Moreno, Gray Claim XTERRA Trail World Champs

via XTERRA –

Joe Gray wins XTERRA Trail Run Worlds for the fourth year while Moreno defends her title.

Joe Gray and Dani Moreno defended their titles when they each won the 11th annual XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch this morning.

Gray, from Colorado Springs, finished the muddy course in 1:23:08, about two minutes in front of 2018 XTERRA Trail Run National Champ, Brett Hales, who ran 1:25:22. Hales lives in Billings, Montana. Andy Wacker, from Boulder, Colorado was third in 1:27:54.

This is the fourth XTERRA Trail Run World title for Gray, who is now tied with Max King, who won the race from 2008-2011. Gray won the race in 2012, 2016, 2017, and now in 2018.

In the women’s race, Santa Barbara, California’s Dani Moreno won with a time of 1:41:09, holding off two-time XTERRA Trail Run World Champ Polina Carlson from Kaneohe, HI, who finished in 1:42:49. Taylor Ward, from Ogden, Utah was third in 1:44:03.

Photo Gallery


The men’s race took off with Joe Gray, Brett Hales, and Andy Wacker quickly establishing the lead pack, which included Abu Kebede Diriba.

“It was a great race,” said Gray. “Brett and I traded the lead a couple of times until we hit the mud in the back of the valley.” 

Gray, who excels in muddy conditions made his move at about mile five. Even though he didn’t look back, Gray said that he didn’t let up for a minute. 

“I’ve been on world teams with Brett and Andy, so I definitely couldn’t dog it or lag the pace because I knew they would come back and make it an honest race,” said Gray. “So, I had to keep pressing. The course was definitely muddy. I bit it a lot. I’ve never fallen on this course as much as I did this year.” 

When Gray crossed the line and the crown of flowers and wreath of ti leaves was placed on him, Gray’s singlet and shoes were brown with Hawaiian soil. 

Photo – XTERRA

“Joe and I ran toe to toe with one another for the first few miles,” said runner-up Brett Hales. “The separation happened between miles four to five on the backside of the valley where it got sloppy. It was fun to mix it up with Joe but he’s strong in the mud.” 

Hales’ performance validated the opinion that he is of the most promising trail runners in the country. Previously, his wins at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship came after he jumped into the race on a whim. Even though he has been planning on running in XTERRA Worlds, he has had a year full of change including a move, a new job, and a new baby on the way. 

“My training has been good but running didn’t take as much precedence this year,” said Hales. “I’ve been going out and training because I’m scared not to. The way I decide what races to do is whether or not they sound interesting. And if it sounds interesting, I want to make sure I’m in shape enough to drop everything and go do it.”

Next year, Hales wants to return to the U.S. Mountain Running Team as well as qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. 

“Brett and Joe and I were close in the beginning but that was only for about two miles,” said Wacker, who was third. “Joe and Brett are just so strong. They pulled just far enough away, and this course is so windy that I barely saw them again.” 

Wacker also emphasized just how tough this course is. He was in third place until about mile seven, when he was passed on a steep climb by Diriba. This was a bit of déjà vu for Wacker, who was passed at a similar spot in last year’s race by Sage Canaday. 

“There is always a place in a race where you get tested and for me, it was miles seven through ten, when I was passed,” said Wacker. “It’s mentally challenging to be in fourth because I always want to podium. I knew I had to be really patient.”

Wacker decided to use the muddy and slippery downhill descent at mile ten to claim his podium spot and he put in a surge past Diriba. 

“I felt lucky to know this course and my own strengths,” said Wacker. “Each year you get a little better and know yourself a little more.”


1Joe Gray1:23:08Colorado Springs, CO$2,000
2Brett Hales1:25:22Billings, MT$1,000
3Andy Wacker1:27:54Boulder, CO$750
4Abu Kebede Diriba1:32:34New York, NY$500
5Douglas Gouvea da Silva1:34:27Taubate, Brazil$300
6Seiji Nishizawa1:34:52Kyoto-shi, Japan$250
7Joseilton Santos1:38:00Macae, Brazil$200

Dani Moreno


In the women’s race, Taylor Ward took an early lead, but the pack of talented elite women remained close throughout the race. 

“I’m stoked I got to defend my championship,” said Moreno (pictured), who was the eventual champion. “It was definitely the hardest race I’ve run this year with a truly great field of women. I was excited to race with them because they all bring something different to the table.”

Through the first mile, it was Ward, Polina Carlson, Louise Mercer, Sam Lewis, and Lauren Wallace who remained tight. One of Moreno’s strengths is her technical ability on the trails, and her strategy was to be patient until she hit the more gnarly sections of the course. 

“A lot of people say they run scared,” said Moreno. “But for me, I have to run with confidence. I told myself that when I took the lead, I had to do so with purpose because everyone knew what they were doing out here. I took deep breaths and tried to keep myself calm and relaxed.” 

One thing that gave Moreno comfort was her strong training this year on the uphills.

“I don’t think I was ever unsure,” said Moreno. “But once I had the lead, I was looking over my shoulder the entire time because I know these women have great leg speed. The last couple of miles, I looked back and saw Polina and thought, oh my gosh, I really have to get going.” 

Carlson, who won this race in 2013 and 2016 also praised her fellow competitors, including Taylor Ward, who ran with Carlson for about half of the race. 

“I know how good Taylor is,” said Carlson. “She is an amazing marathoner. She has a lot of speed, and she’s strong and consistent. We were together for about six miles until I felt like my heart rate and legs were good enough to go. But it was amazing to be out here with the level of competition in the race this year.”

