Continental Clash: XTERRA's First North American Champions

From seasoned veterans to local heroes, meet the athletes who conquered Oak Mountain and etched their names in XTERRA history.

Written by
Ari Altun
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Beneath the simmering Alabama sun, beads of sweat were poured under the canopies of Oak Mountain's lush forests, dotting the trails of the inaugural 2024 XTERRA North American Championship, marking a historic moment in off-road triathlon where age was no barrier.

The stakes were higher than ever on May 18, 2024 as athletes from across North America descended upon a world-class course, ready for battle, marking a new chapter in the 27-year legacy of XTERRA events. 

It was an all-out swim through Double Oak Lake, pushing a new era of continental competitors to master two 750-meter laps, escalating to a grueling 33K MTB gauntlet across Oak Mountain State Park’s notoriously fast and flowy trails. As the race wore on, these warriors faced a 10K trail run, threading through tight, serpentine paths offering fleeting moments of beauty amidst the demanding terrain of Rattlesnake Ridge. It was at the race village where the first-ever XTERRA North American Champions were celebrated for their resilience in a moment that connected an off-road community across state lines and international borders. 

Beyond the finish line emerges the stories of a few of these winners. Explore the grit and determination that fueled these XTERRA North American Champions to their victories.



Sullivan Middaugh, Elite Men, Vail, Colorado

Sullivan Middaugh from Vail, Colorado, returned to Oak Mountain with a legacy to uphold and a title to defend. As the son of former XTERRA World Champion Josiah Middaugh, Sullivan had already proven his mettle as the winner of the 2023 XTERRA USA Championship.

Reflecting on his performance, Sullivan remarked, “The XTERRA North American Championship went great for me! This was my first XTERRA of the 2024 season so I went in with an open mind.” Despite having limited recent training on his mountain bike, he managed to stay competitive. Middaugh noted, “Although, I had only ridden my mountain bike a couple of times before the race so it was going to be a bit of a rust buster on the bike.” After a challenging bike segment, he remained optimistic about his run, “I was very happy with my run and felt I ran strong," Eyeing improvements for future races, his enthusiasm for the community and the event shone through as he concluded, “My overall experience was amazing and the XTERRA Community is always fun to be around. The atmosphere was awesome with events happening every day leading up to the race.”



Amanda Felder, Elite Women, Sedona, Arizona

Returning to XTERRA after a hiatus, Amanda Felder approached the Full Distance race with a blend of caution and determination. Felder's history with XTERRA included notable performances such as a win at XTERRA Victoria in 2021 and second place at XTERRA Oak Mountain the same year. This race marked her third competition at Oak Mountain, giving her a seasoned edge.

Reflecting on her race, Felder commented, “I think the race went well for me overall. There are definitely some things that I could have done better, but I can't be too hard on myself since I hadn't done an XTERRA since the World Championship in September 2022.” Despite the challenges, she managed to excel, particularly enjoying the latter stages of the competition. “I felt good for the first mile of the run, but really held back at first as it was starting to get hot," she noted, adding, "I really enjoyed the fast trails on the run, and got more and more confident the further I went and was able to push a bit more toward the end.” Felder's experience and strategic approach paid off, leading to a strong finish in her XTERRA comeback.



Anthony Federico, Men 25-29, Auburn, Alabama

Anthony Federico relished the opportunity to compete at Oak Mountain, a location just an hour from his home at a site he describes as his "home-course" and a place that has seen him not only race XTERRA events but also numerous cross-country mountain bike races and on-road triathlons. This familiarity allowed him a sense of ease, making the championship race feel “stress-free.”

Reflecting on his performance and the setting, Federico shared his appreciation for the support that fueled his success: "I am excited to share the podium with North America's most amazing off-road athletes in 'Sweet Home Alabama' and I couldn't have done it without the support from all my family, friends, sponsors, and Octagon Elite Team!" 

