Youth Prevails in XTERRA SoCal Series
Finchamp, Timphony take top honors at Mission Gorge
Taking things one step at a time put Hannah Rae Finchamp at the top of the winner's podium for the XTERRA Mission Gorge Trail Run last week.
Finchamp, who is just 15 and a freshman at Maranatha High in Pasadena, Calif., was the first overall female for the 15-kilometer long course. She finished with a time of 1:18:08, which was 29 seconds ahead of the next female, Jessica Noyola.
"It was a great feeling," Finchamp said. "Not only because I won, but because I knew I was able to overcome such a tough course. No matter how fast you do this course, it feels good just to finish because it really challenges you mentally and physically. I definitely wasn't expecting to win. I'm just trying to stay at my own pace and prepare myself for bigger races in the future."
The event featured more than 500 runners, including several elite competitors in the long course. Finchamp now has to be considered in that class.
"You should look back at some of our races over the past three years and watch her rise in the rankings," race director Brennan Lindner said.
"It's been impressive to see her grow up, and now she's a definite threat beyond just her age group."
Making it more impressive, Finchamp enters trail runs as part of her training for triathlons. She won her age group at the XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon on Maui last October.
"XTERRA Trail Runs are a huge part of my training," she said. "It's all centered around the idea of triathlon. The best part is you know the XTERRA Trail Runs are never flat so it really is great training no matter how you finish."
Training run or not, Finchamp said her first-place medal from the Mission Gorge Trail Run will be treasured. The long course at Mission Gorge is considered difficult - even for elites - because of the numerous uphill climbs, including the renowned "1,000 Steps."
"There are a lot of hills before you even get to the stairs, so by the time you get to it, it becomes a mental challenge," Finchamp said. "At that point, it's probably faster to walk up the stairs than try to run it and blow yourself up. I did kind of a speed walk."
One of the few runners who was able to run up the stairs was JJ Timphony, who was the top overall male. The former track runner at Azusa Pacific University blazed through the course, finishing with a time of 1:01:05, which was more than four minutes faster than his nearest competition.
"This was my first (XTERRA) trail run in a couple of years, so I didn't know what to expect," said Timphony, 23. "I lost contact with the second-place guy around mile 5. I didn't know how far behind he was, so I kept pushing the pace."
By the time he reached the 1,000 Steps, Timphony was by himself in the lead, so he kept running up the stairs because he said he did not know any better.
"I've never run this course before, so when I got to the stairs and saw the arrows pointing up, I was like 'What is this?' " he said. "It kind of emerges out of nowhere and gradually gets steeper and steeper. It's almost like climbing a wall. I just kept running, and I think I probably extended the lead a little bit."
Timphony did not enter XTERRA Trail Runs in recent years because he was focusing on his collegiate career. However, he recently graduated from Azusa Pacific and said he will start entering more events in the XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series.
"It's so much fun, and I'm starting to do longer runs now, so the XTERRA races are perfect," he said. "I'm planning on doing the next three in the series and see where it goes from there."
The Mission Gorge Trail Run was the fifth of seven races in the 2010-11 season for the XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series. The next event is the Black Mountain Trail Run in northern San Diego, on April 10.
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