Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii (November 24, 2013) – Patrick Smyth found his way in the sport of trail running, and Polina Babkina found her way at Kualoa Ranch. As a result, both ran away as the new champions of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.
More than 2,000 runners from 12 countries and 36 states participated in the event on an “Aloha from Hawaii” postcard-type of day at Kualoa Ranch.
Smyth, who resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, was the overall winner, competing the 21-kilometer championship course in 1 hour, 16 minutes, 38 seconds. It was his first appearance at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in Hawaii, and it came just two months after he burst onto the trail running scene with a victory at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in his home state of Utah.
Babkina, who is originally from Russia but now resides in Honolulu, was the first overall female, with a time of 1:37:24. It was sweet redemption for Babkina, who was leading the race last year until she took a wrong turn and eventually finished third.
Smyth tops elite men’s field
Patrick Smyth stunned the field back in September when he won the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals in his first ever trail run event at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah. On Sunday – thousands of miles away from his home state and in temperatures dozens of degrees warmer – Smyth proved he is no fluke.
“I didn’t think it would come this quickly, taking back-to-back races like this,” said Smyth, 27. “I’ve run a lot of races against some of these guys, just not on terrain like this. Getting my mind and body ready for the trails was my biggest concern, so to get back-to-back wins is really nice.”
Just like in Utah, this latest victory came against a stacked field that included former world champions Joseph Gray (2012) from Washington, and Max King (2008-11) from Oregon.
Gray placed second in 1:17:26, and King was third in 1:20:53. Smyth, Gray and King broke away from the rest of the field early, and then Smyth eventually took off midway through the course.
“We were getting after it right from the get-go,” Smyth said. “And it was a battle of attrition after that. I think they were a lot more trail-versed on the downhills, where I was more conservative. Then I would try to open it up on the double-track. It was kind of a cat-and-mouse game.”
Smyth forged a lead of more than a minute late in the course, but he made it interesting when he fell while trying to go around some of the slower runners (who were getting lapped by the elite runners at that point).
“I tried to go around one guy, and went off the trail and then kind of tumbled head over heels,” said Smyth, who emerged with a scraped shoulder. “I knew I had the lead, but when something like that happens, all these thoughts go through your head, and I was just imagining Joe or Max sneaking up and catching me after that, so I got up and kept going as hard as I could to the finish.”
Gray rolled an ankle late in the course, and said his focus was on maintaining second place once he realized that Smyth got too far ahead.
“I gave him too much time, and then after I rolled my ankle, I kind of played it safe and made sure I could hold on to second,” Gray said. “I think a race like this is great for the sport. There were a lot of great runners here today, and we all went hard and fast trying to beat each other.”
For King, it was the first time that he did not win at Kualoa Ranch. He won the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship every year from 2008-11, then skipped it last year for the birth of his daughter.
“I don’t know, I didn’t feel quite like myself today and I had to let (Smyth) go,” King said. “I did what I could and came up in third. My (previously injured) ankle was fine. It wasn’t that. We were all running fast, so I would say the bar has been raised. I have to get back in shape and try again next year.”
Nathan Peters from Salt Lake City, Utah, was fourth in 1:23:44. It was also his first appearance at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.
Roberto Mandje from Boulder, Colorado, was fifth in 1:26:53 following a seventh-place showing last year.
Rounding out the top 10 were Chris Gomez (1:29:25) from Arizona, Hawaii Pacific University student Leandro Santillan (1:29:46), Matthew Battley (1:29:57) from New Zealand, HPU student Fermin Villagran (1:31:55), and Leif Kohler (1:32:24) from Honolulu.
Babkina tops elite women’s field
Polina Babkina can now look back at last year and laugh. A year ago, it wasn’t so funny when she got lost in the forests of Kualoa Ranch and had to settle for third place instead of a breakthrough victory.
It took a year, but she finally made up for it with an impressive victory over the other top females.
“This means a lot to me because of what happened last year,” said Babkina, 25. “I was very cautious this year and I kept looking for the course marks and I think it was marked better this year. I didn’t find myself confused even once this year, so it was a good race.”
Babkina took the lead midway through the course and then held off a late charge from 2012 champion Lucy Smith of Canada.
Smith placed second in 1:37:55 – just 31 seconds behind Babkina. In the past three years, the 46-year-old Smith has placed second twice (2011 and 2013) in addition to her 2012 title.
“I’m more of a second-half runner, so I was trying to make up ground in the last few miles,” Smith said. “I could see (Babkina) toward the end there and it got me going, but she got a little bit too far in front.”
Babkina came to Hawaii in 2011 to join the Hawaii Pacific University cross country team. She is now a graduate student there, and is engaged to be married this December.
“I know many ladies, all very good trail runners, come here from all over to run in this race,” Babkina said. “I feel like I am representing Hawaii now, and this race is very big in Hawaii, so I was happy to get this win.”
Meggan Franks, another of Canada’s top trail runners, placed third among the women in 1:40:24. It was her first appearance at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.
“I really enjoyed it; loved the course,” Franks said. “To get third place in my first time racing here, I can’t complain. I look at the fourth-place girl (Rose Wetzel) and I know she’s really fast, so I’m happy.”
Wetzel, a standout on the USA Track & Field circuit, placed fourth in 1:40:46. It was also her first appearance at Kualoa Ranch.
Another newcomer, Corrine Fitzgerald from New Jersey, placed fifth in 1:43:08.
Rounding out the top 10 were Jill Thompson (1:46:34) from Honolulu, Lauren Ho (1:46:47) from Kailua, Hawaii, Reegan Ellis (1:48:58) from Australia, Monica Ross (1:49:08) from Alaska, and Mary Castelanelli (1:49:55) from Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii.
|1||Patrick Smyth||01:16:38||Salt Lake City, UT|
|2||Joseph Gray||01:17:26||Lakewood, WA|
|3||Max King||01:20:53||Bend, OR|
|4||Nathan Peters||01:23:44||Salt Lake City, UT|
|5||Roberto Mandje||01:26:53||Boulder, CO|
|6||Chris Gomez||01:29:25||Flagstaff, AZ|
|7||Leandro Santillan||01:29:46||Martinez, Argentina|
|1||Polina Babkina||01:37:24||Honolulu, HI|
|2||Lucy Smith||01:37:55||Sidney, Canada|
|3||Meggan Franks||01:40:24||Athabasca, Canada|
|4||Rose Wetzel||01:40:46||Seattle, WA|
|5||Corrine Fitzgerald||01:43:08||Rockaway, NJ|
|6||Jill Thompson||01:46:34||Honolulu, HI|
|7||Lauren Ho||01:46:47||Kailua, HI|