Young and not-so-young victorious in XTERRA races
Success can come at any age in the XTERRA Trail Run Series.
The proof came last weekend, when 16-year-old Dylan Johnson (pictured at right) won an XTERRA race in Texas, and 50-year-old Dominic Wyzomirski won an XTERRA race in Ohio.
Johnson, who is a junior at Dripping Springs High School in Dripping Springs, Texas, was the unexpected star of the XTERRA Austin Trail Run on Aug. 21. He didn't just win his age group, he beat the entire field to claim the title of overall champion for the 18-kilometer race at Emma Long Park in Austin, Texas.
Johnson is an avid runner - he is a member of his high school's cross country team - but last week was his first experience in a long-distance trail run. At previous trail runs, he opted to enter the short course trails.
"I was pretty surprised," Johnson said. "This was my first really big race and I just went out at a comfortable pace and just kind of pushed it to my limits."
It was good enough to win by a relatively-comfortable margin. Johnson's winning time was 1 hour, 5 minutes, 49 seconds. Runner-up Matt DeMartino, who is 24, finished with a time of 1:08:06.
Johnson even had time to make up for a miscue. While he was running alone in the lead, he took a wrong turn and had to circle back to the proper course.
"I was a little worried when it happened, but then I looked back and saw I was still in front by a little bit, so I was fine after that," he said.
Mike Carter, the Texas Series director, described Johnson's victory as "incredible."
"Let's put it this way, there are a lot of elite runners in the Austin running community," Carter explained. "So for anybody to come out and win a race in their first try would be an accomplishment. For a kid that young to do it is an incredible accomplishment."
What's more, Carter said Johnson is as successful away from the trails as he is on it.
"He's just a super kid - polite, great attitude, and a super athlete," Carter said. "I wish I could adopt him, but his dad already told me no way."
Because of his success at the Austin Trail Run, Johnson is now hoping to run at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Bend, Ore., on Sept. 18.
"If I don't have anything for school, I'd love to go to Bend," he said.
On the same day as Johnson's breakthrough victory, Wyzomirski was proving in Ohio that the not-so-young runners can be fast, too. He won the XTERRA Oak Hill Trail Run, beating several elite runners half his age.
He completed the 8-kilometer course at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in 31 minutes, 53 seconds, to beat a couple of 20-somethings. Steve Savage, 29, placed second in 32:35, and Brian Bernard, 24, was third in 32:37.
"I love beating the young guys, I have to admit it," Wyzomirski said with a laugh.
But a humble Wyzomirski also noted that the course may have helped with his victory.
"This trail wasn't very technical, so I was able to keep a pretty quick pace," he said. "There was a pack of about five at the front, and we hit this big, long hill and I went for it there. I was able to pass them all and hung on the rest of the way."
Wyzomirski, who will turn 51 in September, owns a landscaping business in Pittsburgh. He made a two-hour drive across the state line to run in the Ohio race.
"There aren't many trail races in Pittsburgh, so I try to do the (XTERRA Ohio Series) as much as possible," he said.
It should be noted that several veteran runners fared well at the Oak Hill Trail Run. The top 15 overall finishers featured five in the 40 to 49 age group, and four from the 50-59 age group.
What's more, 48-year-old Joan Cottrill was the first female finisher at the Oak Hill race.
"I don't know why that is, but it's great to see," Ohio Series director Joe Jurczyk said. "There are just a lot of really good older runners in the area and they showed it."
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