The inaugural XTERRA Way Over Yonder off-road triathlon in Wawayanda State Park in Hewitt, New Jersey was the realization of a dream come true for race director, David Schwartz.
“Wawayanda State Park has always been a magical place for me,” said Schwartz, who has been riding the trails for years. “Sixteen years ago, I called this place ‘Way Over Yonder,’ and the name stuck. I really wanted a race near New York City. Since there wasn’t one, I decided to start one myself.”
Although Wawayanda State Park in Hewitt, New Jersey is located less than an hour outside of New York City, it feels more like it's in the middle of nowhere.
“It’s a technical course which you may not expect,” said Schwartz. “But New Jersey rock is truly something special.”
As a testament to that statement, the start list included some die-hard XTERRA veterans - including Daryl Weaver, Charlie Redmond, Bob Horn, Tad Norton, and 2016 XTERRA Pan Am Champ Steve Croucher – as well as first time XTERRA competitors from the local mountain bike community.
Rob Ricard was the men’s champ with a blazing fast overall time of 2:06:03.
"I came out of the water third behind Matt Alford and Steve Croucher," said Ricard. "I know these guys are good swimmers so I felt good that they were in sight as I clawed my way up the beach."
On the bike, Ricard caught Alford and Croucher but had Daryl Weaver riding right behind him.
"At every race we are in together, whenever I'm on my bike and letting up, I say to myself, 'Daryl is coming.' I must have said that 100 times on Saturday. He caught me right before T2. The guy can run, so I knew I had my hands full as we started out together."
The two ran together for the first three miles of the five mile course. "I managed to get a little gap on Daryl when we hit the narrow, rocky trail through the trees," said Ricard "Once out of the woods, that last mile was long. The run course followed the same route we'd ridden earlier and I so wished I could have my bike back."
Runner up Daryl Weaver finished in 2:10:42 and Steve Croucher followed him in 2:11:29 for third. First time XTERRA competitors and local mountain bikers Ryan Heerschap and Charles Gomes finished in the top 15. Team West Orange won the relay competition with a time of 2:30:10.
In the women's race, Maria Smit, finished in 2:58:35 after overcoming a mechanical challenge.
“The trails at Wawayanda are notoriously rocky, and I never had a chance to pre-ride the bike course,” said Smit. “So my plan for the day was simply to have fun in the woods, which turned out well in the end!”
Smit added that the lake temperature was quite comfortable due to a recent heat wave.
“I was grateful that it was a two-lap swim so I could clear out my goggles on the beach run,” she said. “I saw a few fish in the weeds below me, who apparently wanted to join in the fun too.”
The 13-mile mountain bike course was technical and rocky. “We don’t have rocks where I live on Long Island,” said Smit, “So I tried to stay relaxed and focused. I stayed clean through the technical sections but dropped my chain towards the end. It took me longer than it should have to get it back on, but I tried to just do my own thing.”
At T2, Smit was a minute behind leader Celeste St. Pierre and passed her shortly after the course joined part of the Appalachian Trail. “I was fighting a leg cramp,” said Smit. “I was lucky to stay ahead. I hope the race continues because the course was really unique and it was so well-organized. I’ll be back!”
Celeste St. Pierre held onto second place until she finished in 2:59:05, and Megal Bilodeau was third in 3:14:34.