Trail running is one of the few sports where the top women can compete with elite men, and often beat them—a phenomenon affectionately known among runners as “getting chicked.” Likewise, it's also one of the few sports that typically favors seasoned competitors, with many ultra trail runners not peaking until their mid 30s or even early 40s.
Which makes 12-year-old Katylynn Welsch’s victory at the XTERRA 21K Trail Run in Waco, Texas, on August 18, doubly impressive. Welsch, a Houston-area seventh grader, won the women’s field to become the youngest ever champion of an XTERRA trail half-marathon, placing 11th overall with a time of 1:39:31. Two minutes back was 42-year-old Claudia Spooner, an Ironman triathlete known for running away from the other females at XTERRA races across Texas ("I think she was sick that day," offers Katylynn). In third place after Spooner came Katylynn’s kid sister, Heather—the Serena to Katylynn's Venus—who’s all of 10.