series. Using this race to help raise funds and awareness for Pender County Humane Society in North Carolina.
- Oldest runners - There will be three runners in the 75-79 age division, all from outside of Utah. John Williams from Culver City, Calif., is the oldest in the field at 76; Adrian Wolford from Mustang, Okla., is 75 (will be 76 in December; Jesus Romero from Snellville, Georgia, is also 75. Wolford won the 75-79 division at this race last year.
- Jase Bell and Korey Shively (Madison, Alabama) - Track/cross country runners at James Clemens High. Jase won XTERRA Nationals and Worlds for 10-14 division last year and is moving up to 15-19; Korey won 10-14 division in both the Alabama and Georgia Series in 2013.
- Deanna McCurdy (Peachtree City, Georgia) - Head coach and founder of Team Miles for Smiles, a charity running team that raises funds for research through the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (F.A.S.T.). One of her daughters was diagnosed in 2009 with Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.
- Winter Vinecki (Salem, Oregon) - She is in the process of becoming the youngest person to complete full marathons on all seven continents. She has already completed five, and has the final two coming up at the end of this year - New Zealand and Greece. She has helped raise more than $400,000 through Team Winter, which was founded in 2009 in honor of her father who died of prostate cancer that year.
- Kaytlynn Welsch and Heather Welsch (Alvin, Texas) - The sisters from Alvin, Texas, have returned to the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship for a second consecutive year. They made headlines last year, when the New York Times and NBC's Rock Center With Brian Williams did feature stories on them. Kaytlynn, 13, has continued to run with success in 2013, as she was the first overall female at three different races in the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series. Heather, 11, is the youngest female in this year's field for the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship.
- Across the nation - This year's field will feature runners from 32 different states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Mexico. The home state of Utah will, of course, have the most runners, with more than 300. California is next with 33, followed by Georgia and Texas with 16 each.
- Double duty - The XTERRA USA Championship off-road triathlon will also be held at Snowbasin Resort on September 21 (the day before the trail run). Several triathletes will pull "the double" by entering both the triathlon and trail run events. Tamara Tabeek from California won her age group (women's 50-54) in both the triathlon and trail run last year, and will attempt to do so again this year. Andy Lee from Texas (men's 40-44) placed second in his age group at last year's triathlon, then won his age group in the trail run the next day.
XTERRA TRAIL RUN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Where: Snowbasin Resort, Ogden, Utah
When: Sunday, September 22, 9 a.m. start
Who: Open to runners of all ages and skill levels
Courses: 21K (championship course), 10K or 5K
Entry fees: $50 for 21K, $40 for 10K, $30 for 5K (discounts available for students and military)
In-person registration: Friday, Sept. 20, at Ogden Amphitheater Park, noon-6 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 21 at Snowbasin Resort, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
ABOUT THE XTERRA TRAIL RUN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Runners of all ages and skill levels can participate in the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, as there is no qualifying process. Last year, close to 500 trail runners from 30 different states gathered at Snowbasin Resort for the event. There will be three different courses to accommodate the various levels of runners. A 21-kilometer half-marathon course will serve as the national championship course, but there will also be a 10K and a 5K. Every age-group winner from the 21K course will be awarded a free entry to race at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, which is scheduled for November 24 at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii.