From Alaska to Austria, Klaire Rhodes is unstoppable.
The 24-year-old from Anchorage was named to the USATF team roster for the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships, hosted next month in Innsbruck, Austria.
Rhodes first put herself in the mix at the FOURmidable 50K in Auburn, California, going toe-to-toe with some of the top trail runners in the U.S. The race served as a qualifying race for the world championships, where Rhodes placed third — one spot outside of automatically qualifying.
Currently, a graduate student residing in Reno, Nev., Rhodes came back in her next race with a vengeance, leaving nothing up to chance at the Lake Sonoma Half Marathon. She led wire-to-wire, winning by over eight and a half minutes. However, while the victory reconfirmed Rhodes’ talent, the race was not a world championship qualifier.
In her final race to qualify for the world team, Rhodes gave her all.
The South High grad went toe-to-toe, once again, with some of the best at the Breakneck Point Marathon. Over hills and challenging terrain, she finished heartbreakingly close to an automatic qualifier in third — a mere 64 seconds behind the runner-up finisher.
But the elite athlete still had hope.
With a pair of bronze medals to her name, Rhodes’ results had caught the attention of the selection team, who added her to the roster for the 40K short trail running team.
“I shot my shot twice this spring at qualifying races and came up short by a small margin at both, which really broke my heart at the time,” said Rhodes. “But I knew I was up against the best and there was a chance that the selection committee would see something in me.”
Rhodes’ story is unique in the fact that she did not compete in cross country or track and field at South High, or as a collegiate undergraduate, proving there is more than one trail towards success. The hard work has paid off, with wins and strong finishes in nearly every race she’s entered.
In terms of making her first world team, Rhodes is overjoyed.
“I would say this is a dream come true,” Rhodes said. “But it’s not even a dream that I knew I could even shoot for until this year.”
Aiming high has been embodied by Alaskan trail runners in recent months, and it was further exemplified at The Canyons Endurance Runs in Auburn, Calif., with a quintet all placing in the top 20.
The 49th state was well-represented, with athletes competing in the 50K and 25K races, which included over 5,600 and 2,800 feet of elevation gain, respectively.
The 50K featured a fast-rolling course with steep climbs and iconic single-track, joining the Forest Divide Loop and winding around the North Fork American River. The 25K followed part of the Western States Trail, with a long descent and steep climb, eventually connecting to downtown Auburn.
Despite scorching conditions, Alaskan-born-and-raised marathoner and triathlete Corbyn Jahn found success in the longer race, registering a top 10 finish in 4:09:07. Having just moved back to Alaska from Arizona, the Oregon Tech alumus made the most of the race, finishing 10th out of 286 men.
Finishing a little over three minutes behind Jahn was Anchorage’s Cody Priest. The seasoned endurance athlete and UAF alumnus conquered the 31-mile course in 4:12:52 to finish 12th.
Both Priest and Jahn qualified for the OCC, a 50K race in France that is part of the UTMB World Series, and plan to participate on August 31.
Utah’s Hayden Hawks won the The Canyons 50K in 3:32:11.
On the women’s side, Anchorage’s Kianna Wika placed 20th out of 171 women in her first 50K race, finishing in 5:42:55. Wika, who is known for her iconic race-day apparel, has become a rising trail talent after formerly competing for South High and Gonzaga.
Arizona’s Heather Jackson won the race in 4:08:36.
In the 25K, Anchorage’s Ryan Beckett led the way in ninth place out of 210 men. The veteran trail and ultrarunner completed the course in 1:45:30.
Fellow Anchorage compatriot Conor Deal finished 15th in 1:49:21. The former hockey player has demonstrated his prowess on the trails, competing with the best and representing Alaska in a multitude of ways.
California’s Drew Macomber won the race in 1:32:36.