He praised the race's layout, noting, "The 2-lap lake swim is ideal in this lake, both for swimmers and spectators." He also highlighted the uniqueness of the courses at Oak Mountain, stating, "The course is a mountain biking dream with the perfect portion of tech and flow. My favorite part of the run course as an amateur is hearing the announcer's voice echo across the lake as the top professionals cross the finish line." Federico’s connection to the land and the community, embodies the heart of an XTERRA Champion.



Amari Graber, Women 25-29, Crested Butte, Colorado

For Amari Graber, it was more than just a race; it was a homecoming. Growing up in Alabaster, Alabama, just down the road, Oak Mountain State Park holds a trove of her childhood memories, from family bike rides to birthday celebrations by the lake. This connection made her first competitive venture here particularly meaningful. "Many of my memories come from there," she said, highlighting her deep ties to the park.

The race dawned with good weather, fueling Graber's excitement, especially for the cycling segment, which she anticipated eagerly after the swim. She described the bike course as exhilarating: "The course is super twisty at points allowing you to feel like you are flying through the trees." However, her race faced an early setback during the bike leg due to a collision caused by a passing competitor, leading to a fall. Despite this, she pressed on, fueled by determination and a prayer for strength. "Although the rest of the bike was very painful, I suffered through it," she recounted. Ultimately, she excelled in the running portion, her strongest discipline, and her efforts culminated in winning her age group—a victory tinged with both joy and the frustration of not realizing her full potential due to the incident. “Regardless if that was the last race of my season or not, at least I went out doing the thing I love and will continue training while I recover. Can’t wait to see you again next year.”



Dwayne Dixon, Men 35-39, Raleigh, North Carolina

Dwayne Dixon has a rich history with the XTERRA Oak Mountain event, marking this year as his fourth time around the course. His journey to Alabama began in 2016, only his second ever off-road triathlon, where he impressively finished as the third overall outside of the elite category and first in his age group. Over the years, Dixon has consistently performed well here, securing top placements in subsequent races, including firsts and a second in his age group.

This year's North American Championship at XTERRA Oak Mountain held special significance for Dixon; it was his first race following a significant hiatus due to a full ACL reconstructive knee surgery in October 2022. "North American Champs at this year's XTERRA Oak Mountain was my first race back since the surgery," Dixon shared, revealing his modest expectations due to his recent recovery and limited training. Against the odds, he excelled: "I didn’t expect a 2nd place overall amateur placing or winning another title, but everything came together and the body felt great," he explained, though admitting the challenge increased during the latter half of the run. Pushing through the Alabama heat, Dixon has nothing but positive words of encouragement for future participants. "I would highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a fun and challenging race course!" 



Kelsey Devereaux, Women 35-39, Fortville, Indiana

Kelsey Devereaux’s return to triathlon after a seven-year hiatus was also her XTERRA debut. Her recent athletic focus has been on professional endurance mountain biking, highlighted by participating at the Cape Epic in South Africa. Seeking a shift in her routine, Devereaux decided to embrace her passion for trail running by entering XTERRA Oak Mountain. "After doing the Cape Epic last year, I needed a change up in training and I am a trail runner at heart so wanted to try XTERRA," she explained, emphasizing her transition back to triathlon.

Devereaux found the race course exhilarating yet challenging, particularly as it was her first time tackling an XTERRA event. "The race course was awesome! Trails were pristine, I loved the two loop swim, and the run was just the right amount of up and down," she remarked. Despite her self-admitted struggles with swimming, especially in open water, she relished the opportunity to integrate her mountain biking skills into the triathlon format. "Racing a mountain bike in the middle of a triathlon is a weird and amazing concept because it takes away the raw power aspect of the bike portion and it completely changes the strategy, but I loved it," Devereaux shared. Her experience at Oak Mountain rekindled her enthusiasm for off-road challenges, concluding, "I definitely have a lot to learn, but I am hooked for sure." The event wasn't just a test of Devereaux’s versatility, it reignited her passion for conquering trails. Winning the championship was just the cherry on top.



