Morgan Arritola and Liz Stephen showed the running world what being a cross country skier is all about on Sunday by claiming the top two spots at the Xterra Trail Run National Championship at Snowbasin Resort, Utah. Arritola won the women’s overall division by almost two minutes, finishing the 21 k course in 1:29:09. Stephen, in her third appearance at the race, clocked in at 1:30:54, nearly two more minutes ahead of former US Mountain Running Team member Rachael Cuellar.
“It was a really hard course that really challenged everyone,” said Arritola, who also won the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships this past June in Bend, OR. The Snowbasin race started at the site of the alpine races at the 2002 Olympics and went up. With over 2,000 feet of climbing at an altitude of around 7,000 feet, ‘challenging’ is an understatement.
Arritola’s time put her in an impressive ninth place overall. Max King, who was crowned World Mountain Running champion earlier this month, won the men’s race in 1:17:59.
Also competing on Sunday was Evelyn Dong, who finished seventh in the women’s field in 1:36:12. University of Utah standout Zoe Roy won the women’s 10 k in 46:22.
In addition to climbing, the course featured quite a bit of technical, single-track downhills. “There’s a lot to be learned on how to run technical downhills,” said Stephen. “It was really taxing on your muscles, but it was super fun.”
This year was the first time Xterra touted the race as a national championship. Stephen said she didn’t realize there was prize money to be won—$1000 for first, $600 for second—until the night before the race.
“It felt very different this year,” said Stephen, who has twice won the race in previous years. “There were a lot more participants; they really made a big deal out of it.”
In the past, the trail run took a backseat to the more publicized off road triathlon usually held on the same day, but with higher stakes involved for the footrace this year, the triathlon was moved to the day before. Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong drew a crowd for the triathlon on Saturday, and finished fifth. A few triathletes jumped in both races—Lesley Paterson was second in the triathlon and fourth in the trail run the next day.
Arritola said she didn’t know what to expect going in, having never run the course before and knowing there were impressive runners toeing the line.
“I didn’t have an immediate race strategy, as you never know how other people will run, or [what] their strengths and weaknesses are,” she said. But she quickly found that she had the advantage on the uphills. “I realized that the steep hills were where I could make a gap, but I paid for it a the end of the race. The last few miles killed me.”
In addition to the cash prize, the overall winner of the men’s and women’s trail races each won a plane ticket to Hawaii and a chance to compete in the Xterra World Trail Run Championships in Oahu on December 4.
The former U.S. Ski Team member has been training with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) over the summer, and will be travelling and racing with them this winter. If she decides to go to Hawaii on December 4, she will miss the Bozeman SuperTour the same weekend. Arritola can use her ticket at any time, and said she isn’t sure at this point if she’ll use it to go to Worlds.
Results from the 21 k are here.
Results from the 10 k are here.