Every year XTERRA honors a member of its “Tribe” with the Mr. XTERRA award at the Night of Champions dinner on the eve of the USA Championship. The award is reserved for he who best exemplifies the challenge, commitment and camaraderie that is the essence of XTERRA.
This year the honor was bestowed upon Craig Vogtsberger, the most decorated challenged athlete in XTERRA America Tour history. Since 2008 “V” has racked up an unprecedented seven regional championship crowns and four USA Championship titles.
That said, the 37-year-old from Olney, Illinois – who now lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife Brittany and two boys, Eli and Gabe - is beloved far more amongst his peers for his achievements in life than his accomplishments in racing.
In 2001 while serving in the Army National Guard and just days away from being deployed in the Middle East, Vogtsberger was crushed between two Army Humvees and suffered massive trauma to his entire body.
Among the long list of injuries: traumatic brain injury, spinal trauma (to all three sections), dysautonomia, paralyzed left leg and shoulder, visual impairment, and hearing loss.
“Interesting fact, due to my TBI and Dysautonomia, I am considered legally blind,” explained Vogtsberger. “At any moment my vision can go from 20/20 to 20/400. I have double and blurry vision all the time and have limited peripheral vision. I have learned to adapt and adjust to the vision changes since my Humvee accident.”
He jokes to other racers that the condition isn’t one of his bigger concerns on the course, saying “I just figure I’ll dodge both of you when I pass by. Imagine my wife’s adventures with me driving; I dodge a fly in my periphery as well as a semi the same way!”
Putting it all in perspective, and his trademark smile, has made Craig a family favorite on the XTERRA scene since his first race at the XTERRA Last Stand off-road tri in 2008.
“XTERRA is just plain fun. It doesn’t matter how hard or ridiculous the courses are or how much I sometimes complain with a big smile on my face, I love every minute,” said Vogtsberger. “Also, as I was told, and have come to know, XTERRA is just a big family. I love being a part of it. The family feel of XTERRA adds more to my life than just racing. I really miss the people, events, and places during the off season.”
This year Vogtsberger competed in five races and says the XTERRA World Championship later this month will take on extra meaning as he gets to share it with his wife and kids.
“Having them there will make this a very special race. I race for my family because I see a reflection of myself in them. They see the happiness and enjoyment I get out of XTERRA and it flows over to my wife and two boys. They will experience the XTERRA World Championships for the first time this year and I can’t wait for them to meet my XTERRA family.”
Understandably, when asked who his favorite XTERRA athlete was, he quickly called out Josiah Middaugh… “He inspires me the most. He was the first pro I met and I’ve followed his career in XTERRA, but more than his career, what impresses me the most is the man I see with his family before and after events.”
Among his all-time favorite XTERRA moments was his first race in Maui “during the second lap of the swim in 2008 when a sea turtle swam up from the bottom of the ocean into the swarm of athletes.”
In stark contrast, a month earlier that year at the USA Championship in Lake Tahoe “the water was so cold, I had a liner under my wetsuit. When I got to the swim/bike transition after the long run from the lake, my hands were so numb and cold I struggled to put my shoes on. My Dad was standing outside transition and we were both laughing. Having my father there to share in the race and also the comedic moments of transition is something I won’t ever forget.”
Craig’s personal mantra is “No Excuses” and his best advice to others is “Stop being timid. Grab life and don’t just exist in each moment, but live each moment. Sometimes you just have to jump. There are no excuses.”
On being named Mr. XTERRA Craig said “It is a huge honor and was an even bigger surprise. I have watched Mr. and Mrs. XTERRA’s being named each year since I started in 2008. I didn’t ever think that I would obtain the accomplishments, both professionally and personally, that are required of a person to be selected for this award. I am proud that who I am as a person is as important as what I have accomplished as an athlete to my XTERRA family.”
And as for his future goals, “To continue racing XTERRA and to live each moment, feel each bump and bruise and have it remind me that I am alive and living a life that no doctor believed was possible.”
For his service to the XTERRA community and for truly embodying the “Live More” Spirit – XTERRA is honored to present the Mr. XTERRA 2014 award to Craig Vogtsberger.
ALL-TIME MR. XTERRA AWARD WINNERS
2014 – Craig Vogtsberger
2013 – Brent Bieshaar
2012 – Jay Heller
2011 – Steve Cole
2010 – Casey Fannin
2009 – Brandyn Roark
2008 – Circ and Cindi Toepel
2007 – Will Kelsay
2006 – Courtney Cardenas
2005 – Tom Lyons
2004 – Anthony Snoble and Rick Byman
2003 – Billy Anderson and Barbara Peterson
2002 – Susi Chandler
2001 - Chris Shelley
2000 - Robert Hopper
1999 - The inaugural winner, Dennis Fox, spent his last Army paycheck after finishing his tour of duty on entry fees to all the stops on the XTERRA America Tour. He lived the XTERRA dream that year - going to every championship race, including the world championship in Maui.