Third-place Taylor Ward was the surprise of the day. The second American female finisher at the Chicago Marathon in October, Ward PR’d there with a time of 2:32. She hasn’t been training on the trails and wasn’t even planning on coming to Hawaii to run until a few days ago. Her husband, Kurt Ward, was fourth at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in Utah in September. 

“I decided to come less than a week ago,” said Ward. “This was my first race back after Chicago and I decided to do it for fun and to get the legs moving again. I haven’t done a lot of trail runs previously, but I’m definitely coming back again. I thought it was so much fun.”


1Daniella Moreno1:41:07Santa Barbara, CA$2,000
2Polina Carlson1:42:49Kaneohe, HI$1,000
3Taylor Ward1:44:03Ogden, UT$750
4Louise Mercer1:45:05Salt Lake City, UT$500
5Sam Lewis1:45:47Moscow, ID$300
6Ashley Brasovan1:51:49Westminster, CO$250
7Susie Stephen1:51:51Kaneohe, HI$200


In other racing action 27 runners representing five countries and seven U.S. states also captured XTERRA Trail Run World titles. Of note, Ray Brust from Honolulu and Ash Dustow of Lanai each won their fifth title, Joe Gray and Polina Carlson won their fourth, a trio of locals – Nova Stickley, Candes Gentry and Sergio Florian, won their third, while Joseilton Santos, Thomas Miller, Dani Moreno, and Jo May each won their second.

Here’s a look at all of today’s winners…


10-14Nicholas PuglieseHonolulu, HI1:49:47
15-19Noah BuePearl City, HI2:20:21
20-24Miles WedekingKailua, HI1:57:51
25-29Abu Kebede DiribaNew York, NY1:32:33
30-34*Joseph Gray (4)Colorado Springs, CO1:23:08
35-39Sergio Florian (3)Kaaawa, HI1:45:01
40-44Joseilton Santos (2)Macae, Brazil1:38:00
45-49Gerald RomeroColorado Springs, CO1:45:23
50-54Edwin JohnsonSandy, UT1:58:51
55-59Ray Brust (5)Honolulu, HI1:53:22
60-64Ash Dustow (5)Lanai City, HI1:59:59
65-69Randolph WhiteMoorea, Tahiti2:11:00
70-74Ellis Andrews (4)Oliver, Canada2:58:03
75-79Thomas Miller (2)Park City, UT3:52:16
10-14Nova Stickley (3)Kaneohe, HI3:06:26
15-19Eowyn DalbecPeyton, CO2:13:12
20-24Louise MercerSalt Lake City, UT1:45:05
25-29*Daniella Moreno (2)Santa Barbara, CA1:41:07
30-34Polina Carlson (4)Kaneohe, HI1:42:49
35-39Cindy AndersonKailua, HI1:49:47
40-44Candes Gentry (3)Honolulu, HI2:05:59
45-49Pina DeianaDorgali, Italy2:02:25
50-54Laura BushnellMenlo Park, CA2:23:25
55-59Deanna MicrosSan Francisco, CA2:22:14
60-64Anna HettingerPrinceville, HI3:01:38
65-69Bonnie HallinanDanvers, MA3:58:41
70-74Jo May (2)Houston, TX4:05:17
(#) Denotes number of World Titles  
*Overall Champs  

Complete 21K Results

XTERRA Kualoa 10K/5K Recap

Christopher Cordova and Maiya Fujiwara, both of Kaneohe, Hawaii, captured the titles in the 10K Trail Run. Cordova finished the race in 38:28, which is a sub-seven-minute pace. He was followed in by Andrew McHowell, who was second with a time of 40:46 and Parker Mooney, who was third in 43:34. 

Fujiwara won with a time of 46:45, which is about an 8:30 pace. Caroline Guerin was second in 46:49 while Laura Darrow was third in 49:49. 

In the 5K, Mid-Pacific Institute’s Parker Wagnild and Corinne Fitzgerald of New York City claimed the titles. Fitzgerald wasn’t just the second female – she was also the second overall finisher. 

Wagnild, who is a junior at MidPac, is a standout cross-country runner. 

“We don’t have hills like this in cross country,” he said after the race. “I really had to dig deep out there. This was the toughest 5K I’ve ever run.” 

Wagnild won the race in 20:55. Mark Newton was the third male in 22:24 and Irie Gray was third in 23:52. 

Fitzgerald’s time was 22:05. Gene Yoon was second for the women in 25:40 and Sasha Iizuka-Sheely was third in 26:27. 

Fitzgerald was in town from Manhattan to visit her brother, which she does every year. Five years ago, she ran the 21K. “I loved the race at Kualoa Ranch so much that I wanted to do it again,” said Fitzgerald. “But I’m coming off a little injury, so I decided to run the 5K this year instead. It’s such a great place for a race.” 

5K/10K Results


Jimmy Archer

Founder and Editor at DirtTRI.com. Jimmy has been a professional athlete for over 18 years as a runner, cyclist, mountain biker, cross country skier, and primarily, triathlete. Jimmy has a degree in exercise science from the University of Colorado and is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach. Jimmy became a freelance writer in 2000 while competing and covering the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championship. Since that time Jimmy has been head editor at two magazines, been published in numerous publications within the endurance sport, recreation, and travel segments. Currently Jimmy is competing professionally in off-road multisport. In his spare time Jimmy passionately follows Formula 1, Moto GP, and is an avid cook.

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