Imagine your biggest family reunion ever. Now imagine that it’s your biggest family reunion ever and you are excited to see everyone who shows up. That’s what XTERRA Fort Yargo is like. It’s a veritable Who’s Who of the XTERRA Southeast Region combined with a whole lot of love.
This year’s race was a close match-up between the young gun Kevin Jett and the indomitable Marcus Barton. Jett - who last year won his 25-29 age group at XTERRA Auburn, XTERRA Whitewater, XTERRA Gator Terra, XTERRA Fort Yargo, and XTERRA Myrtle Beach – was the day’s victor, but Barton, 48, was less than a minute behind him.
Jett had the fastest swim split of the day and exited the water over a minute ahead of Barton, who had someone swimming on top of him for the first hundred yards.
“Kevin was already in transition when I came out of the water,” said Barton. “As I left transition, they told me there were three ahead of me. I caught two riders very quickly within the first couple of miles and tried my best to close the gap on Kevin. I knew Yaro, AJ and Caleb wouldn’t be far behind me, so I was also working it to stay ahead of them. The bike went fast and as I came around the final couple of turns, someone yelled that he was just ahead of me. I saw Kevin leaving T2 as I came in and I tried my best not to waste any time so I could try and grab his heels. Throughout the run, I’d see him on the straightaways and even through some of the switchbacks. As we crossed lake at the footbridge in the final mile or so, I could see that it would be difficult to catch him, but I didn’t let up. Kevin put in a great race! It was so much fun.”
Jett was modest about his victory.
“I think I was lucky,” he said. “Some of the guys were still recovering from XTERRA Myrtle Beach last weekend and the swim was longer than expected.”
Still, some would argue that Jett had his own reasons to be tired.
“My wife and six-month old son came to the race with me,” said Jett. “We made the three and a half hour drive the morning of the race, so we were a little late. All that is to say that I did not notice Marcus before the race, but when I was leaving T2, I heard someone say ‘Go get him Marcus’ and I knew it was going to be a tough run.”
Jett’s final time was 1:33:13 with Barton just behind in 1:33:49 for the half-mile swim, 10-mile ride, and five-mile run. Yaro Middaugh was a solid third in 96.29. To get an idea of how competitive these XTERRA Southeast athletes are, the first seven came in within six minutes of each other. Jett had the fastest swim split, Dustin White, who finished fifth, had the fastest split on the bike by two minutes, and Marcus Barton had the fastest split on the run, with Caleb Baity just a fraction of a second slower.
Baity, who won XTERRA Myrtle Beach last weekend, had excellent swim and run legs at XTERRA Fort Yargo but suffered a mechanical on the bike.
“I caught a branch in my wheel which broke a spoke and bent my derailleur,” said Baity. “I had to do lots of stopping to untangle or put my chain back on the front ring after that. Once I was able to make it back I tried to put down a fast run split but I had lost so much time by then it wasn't a huge help.”
Baity had a positive attitude as always and didn’t let the day’s events get him down.
“In the end it was still an absolute blast to be out here racing against friends,” he said.
Yaro Middaugh, who finished third, admitted that the swim was tiring, but good preparation for XTERRA Oak Mountain.
“Both AJ and Marcus got out of the water just a little in front of me and Kevin was out in front by about two minutes. I trailed them the entire bike, but never actually saw them. AJ and I went out on the run together. There was actually a group of three or four of us that were together at the beginning of the run which always makes it fun. It's always a good time seeing everybody and racing in these rather tight races. We all cheer for each other and look forward to the camaraderie and competition.”
Another performance to be noted was fourth-place finisher, AJ Petrillo, who hasn’t been training much this year since welcoming a new addition to his family, like Jett.
“I was very happy with my race considering my fitness level and that I have only been training for five weeks after taking four and a half months completely off. I tried to stay on Yaro’s feet during the run, but he pulled away after a mile and a half or so. He is a strong runner and awesome guy!”
In the women’s race Margo Pitts took the win for the second straight week, with Sue Finney was less than two minutes back, and Jessica Lehman right on her heels in third. Emma Coakley, who finished fourth, had the fastest swim split of the day.
“What a weekend!” said women’s champ, Margo Pitts. “There were some fast women out there racing and there was a solid pack ahead of me when we got out of the water.”
Pitts admitted she was pretty tired from her victory last week at XTERRA Myrtle Beach.
“The first race of the season does that to me so I kept my training light until Thursday. I think that paid off because I felt strong on the run. I caught one woman on the bike and passed two women with two miles to go on the run, but I knew I couldn’t let up because Sue Finney and my Betty Squad teammate Jessica Lehman were right behind me.”
This was Pitts first time racing at XTERRA Fort Yargo, but she enjoyed the race so much that she plans to return next year. In the meantime, we can expect to see many of the excellent XTERRA Southeast athletes at XTERRA Oak Mountain on May 19th. Marcus Barton, Caleb Baity, AJ Petrillo, and Margo Pitts will be there, as well as Kevin Jett, who will be racing XTERRA Oak Mountain for the first time.
Many athletes commented on how well the race was run and on the conditions of the course. The trails were well-maintained, tacky from some recent rain, and fast.
View complete results at http://www.goneriding.com
Learn more about XTERRA Oak Mountain at https://www.xterraplanet.com