Deanna McCurdy (Littleton, Colo.) and Nate Youngs (Boring, Ore.) captured the XTERRA Cameron Park / USAT Off-Road National Championship amateur titles on a hot and stormy day in Waco, Texas on Saturday, June 9, 2018.
According to the athletes, this event exemplified what it means to race on the dirt. From roots and rocks to stifling humidity to quad busting stairs (run twice), XTERRA Cameron Park provided the ultimate off-road test.
It was a big win for Youngs, who was the 2016 XTERRA Pan Am Champ in the 35-39 age group. And this is the second USAT Off-Road Nationals overall amateur women's title in a row for McCurdy, who won last year when it was held in Little Rock, AR. She also captured the amateur title at XTERRA Oak Mountain last month.
Of note, the overall winner of XTERRA Cameron Park was Hans Ryham, who finished less than a minute behind Andy Lee at XTERRA Oak Mountain (Lee was the amateur champ in that race). Since May, Ryham turned pro and was the only elite athlete competing at XTERRA Cameron Park.
Youngs finished the 1800 meter swim, 32-kilometer mountain bike, and 10 kilometer run in 2:59:17. XTERRA Oak Mountain amateur champ, Andy Lee was second in 2:59:40, and 13-time XTERRA Regional Champ, Kyle Grieser was third in 3:01:36. This close race was not a surprise given the high caliber of athletes from over 33 states, who showed up to race in Waco on Saturday. Youngs was out of the water with the leaders, Grieser had the fastest time on the bike, and XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run champ Lee bested all on the run.
“The competition was good,” Youngs said. “I knew that there were some guys down here that were winning everything, and they were in my age group. So I knew they were coming, I just didn’t know where they were at, so I had to just keep pressing on.”
In the women’s race, McCurdy crossed the line in 3:28:44 with Kirsten Dehart behind her in 3:49:15. Melanie Etherton was right behind in 3:50:09. Dehart beat McCurdy out of the water, but McCurdy made up for lost time on the bike and run with the fastest splits of the day. Dehart and Etherton played a bit of cat and mouse on the bike and the run, with Etherton leading on the bike and Dehard passing her with a mile to go on the run.
McCurdy was quick to praise her fellow competitors, especially Dehart and Etherton.
“How awesome is it that at XTERRA Oak Mountain, the top three overall women were between 40 and 50 and this weekend at XTERRA Cameron Park, the top three again were in the 40-44 age group?” said McCurdy. “I love being surrounded by powerful, strong women.”
The consensus of all male and female racers was that XTERRA Cameron Park was one of the toughest XTERRA races out there. One XTERRA adventurist was overheard saying, “That wasn’t just hard, that was Maui hard,” referring to the grueling XTERRA World Championship course that tests and rewards athletes who have both the physical stamina and technical skills as well as the heart for the challenge.
For XTERRA athletes, what’s hard is also what makes it great.
Women’s 30-34 age group champ Jenny Burden said, “The race was so hard and so fantastic. There is so much up and down, and in the heat, that was super challenging. The stairway called ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ made of 88 stairs is no joke. After the race, I told race director Joel Grimmett that he was a monster for designing the course the way he did and he told me, ‘It’s XTERRA. It’s supposed to be hard,’ and of course, I agree with him. I’m so happy to have conquered it.”
Men’s 30-34 champ, Michael Drackert said, “Every piece of that course was relentless. For starters, the weather has been hot in Waco with water temperature at about 80 degrees. Right from the gun, even swimming got dehydration going. The trails were full of tight twists, turns, punchy climbs, and rocky downhills. Eventually, you drop down onto the River Trail, which is a flat, fast, and straight shot back towards transition. This seemed like a brief moment to catch my breath, take on some hydration/nutrition, maybe enjoy some scenery. But right away you're detoured off and straight onto a tough climb and descent.”
By the time most athletes headed out of T2 and into the run, the weather was near 90 degrees. The run course featured two loops that included the infamous Jacob’s stairs, which are about 88 knee-high concrete steps.
