Arizona Series Opens Season with New Winners
McGowan and Smith make victorious debuts
A new season brought some new - and very fast - runners to the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series.
Gabe McGowan and Margaret Smith both made victorious debuts in the Arizona Series by winning their respective divisions of the XTERRA Estrella Mountain Trail Run. More than 350 runners participated in the event, which was completed on October 6 at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear, Arizona.
McGowan, 24, was the overall winner of the 20-kilometer course, finishing with a record time of 1 hour, 17 minutes, 54 seconds. Smith, 33, was the top female, finishing with a women's course record of 1:36:51.
"This was my first time entering any of the XTERRA races," said McGowan, who works as a hydrologist for a consulting firm in Tucson. "I moved to Arizona from North Carolina in 2012. For a variety of reasons, I had just been doing my own thing with my running. This year I found myself running well and wanting a specific goal. I Googled 'Phoenix trail races' and found the XTERRA Series."
McGowan proved his worth from the start, racing to the front of the pack with 2012 Estrella Mountain race winner Jonathan Harmon. Those two ran away from the rest of the field, and stayed side by side for most of the course. A fall by Harmon late in the race allowed McGowan to pull ahead.
"Jon was right behind me until sometime around mile 8, when I heard him trip and fall," McGowan said. "I slowed down, turned around, and asked if he was all right. He was already getting up and starting to run, so I took off again."
McGowan was a middle-distance track runner in high school, and added: "The race I ran at Estrella was probably my best race since those high school track days."
Harmon placed second in 1:18:53, which also beat the previous course record. Phillip Slama (1:27:19) beat John Reich (1:27:55) in a tight race for third.
Smith placed 10th overall and her victory capped a successful weekend of running for her. The day before the Estrella Mountain race, she won a 10K road race.
"I was expecting my legs to be more tired than they were," she said. "Initially, I thought I went out too fast, but I never saw another woman on the course, so really, I was racing the guy who finished just before me and the guy who finished just after me."
Smith works as a military intelligence officer in Maryland, but she is currently attending a training course at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. She has been in Arizona since the start of July, and has won seven different races since then.
She attended this race with her brother, Charlie Webber, who placed fifth in the men's 35-39 division.
In addition to the 20K long course, there was also an 8K short course. Felix Sanchez was the overall winner of the 8K, and Rainey Weaver was the top female.
The XTERRA Estrella Mountain Trail Run was the first of four races in the 2013-14 season for the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series. The next race in the series will be the XTERRA White Tanks Trail Run on January 5 at Waddell, Arizona.
To enter a race in the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series or to learn more about it, please visitwww.aztrailrace.com.