Just last week John Servati, a 21-year-old University of Alabama swimmer, died during the bad storms that swept through the state.
Reports from the incident hail Servati as a hero, explaining how he died while holding up a retaining wall that ultimately collapsed so his girlfriend had time to escape.
“It really touched us here,” said Casey Fannin, a long-time XTERRA athlete from Birmingham. “You kind of sit around and complain about the weather and then you hear news like this and it puts everything in perspective. Makes you realize how lucky you are to be able to go out and ride and enjoy life.”
Sam Morgan, who was also a swimmer at the University of Alabama, said he’ll be racing the XTERRA Southeast Championship next weekend in support of Servati, his family, and for the team.
“I graduated a year before John joined the team, however, because my family and I live in Northport (just across the river from Tuscaloosa) I attend home meets when my schedule allows. We had heard the evening before, as the tornado watch was lifted, that Tuscaloosa had lost another young life to storms. I only met John once but any Alabama swimmer is a teammate of mine."
Morgan, who works for the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority as the Fitness Program Supervisor, has just recently got into XTERRA and this will be his first time racing at Oak Mountain.
“I love having the trails at Oak Mountain close by. I do a lot of my training in Tuscaloosa but am thankful to have the option to ride the first-class trails at Oak Mountain within an hour drive,” said Morgan.
He noted that one of the things he enjoys about the sport is being part of “the Tribe,” much like being part of the swim team in college.
“The thing that I enjoy most about XTERRA is the camaraderie, don't get me wrong I definitely have a need to race, but the people that I train with locally make this experience outstanding,” said Morgan.
“There are five of us (Myself, Blake Gill, Rachel Frazier, Gary Falls and Rebecca Falls,) that made it a goal to qualify for nationals this year and we are well on our way. It is also amazing to see everyone cheer for each other at each race. Athletes crossing the finish line just to continue running back up the trail to cheer a competitor through the finish chute doesn't happen very often, but I saw this as I was gasping for air at my last race at XTERRA Tiger.”