OAHU, Hawaii -- 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, 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 at Snowbasin Resort.
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 stunned the field back in September when he won the Xterra Trail Run Nationals in his first ever trail run event at Snowbasin. 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.
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. Nathan Peters from Salt Lake was fourth in 1:23:44. It was also his first appearance at Worlds. Roberto Mandje from Boulder, Colorado, was fifth in 1:26:53.
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.
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. Meggan Franks, another of Canada's top trail runners, placed third among the women in 1:40:24. Wetzel, a standout on the USA Track & Field circuit, placed fourth in 1:40:46. Another newcomer, Corrine Fitzgerald from New Jersey, placed fifth in 1:43:08.
* AGE-GROUP WINNERS: In addition to the overall champ, 26 runners received recognition as age-group world champions.
Leading the way were Max King of Oregon and Lee Saltonstall from Hawaii, as they won their respective age-groups for the fifth time. King captured first in the 30-34 division, while Saltonstall took first in the women's 65-69.
The youngest and oldest age-group champions each completed a significant double-Xterra victory in 2013. Korey Shively from Alabama won the male 10-14 division in his first try, and it came two months after he won his age division at the Xterra Trail Run Nationals in Utah. Jesus Romero did the same in the men's 75-79 division.
Male winners, ages 10-14--Korey Shively, Madison, Ala., 1:51:00; 15-19--Matthew Battley, Auckland, New Zealand, 1:29:57; 20-24--Nathan Peters, Salt Lake City, 1:23:44; 25-29--Patrick Smyth, Salt Lake City, 1:16:38; 30-34--(5) Max King, Bend, Ore., 1:20:53; 35-39--(2) Nick Hirschfeld, Hanmer Springs, New Zealand, 1:34:28; 40-44--Wilhelm Northrop, Boise, Idaho,
1:45:38; 45-49--(3) Keith Rieger, Surprise, Ariz., 1:35:10; 50-54--(3) Ray Brust, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1:44:36; 55-59--John Trahan, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1:51:33; 60-64--Mike Heiliger, Squamish, Canada, 2:01:26; 65-69--John Ingram, Comox, Canada, 2:17:36; 70-74--(2) Roger Kemppel, Anchorage, Ak., 2:29:06; 75-79--Jesus Romero, Snellville, Ga., 2:55:57.
Female winners, ages 15-19--Kim Kolzow, Naperville, Ill., 2:24:19; 20-24--Corinne Fitzgerald, Rockaway, N.J., 1:43:08; 25-29--(2) Polina Babkina, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1:37:24; 30-34--Meggan Franks, Athabasca, Canada, 1:40:24; 35-39--Candes Gentry, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1:51:58; 40-44--Tina-Marie Poulin, New York, N.Y., 1:52:12; 45-49--(3) Lucy Smith, Sidney, Canada, 1:37:55; 50-54--Sara Graham, Woodinville, Wash., 2:23:27; 55-59--Lisa Gonzales-Gile, Edwards, Colo., 2:25:24; 60-64, Cindi Toepel, Littleton, Colo., 2:19:12; 65-69--(5) Lee Saltonstall, Honolulu, Hawaii, 3:03:51; 70-74--Amy Galbraith, Venice, Calif., 4:10:18.