Local triathletes battle elite talent in XTERRA races at Oak Mountain State Park

Published 5:10 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

PELHAM – Some of the best triathletes from around the world descended once again on Oak Mountain State Park for the XTERRA World Cup and North American Championship, but just like in previous years, Alabama athletes got their time in the spotlight as well.

XTERRA held full distance and sprint triathlon races on Saturday, May 18, and local talent filled up the sprint leaderboard.

Pelham’s Stephen Hicks came in second place in the sprint race with a time of 1:29:29. He won the Men’s 50-54-year-old division by four minutes over Mountain Brook’s Brett Adair, who finished third overall.

Hicks was just three minutes behind the race winner, Diego Humberto Suarez Arias, a 16-year-old Monterrey, Mexico native.

Alabaster’s Elijah Wagner turned in a big performance as he finished fourth with a time of 1:38:23. Wagner was the youngest competitor in the field at 13 years old.

Three other Birmingham area athletes earned spots in the top 10, including Vestavia Hills’ William Cochran, who won the Men’s 30-34 division in seventh place, Pelham’s Brady Riley in eighth place and Birmingham’s Beau Beard, who won the Men’s 40-44 division, in 10th place.

Other area age group winners included Vestavia Hills’ David Lafton in the Men’s 35-39 division, Vestavia Hills’ Tracy McKay in the Men’s 55-59 division and Birmingham’s Dusty Davis in the men’s 60-64 division.

In the women’s division of the sprint race, 17-year-old Alabaster native Hannah Dyer finished in third with a time of 1:52.44, seven minutes off the winning time by Dahlia Fillion, a 14-year-old Saint-Hippolyte, Canada native.

Other top 10 times in the women’s division included Montgomery’s Grace Jacobson in second, Gardendale’s Madelyn Roberson in fifth, Birmingham’s Sallie Cowen in seventh and Vestavia Hills’ Lauren Jones in ninth.

The sprint triathlon was just under half the distance of a full triathlon, with competitors swimming 750 meters, biking 14 kilometers and running 4.5 kilometers across Oak Mountain State Park’s trail system.

The full distance triathlon race doubled as the third stop in the XTERRA World Cup, and multiple Alabama athletes held their own in the men’s division.

Birmingham’s Spencer Martin came in 45th place with a time of 3:04:11 and Hoover’s David Meadows finished 48th with a time of 3:05:48.

France’s Felix Forissier won the World Cup race with a time of 2:20:59, just ahead of his countryman Arthur Serrieres in second with a time of 2:21:49. Forissier retook the lead towards the beginning of the trail run segment and pulled away for the victory.

“It was a really tough race,” Forissier said. “They pushed a lot on the bike, so I just tried to make a fast transition and do the best I could. I’m pretty happy with my race,”

The women’s World Cup race saw Sandra Mairhofer of Italy win with a time of 2:43.57 over France’s Sollene Billouin and her second-place time of 2:46:31 after the two battled it out for much of the race.

However, Billouin blew a tire during the bike section to set her back, and while she fell further behind to Mairhofer from there, she managed to finish the race after plugging the hole with a foam insert meant for emergencies and short distances, not racing on Oak Mountain’s trails.

In the XTERRA North American Championship, Americans Amanda Felder and Sullivan Middaugh walked away with the wins in the women’s and men’s divisions, respectively.

The weekend concluded on Sunday with the invite-only Short Track race, offering more World Cup points for whoever could complete the course consisting of a 400-meter swim, 7.5-kilometer bike ride and 3-kilometer trail run.

Serrieres won the men’s short track with a time of 33:35, just beating out Felix Forissier, who took second with his time of 33:56.

In the women’s division, Billouin got her day in the sun after Saturday’s misfortune with a win behind a time of 38:59. Aneta Grabmuller of the Czech Republic came in second with a time of 39:17.