Jay McCurdy, Men 40-44, Starkville, Mississippi

Jay McCurdy from Starkville, Mississippi, approached his first time at XTERRA Oak Mountain with high expectations and left thoroughly impressed. As a newcomer to this specific event, McCurdy was struck by the impeccable condition of the trails, which had withstood significant rainfall the week before the race. "This was my first time racing XTERRA Oak Mountain. It’s hard to believe how perfect the trails were, especially given how much it rained the week prior," he commented, appreciating the efforts that went into preparing the course.

McCurdy also extended his gratitude to those who made his experience memorable and seamless. He highlighted the exceptional work of BUMP (Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers) and their leadership in maintaining some of the top trails in the Southeast United States. "Kudos to BUMP and their leadership in building and maintaining some of the best trails in the Southeast," he noted. Additionally, he expressed his thanks to the XTERRA event organizers for creating a great racing environment. Enthused by his first outing, McCurdy is already looking forward to his next race, signaling his new-found enthusiasm for the XTERRA Community: "And thanks to the XTERRA Crew for a great experience. I look forward to racing again next year."



Marni Sumbal, Women 40-44, and Karel Sumbal, Men 45-49, Greenville, South Carolina

Karel and Marni Sumbal have become familiar faces at the XTERRA Oak Mountain event, with Karel competing in the full course race three times (2021, 2023, and 2024) and Marni participating in both the Trail Half Marathon (2021) and the Full Distance triathlon (2023 and 2024). This year, Karel celebrated the North American Championship in his age group (45-49), while Marni continued her streak as the overall amateur female champion at Oak Mountain for the second consecutive year. 

Their enthusiasm for the Oak Mountain venue is evident, not just in their repeated participation but also in their detailed praise of the course's design and atmosphere. "The trails are top-notch. The perfect mix of flow, technical and fun. The one loop, primarily single track course provides an opportunity for all skill levels to utilize their strengths on the course," Marni noted. "The run is so much fun. It twists and turns throughout the trail and the volunteers are great with their excitement to pass along a cheer and a cup of water."

Marni's initial experience in the trail run in 2021 left a lasting impression, fueling her desire to dive deeper into the XTERRA Community. "I raced the trail run in 2021 and knew I wanted to come back and try the XTERRA [Full Distance] race. Even though I didn't own a mountain bike, I was so inspired and couldn't wait to learn how to mountain bike," she shared. This sentiment captures not only the challenges that athletes have to endure, but also inspires them to expand their boundaries to explore new disciplines within the world of off-road racing. 



Lucia Colbert, Women 65-69, Cordova, Tennessee

Lucia Colbert holds a special place in her heart for Oak Mountain, an event where she has participated almost annually for the last 20 years. Starting in the 45-49 age group, Colbert's journey with XTERRA has been marked by her longevity, particularly through overcoming injuries to return to the race she loves. "I absolutely love this race. I think the first time I raced I was in the 45-49 group (20 years ago). I've done it most every year since then unless I had an injury," she shared. 

Last year, after recovering from a full PCL tear, Colbert set a goal to return in better shape and improve her performance. She appreciates the technical demands of the Oak Mountain course, recognizing the skill required to navigate its challenges. "Oak Mountain has the most technical parts of any of the big races so skills are required (as Conrad Stoltz always said)," she remarked. Despite the difficulties of having a major continental championship as her first race of the year, she found the conditions this year to be favorable, "The day ended up fantastic, the rain held off and it wasn't too hot." Motivated by her love for the race and the community, Colbert is determined to continue competing. "Oak Mountain is probably my favorite race of the year. I’ll continue coming as long as I can. The numbers dwindle in the older ladies’ age groups but I plan to stick with it," she affirmed with commitment and passion for pushing the limits at one of nature’s most incredible playgrounds. 



To see the complete list of 2024 XTERRA North America Champions, visit the reigning champions page. The highlights video will also take you between the tape for a little taste of what it's like to race on the world-class trails of Oak Mountain, Alabama.






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Author Bio

Ari Altun

Ari Altun serves as the Manager of Communications and Content for XTERRA. Originally from Toronto, Canada, he brings his passion for nature, outdoor adventure, and community building to his role to help craft inspiring stories for XTERRA Culture along with comprehensive event previews and recaps.

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