The XTERRA Trail Run National Championship half-marathon on Sunday, September 8 at Snowbasin Resort has attracted some of the best trail runners in the country.
Headlining the women’s race is none other than last year’s champ, Lesley Paterson, who won both the tri and trail run titles on consecutive days in Utah last year.
Challenging Paterson is XTERRA Beaver Creek Trail Run Champ, Ashley Brasovan. The USATF 2017 Trail Half Marathon Champ and USATF 2018 30K Trail Champ is back in fighting shape after recovering from another femoral stress fracture this winter. She recently finished the Pikes Peak Ascent Half Marathon at the end of August and showed that she has both the speed and endurance to handle both the competition and the altitude of Snowbasin.
Grayson Murphy will also be giving chase. The 2018 University of Utah grad is a five-time All American in both cross-country and track. She was a two-time Pac-12 Champ in cross-country and broke 16 minutes in both the indoor and outdoor 5K on the track. After college, she ran professionally in Flagstaff for a year and discovered her love of the off-road. Compared to other runners, Murphy had a later start than most, and began college as a soccer player.
“On the soccer field, my move was always to outrun everyone else to the ball,” she said. “But I had no idea I would be any good at the longer stuff. Now, I just try to stay within myself and not compare myself to others. I am just going to run my race on Sunday.”
With little off-road training, Murphy excelled at the Cirque Series this year, finishing second at the 6.7-mile (3000 feet of climbing) race in Brighton in June behind Morgan Arritola and second at the Ed Anacker Bridge Ridge Run 20-miler in Bozeman in August. She also ran a blistering 5:30 pace on the road at the iconic Utica Boilermaker 15K in New York State in July, proving that she has the mettle to give chase when it counts.
Jeannette Mathieu will also be a contender for the women. While she is gunning for a qualifying time for the 2020 Olympic Trials, she is happiest on the trails. Mathieu finished third at the 2017 XTERRA Trail Run Nationals while also dealing with the intensity of medical school. Now, she is a radiologist in San Francisco.
“I just got a coach this year and it’s so helpful to have someone write my workouts,” said Mathieu. “When my coach tells me, I have to run ten miles, I find a way to run ten miles.”
Most recently, Mathieu ran a half-marathon in 1:21, and she has enough experience on the dirt to take it all in Utah.
“I really love the XTERRA course in Snowbasin,” she said. “Some parts are steep and challenging but you don’t have to walk or use your hands. You can run the whole thing. I’m excited to go back there on the trails.”
Also look for Megan Kupres, the XTERRA Arizona Regional Age Group Champ who was the overall winner at XTERRA McDowell Mountain, San Tan, and Estrella Mountain.
Kat Pagano, who finished 6th last year will be in the mix as well as Lauren Zimmer who finished twelfth last year. Both are in the 30-34 age group. Arizona Regional Champ, Ruby Espinoza-Cropper, 32, who won her age group at XTERRA Black Canyon, McDowell Mountain, and White Tanks, could also be competitive.
Moving up, XTERRA Georgia Regional Champ Diana Rojas may be in the front of the 35-39 age group while XTERRA Colorado Regional Champ, Kari Taylor-Romero is likely to impress in the 40-44 age group. Look for XTERRA Georgia Regional Champ, Wendy Mader, in the 45-49 bracket, coming off wins at XTERRA Little Mulberry and Harbins Park.
In the 50-54 bracket, XTERRA Texas Regional Champ Vickie Herndon-Betts will be strong but will have to hold off Arizona Regional Champ, Angela Pietrofeso, who did well at XTERRA White Tanks and San Tan.
XTERRA Arizona Regional Champ, Angela Pietrofeso may dominate the 50-54 age group. XTERRA Alabama Regional Champ, Sharon Totten is likely to impress in the 55-59 division while XTERRA SoCal Champ, Lisa Marlowe-Carr will do well in the 60-64 division.