“I can’t even describe these stairs,” continued Drackert. “Let’s just say I was trying not to fall backward while going up.”
“The second lap of the run course, I was literally using my arms and crawling up those stairs on all fours,” said McCurdy. “It was such a beautiful, brutal, and hot day in Texas.”
Afterward, McCurdy enjoyed some time with her family at Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco where she tried some local Dr. Pepper infused chili and one of Magnolia Market’s famous cupcakes. Like many athletes who travel from far and wide to race XTERRA, exploring the local culture is part of the magic of the sport.
Many athletes raved about the finisher medals, the tee-shirt quality, and most of all, the organization of the race and well-marked course.
"The Waco trails can be a bit confusing, but everything was extremely well-marked and supported," said Melanie Etherton. "The frequent aid stations on the run were also very much appreciated!"
2017 XTERRA South Central Regional Champ, Jordan Winar also embraced the challenges that were on offer. His spirit, heart, and grit was representative of all athletes who showed up to XTERRA Cameron Park and gave it their all.
“Personally, it was humbling,” he admitted. “The course crushed me and I’m glad it did because it will only make me get better and feed the fire to find ways to get faster and stronger. While I am happy with my progress over the last 13 months, the race opened my eyes to the amount of talent in XTERRA athletes across the US. I heard a quote recently that went like this: If you want to truly find out who you are, surround yourself with the best people in the world and you will either get better or quit. After the race, I was challenged internally to take a step back and find a way to get better. This race had to happen in order for me to move forward.”
The top 18 finishers in each age group, rolling down to 25th after applying the age-up rule, qualified to represent Team USA at the 2019 ITU Age Group Cross Triathlon (Off-Road) World Championships. The top 20 off-road triathletes per age group in the USA Triathlon off-road triathlon annual rankings as of Dec. 31, 2018, will also qualify for the World Championships.
The ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships will be held as part of the ITU Multisport World Championships Festival, set for April 27-May 4 in Pontevedra, Spain. Team USA is comprised of the top age-group athletes who qualify to represent their country at the ITU World Championships. Visit usatriathlon.org/teamusa for more on Team USA.
2018 USA Triathlon Off-Road National Championships
1500m swim, 32k mountain bike, 10k trail run
Overall Female: Deanna McCurdy (Littleton, Colo.), 3:28:44
Overall Male: Nate Youngs (Boring, Ore.), 2:59:17
F17-19: Sophie Allen (Lake Worth, Fla.), 4:39:11
M17-19: Jared Clark (Bellaire, Texas), 3:30:17
F20-24: Juhi Shah (Richardson, Texas), 4:38:33
M25-29: Nick Cicio (Irwin, Pa.), 3:19:59
F30-34: Jenny Burden (Leander, Texas), 4:55:55
M30-34: Michael Drackert (Kansas City, Mo.), 3:13:19
F35-39: Jess White (Boulder, Colo.), 3:54:36
M35-39: Nate Youngs (Boring, Ore.), 2:59:17
F40-44: Deanna McCurdy (Littleton, Colo.), 3:28:44
M40-44: Chris Harnish (Richmond, Va.), 3:13:24
F45-49: Jeanne Hoffman (Austin, Texas), 4:23:36
M45-49: Andy Lee (Lakeway, Texas), 2:59:40
F50-54: Alyssa Lutz (Nichols Hills, Okla.), 4:05:25
M50-54: Chuck Olinger (Lewisville, Texas), 3:15:29
F55-59: Blanche Teyssier (Medfield, Mass.), 4:25:44
M55-59: Mike Carter (Austin, Texas), 3:29:00
F60-64: Lucia Colbert (Cordova, Tenn.), 4:21:40
M60-64: Cliff Millemann (Davis, Calif.), 3:29:48
M65-69: Charlie Redmond (Buck Hill Falls, Pa.), 5:10:48
M70-74: Laurie Goddard (Los Alamos, N.M.), 4:22:30
M75-79: Ronald Scranton (Tijeras, N.M.)
Photos courtesy David McCurdy