The XTERRA Trail Run National Championship half-marathon on Sunday, September 26 at Snowbasin Resort has attracted some of the top runners in the country.
One of those runners in the women’s race is Giselle Slotbloom from the Netherlands, a former NCAA all-region cross country standout at the University of Utah.
In 2017, Slotbloom (pictured) won the 20-24 XTERRA Trail Run National Title and was second overall to only Lesley Paterson. Later that year, Slotbloom was the runner-up at XTERRA Trail Run Worlds to Dani Moreno.
Courtney Barnes, an All-American in the 3,000m steeplechase and Distance Medley Relay at the University of Kansas, is just starting to get into the trail scene but with a professional track and field background and 4:39 mile to her credit, you can expect she’ll give Slotbloom a run for her money.
“My goal is to be a contender for the win. I consider myself a competitor and love the idea of pushing to make a race hard,” said Barnes, who captured the Whisky Basin 60K trail run in April. “That was my first ultra and since then, I have just been training for some fall races, so haven't done much other than allow my body to adjust to the new trail training stimulus as I look to become more of a hybrid runner to keep developing my best self.”
Megan Flanagan (pictured), who ran for the Gophers at the University of Minnesota, finished fifth on this course in 2017 and plans to use that experience to her advantage.
“Knowing this course and my own strengths, I plan to hit the hills hard and put myself in a decent position to really kick in over the switchbacks when coming downhill to the finish line,” said Flanagan. “This was my first-ever trail race, which makes it extra special. I love the switchbacks and the feeling of turning the corner near the top, knowing it'll be a quick but spiraling descent.”
Although she has been focused more on longer distances of late, Flanagan said she has honed in on speed work leading up to the race.
“I’m ready to unleash the speed, however, I'm not focused on a particular pace or time, but more so, feeling good, pushing hard, and improving from previous years to see how I can do among the competition out there. And I'm stoked to be returning to one of my favorite courses and seeing everyone out there on Sunday,” she said.
Also look for Megan Kupres, the 2019 XTERRA Arizona Regional Age Group Champ who was the overall winner at XTERRA McDowell Mountain, San Tan, and Estrella Mountain that year and Samantha Kingsford from New Zealand – the reigning XTERRA Pan Am Tour triathlete who has three World Tour wins this year already.
In the men’s race, Samantha’s boyfriend Sam Osborne, has proven himself to be a fierce competitor and while his legs may be a bit heavy from Saturday’s USA Championship duathlon effort, you can count on Osborne to give it his all.
Local harrier Nathan Peters, who finished third in 2014, is looking to run the half in 1:22-1:23, a formidable target for the field.
“I've run this course four times, and love how it flows and that the climbs are manageable,” said Peters. “It provides great opportunities to use combinations of speed and endurance. Mostly, I love the setting and timing of the race--it's usually the first time in the year it feels like fall running. Really excited that we're racing again and to be able to participate!”
Three-time XTERRA SoCal Regional Champion Anthony Fagundes will also be looking towards the podium. He was sixth at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in 2016 and fifth in 2017.
In that lead pack, also look for two-time XTERRA SoCal Series Champion and 2019 XTERRA Beaver Creek men’s champ, Gerald Romero, who finished 13th at this race in 2018. And don’t forget about the amazing Andy Lee (pictured), a talented off-road triathlete who will be doing the double like Osborne. He finished seventh in this race against a deep field in 2018.
As always, picking the favorites for a trail race is a tough task, much like the climb up to Sardine Peak. The challenge for these runners is a course that starts at 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.
For some runners, like XTERRA SoCal Regional Champion Lou Lobangco, this race is all about embracing the beauty of nature.
“I just want to enjoy the trail as this time of the year is when the leaves turn orange and red, and I am in love with autumn and Snowbasin amplifies that,” said Labango, who is also volunteering for the weekend. “We don't have this beauty of Snowbasin in California so what I want to do is enjoy the course and take a lot of pictures. And then celebrate with my XTERRA family at the finish line.”