In the 65-59 division, last year’s 65-59 XTERRA National Champ, Deborah Wagner, is back to defend her title, while last year’s 70-74 runner-up, Jo May, is looking to claim the title as last year’s champ – Dianne Rindt – has aged up.
In the men’s race, last year’s champ Brett Hales is not on the start list, leaving the door open for talented harriers like Anthony Costales, Anthony Fagundes, and Adam Wollant.
Costales, 30, will be tough to beat. The 2018 USATF Trail Marathon Champ and top-ten finisher at the World Long Distance Mountain Championship, won the Moab Red Hot 55K and the Way Too Cool 50K, and as a Salt Lake resident, he is at home on these trails. He’s run a 2:13 marathon on the roads and a 1:05 half, so he’s got the speed as well as the climbing ability of a mountain goat.
Wollant, 25, is a former University of Montana and Montana State runner in track and cross-country. He’s only been getting stronger after college and posted a 2:18 marathon at California International Marathon last December.
XTERRA SoCal Regional sensation, Anthony Fagundes, 29, will also be looking towards the podium. He was sixth at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in 2016 and fifth in 2017. Last year, he had to sit much of the season out because of an injury, but he is looking strong and healthy for this year’s race. In May, Fagundes won XTERRA Malibu Creek by eight minutes and was third last month in the Tough Magu 25K and won the Tough Topanga in June. He’s run every distance from the 10K to 50K, and he clearly has not yet reached his potential.
In that lead pack, also look for XTERRA Colorado Regional Champ and 2019 XTERRA Beaver Creek men’s champ, Gerald Romero, who finished 13th at this race last year. Andy Lee, 47, is a talented off-road triathlete who will likely be near the front, Lee finished seventh in this race last year in a deep field. Former elite mountain biker and XTERRA triathlete, Barret Fishner, 36, will also be in the mix. The XTERRA Wild Ride Champ has been spending more and more time running.
“I love the simplicity of it,” said Barret, who is a new father to a six-month old. “I love the trails in the Pacific Northwest, and even though I’ll be racing on Sunday after getting beat up in the triathlon the day before, I’m really looking forward to seeing what I can do.”
Paul Fazio, 31, Lewis Burrowes, 28, and Travis Leyhe (who finished tenth last year), are also experienced on the trails and in the mountains.
Kevin Tuck, 63, has run the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship more than ten times, and most recently, finished 15th last year, and captured his tenth age group title.
In the 15-19 age group, look for the Kilgore brothers, Noah and Micah, as well as XTERRA Arizona Regional age group champ, Talen Pitterle, who won his age group at XTERRA Black Canyon, White Tanks, San Tan, and Estrella Mountain.
In the 20-24 and 25-29 age group, XTERRA Alabama Regional Champ Tyler James, XTERRA Arizona Champ, Jake Kelly, XTERRA Georgia Champ Stephen Havard, and XTERRA SoCal Champ, Ram Longman, will all be contenders.
Also look for XTERRA Alabama Regional Champs Scott Shrader and Neal Mulkey as well as XTERRA Arizona Champ Todd Richie and XTERRA Georgia Champ, Mark Werner.
The 70+ divisions will also be competitive with XTERRA SoCal Champs Hans Unger, 76, and John Williams, 82 will be making the trip to Utah, in addition to XTERRA Alabama Regional Champ, Jeff Morey.
As always, predicting who is going to be first in a footrace is never an exact science. The sport of trail running is all about who has the heart for the journey – and that can never be predicted.
The challenge for these runners is a course that starts at the blue-lip inducing altitude of 6400-feet in the Wasatch Mountains and includes 2,200-feet of gut-wrenching climbs. Shortly after mile five, the course takes runners up to Sardine Peak for one of the most epic vistas imaginable. But first, they must get there by braving the two and a half mile, lung-busting climb up to 7,300-feet.
Learn more at www.xterraplanet.com/trailrunnationals.