USA Track & Field’s 2021 MUT Runners of the Year, Joseph Gray and Grayson Murphy, highlight an all-star cast of trail runners from the US Mountain Running Team racing in Saturday’s XTERRA Trail Run World Championship half-marathon at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.
Other US team members racing in Maui include Eddie Owens (Larkspur, CA), Joseph DeMoor (Carbondale, CO), and Andy Wacker (Boulder, CO) for the men; and Rachel Tomajczyk (Lynchburg, VA), Bailey Kowalczyk (Nederland, CO), and Megan Lacy (Boise, ID) for the women.
These eight elite athletes qualified for the US team at the USATF Mountain Running Championships held this past August in conjunction with the Gnar race at Mt Hood, Oregon.
“Racing for Team USA is always an honor, and I am so happy we will get to do that this year,” said defending XTERRA Trail Run World Champion Grayson Murphy (read full article at trailrunner.com). “XTERRA World Champs is one of my favorite races ever so I can’t wait to share that with my USA teammates this year!”
Polina Hodnette, a two-time XTERRA Trail Run World Champ who finished second behind Murphy in 2019 and second behind Daniela Moreno in 2018, has traveled in from Chicago for another shot at the crown and a chance to visit Hawaii, where she called home for many years.
“Chicago is great, but I do miss Hawaii a lot,” she said. “And I’m excited about the race going to Maui, and I can't wait to experience the new course!”
After 12 years of racing at Kualoa Ranch, this will be the first year for Trail Run Worlds in Maui, so it will be a new experience for all involved.
“I’ve never raced here before and I always love exploring new trails so I’m most excited for beautiful views on the trails and great competition,” said Rachel Tomajczyk.
For Megan Lacy and Bailey Kowalczyk, the fun part is getting to wear the USMRT red, white, and blue race kits and to be part of a team.
“As someone who doesn’t represent a specific team right now in normal races, I am looking forward to getting to experience that again by racing as a team, and I look forward to spending the whole weekend with the rest of Team USA and getting to know all the other athletes better,” said Lacy.
Kowalczyk, the youngest athlete on the US team, was quick to agree.
“I am very excited to race on my first US mountain team! During a hectic time in the world, it is really great that we will be given the opportunity to race as a team in some capacity! I have dreamt of being on a US team since running track in high school and college, and it will be amazing to live out that dream. This will also be my first time to Hawaii, and my first XTERRA worlds race. From what I have seen so far, I am expecting a very fast course, and am preparing accordingly. I am very excited to finish out the season wearing red, white and blue!”
In the men’s race, Andy Wacker is no stranger to XTERRA Trail Run Worlds. He finished fourth in 2019, and third in both 2017 and 2018.
“Each of the three times I have raced the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship has been an incredible experience,” he said. “The competition, the scenery, and the people behind the race are what keep me coming back. I’ll never forget watching the sunrise over the Hawaiian Islands, or jumping into the Pacific after the race. Being part of Team USA makes this year even more special. Team championships bring out the best in runners. It makes the race more competitive, and also creates a positive atmosphere, where teammates can push each other to achieve a bigger goal. Wearing the USA jersey is always special, and has led to some of the biggest achievements of my life!”
In addition to his speedy teammates, Wacker will have to contend with three-time XTERRA U.S. Trail Run National Champion Brett Hales.
“I have respect for Andy Wacker and the rest of the US Mountain Running Team, and honestly don’t know what kind of trail shape I’m in but I can guarantee that once I toe the line, the Maui course is going to get everything I’ve got. Maybe I play spoiler, you never know,” said Hales, who finished second behind Gray at the 2018 World Championship.