The XTERRA South Central Region has some great stories about the 2016-2017 XTERRA season. Athletes from fifteen to sixty-five showed up, raced hard, and stood out.
Returning Regional Champ, Beverly Enslow, won her 16th title, which makes her the most decorated female Regional Champ in XTERRA history, while Mike Carter won his 11th title. All told, there were 12 returning Regional Champs, including Alissa Magrum, who won the women's 40-44 age group.
Enslow, who won the 60-64 age group, has been competing in races since she was 13. Her first XTERRA season was in 2000, and she admits that right away, she was hooked.
"Every competitor is a friend," said Enslow. "Racing is racing - and everything else is just a family reunion."
Although he only started competing in XTERRA in last year, Hans Ryham won his second South Central Regional Champ in the 35-39 age group, beating Texas standout, Kyle Grieser, a 12-time South Central Regional Champ. Because Grieser deferred his slot at the XTERRA World Championship last year, he and Ryham will both be heading to Maui next month.
Michael Drackert, of St. Louis, lost his race for Regional Champ to Texas rookie, Jordan Winar. But Drackert is already planning his comeback for 2018.
"I love the trails. I love the process. I love competing," said Drackert. "So for 2018, I'm very motivated to try again. I realize that I likely would have qualified for Worlds if I raced a regional championship in Alabama - a 12 hour drive - or Colorado - a 10 hour drive - so I will be including at least one in my schedule next year."
On the women's side, rookie Liesel McAllister nudged out St. Louis-based athlete, Lara Houseman.
"I'm from Northern California and now live in Texas," said McAllister. "Being on the trails reminds me of home, so I decided to give XTERRA a try this year and fell in love! I think the main reason for success is to find something you love doing."
McAllister has been working hard on improving her mountain biking skills and has competed in 100k races this past year to build up her endurance and technical skills.
Houseman - who had 331 points to McAllister's 367 - is still enthusiastic about her sport.
"I really like the experience of going out and racing against the same people," said Houseman. "I know that Kristen Wade is going to be an amazing competitor and she's going to cheer me on just as much. And Mimi Stockton is burning hard on the run, but then her hand comes up and it's just high fives. I love the triathlon community in general, but XTERRA just takes it up a notch."
In the men's 20-24 division, Reiner Guenther edged out Jacob Turbyfill, 225 to 209. The two have known each other a long time. In fact, they worked at the same grocery store when they were in high school. A few years later, they were both racing mountain bikes on the Texas A&M Cycling Team.
"We both graduated from Texas A&M this past December, so balancing a full-time job and training was a whole new challenge for us, but I believe we made the best of it," said Guenther.
He and Jacob raced together at XTERRA ATX, the first race of the South Central season. "I had a pretty decent swim, but Jacob passed me on the bike leg," explained Guenther. "I knew then and there that this season was going to be a whole lot more competitive than last year, where I did not really have anyone in my age group to compete with."
He added that competing against Jacob made him train smarter and push harder in races.
"I think this quote by Jesse Owens does a good job of summing up this season," said Guenther. "'Friendships born on the fields of athletic strife are the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friendships gather no dust.'"