The Chase is On!
With three weeks remaining in the regular season the battles for regional championships are heating up across the country. Every race counts this year, and there are just 10 races remaining in the XTERRA America Tour, including the season finale for every region across the country.
For those trying to win their regional championship and get the qualifying spot to XTERRA Worlds in Maui that goes with it, its crunch time.
“I’ve traveled more than 13,000 miles this season in pursuit of that slot for Worlds,” said XTERRA rookie Jordan Winar (pictured with his family and their home made signs), who traveled to 10 races and racked-up a tour-high 612 points in the South Central’s 30-34 division so far. “My wife and three kids really want to go to Maui.”
Michael Drackert and his wife really want to go to Maui too. Problem is, he’s in the same region and age group as Winar.
“At the beginning of the season we decided that I could likely win the region with six or seven races...eight in emergency,” said Drackert. “So, I got out a map, looked at the entire XTERRA race schedule, and picked the closest races to Kansas City. There's not many. But I went for it and had a great season.”
It was an incredible season. Drackert won his division six times in seven races and collected 517 points. He also won the head-to-head against Winar three times. If this was last year under the old rules Drackert would have had the title locked up, but with the every-race-counts rules change this year he’s on the outside looking in. The cruel irony is last year Drackert narrowly missed winning the regional title in the 30-34 age group to 12-time winner Kyle Grieser.
Is he bitter?
“No. Winar played by the rules and good for him for making the sacrifices to go for it,” said Drackert. “One evening while I was complaining to my wife about the situation she asked me, ‘Are you still having fun?’ I didn't even have to think about it...Yes! I don't train, race, and sacrifice for medals or trophies or results that nobody will really remember. I compete because the process makes me a better person. I love the trails. I love the process. I love competing. And that's what really matters.”
This weekend Drackert and his wife are loading up the campervan to drive up to Canada for ITU Cross Tri Worlds on August 23, and “taking the long way to get there,” said Drackert. “Turning it into a 2-week vacation filled with hiking, riding, and camping in the national parks of the Canadian Rockies.”
Is his chase for the title over?
“I’ve been keeping an eye on the competition between those two all season,” said 2016 Mr. XTERRA award winner Marcus Barton, who himself is sitting pretty with 550 points in the 45-49 SE Region. “Those two have been battling it out back and forth, and this is a CLASSIC case of how someone who might not be the fastest can win his region and get a Worlds slot. I've been chatting it up with Jordan. It's his first year at XTERRA and he can't seem to get enough. His desire to get to Worlds is very strong and he's done a ton of races trying to keep the points lead and Worlds slot in sight.”
Barton, the master tactician, broke down some potential scenarios for Winar, who remarkably was on a mountain bike for the first time in February this year, and did his first triathlon ever at XTERRA ATX in April.
“I told him a 4th at Waco on Saturday would put him at 668. If Michael did two more races and got 75 each, he'd be at 667,” explained Barton. “Wouldn’t that be a helluva finish!”
Time will tell, and the tales don’t stop there . . .
A QUICK PEAK AT OTHER REGIONAL CHASES
The American Tour consists of 50 races in 30 states, which are divided into eight regions. Every race counts, and the athlete with the most points from each region, in each age group, wins the regional championship. To be eligible to win a regional title you must race in at least one event in your region and two races total in the series.
Regional champions are awarded a qualifying spot into the 2017 XTERRA World Championships to be held October 29 in Maui, and they will also be recognized at the XTERRA USA / Pan America Championship race in Ogden, Utah in mid-September.
With the number of talented XTERRA athletes, there are some extremely close battles.
The XTERRA South Central Region has quite a few close regional title chases. In the 15-19 age group, Jared Clark and Evan Marietta are only three points apart. In the 20-24 division, Reiner Gunther and Jacob Turbyfill have 225 and 209 points, respectively. In the 40-44 age group, Joe Tegerdine’s 203 points put him just ahead of Josh Walker’s 192, and in the 45-49 age group, Jeremy Cogswell is just three points ahead of Scott Burris’ 195 points. The women in the region are fighting tough as well. Alissa Magrum is just ahead of Marcy Morris with 246 points to Marcy’s 217 in the 40-44 age group, and in the 35-39 age group, Lara Houseman is just ahead of Liesel McAllister, 264 to 217, and Heidi Fischer and Anna Culina are tied in the 45-49 division.
In the Atlantic Region, Kate Lucus and Jennifer Elder Brady are tied for first in the 45-59 age group with 142 points each. Sian Turner and Michelle Parker are tied at 150 points for the 35-39 age group title in the West.
In the Mountain Region, high-altitude fans Michael Kloosterman and Louis Cicchino are battling for the title in the 30-34 age group. They are just a point apart, at 243 vs. 242. In the 40-44 bracket, Mitch Sturdivant’s 276 points place him just ahead of Matt Lamm’s, who has 247 points. In the 45-49 division, Eric Snowberg is just three points behind Brian Krombein’s 291 points.
Back to the Atlantic Region, the race is tight in the 30-34 division between Charleen Secor and Meegan Kelly, whose 107 points are very close to Secor’s 118. For the 25-29 men, David Uber’s 184 points are just holding off Nicolas Cicio, with 142.
In the West, top amateur at XTERRA Oak Mountain, Humberto Rivera, is 25 points behind Alfredo Valdez in the 25-29 age group. In the 35-39 age group, Ryan Terry is less than 20 points ahead of Eric Johnson, and in the 45-49 men, Eric Reed is 23 points ahead of Tyler Ford.
In the Southeast, Dewight Winchester, Caleb Baity, and Marcus Barton are clear leaders in their age groups. But Mark Chubb and Dave Gill in the 35-39 age group are only one-point apart.
Marika King is less than 15 points ahead of Megan Mohr in the SE 25-29 division and Pan Am Champ Margo Pitts (pictured) is 32 points ahead of May-li Cuypers in the 50-54 division.
The Midwest men are also competitive. 25-29ers Dalton Guggemos is 11 points ahead of John Loucks’ 131 points, Phillip Towne is 14 points ahead of Doug Eubanks’s 103 points in the 30-34 age group, and in the 45-59 age group, Brad Scholtz is 30 points ahead of Jim Bartholomew’s 317 points. Jaret Johnson is only 10 points behind Bill Berghoff in the 50-54 group.
The Midwest women are a bit more spread out, but in the 35-39 category, Amanda Frost is only 40 points ahead of Kristen Wade.
The next few weeks will be crucial to all of these tight races, so expect to see some surprises and some extra fire on the course.
Find points standings here, and click the orange filter button to find the regional chase you'd like to see.
Here’s a look at the last 10 races of the XTERRA America Tour regular season…
8/12/2017 - XTERRA Cameron Park (Waco, TX)
8/12/2017 - XTERRA Portland (Portland, OR)
8/13/2017 - XTERRA Syracuse (Fayetteville, NY)
8/19/2017 - XTERRA Rockport (Rugged Alpena, MI)
8/19/2017 - XTERRA Auburn (Auburn, AL)
8/19/2017 - XTERRA Aspen Valley (Carbondale, CO)
8/19/2017 - XTERRA TRI the Torture (Santa Fe, NM)
8/19/2017 - XTERRA Lake Tahoe (Incline Village, NV)
8/20/2017 - XTERRA Wild Ride (McCall, ID)
8/26/2017 - XTERRA Iron Creek (Spearfish, SD)