The North American Open Championships will take place this weekend on the 11th Feb at the Chicago Navy Pier; it’s the second of three elite races in the HYROX calendar and promises to bring a highly competitive field of global athletes to the floor.
Athletes have the opportunity to earn a World Championship Elite race slot if they finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in this race; in an interesting dynamic, 3 of the male and 3 of the female elite athletes have already qualified for the WC through their placing in the European Championships in January.
If an athlete who has already earned a World Cup Qualification slot finishes in 1st, 2nd or 3rd, that WC qualification slot will not pass onto the next person in this race.
Qualification for the Elite 15 this season has been incredibly competitive; to qualify, athletes must have registered one of the 15 fastest times of the season. The standards to break into the Elite 15 now require a male athlete to run under 59:53 and a female athlete to run under 1:06:37.
Spots in the elite race are by invitation only. If an athlete does not accept their invitation, it passes on to the next fastest qualifying time. Invites do not extend beyond the top 30 times of the season; the minimum times for the top 30 now sit at 1:01:48 for males and 1:09:44 for females (Note - Qualification for the top 30 and invites to North American Championships cut off before the most recent race in Stuttgart).
In January, the standard of elite racing was set in Maastricht at the European Championships, where Lauren Weeks (USA) firmly entrenched her return to the top flight with a dominant performance. Meanwhile, Alexander Roncevich (AUT), one of the most consistent HYROX athletes of all time, sealed his first major title following a breakneck race with eventual third-place athlete Michael Sandbach.
Female Race Preview:
A race packed with familiar names to the HYROX fans, spectators won’t be short of drama or stories to watch three athletes stand out in the packed roster. Lauren Weeks returns to the field off the back of a dominant performance in Maastricht and will be looking to make it 2/2 in elite races this year. Looking to challenge her, the current world record holder Mikaela Norman has made the trip from Europe to push Weeks; suffering a flare-up of a lower back issues in the European race, she will be hoping to hit the floor injury free - nothing less than a flawless race will do in order to disrupt Weeks.
Megan Jacoby ran an interesting race in Maastricht, finishing third despite running an extra lap, the second time Jacoby has made a lap mistake in her short career she demonstrated a remarkable depth of effort and will to claw back the significant gap this created with the top 2 athletes and finish hot on the heels of Norman in 2nd. A real fighter and racing on home soil Jacoby is one to watch.
Linda Meier (GER), former world record holder and consistent figure in the elite circles of HYROX, will be eager to make her mark in Chicago; she was a favourite for the European Championships following strong early season performances but had to pull out in Maastricht due to illness shortly before the race started. One of the fastest runners on the paddock expect to see her push the pace early. Two fan favourites, Alandra Greenlee (USA) and Terra Jackson (USA), put in impressive times in Maastricht, having made the long commute for the race; both have the potential to challenge for podium spots.
1:02:45 *Euro Champs
1:03:12 *Euro Champs
1:04:40 *Euro Champs
1:01:12 *Euro Champs
1:03:42 *Euro Champs
Male Race Preview:
With four male athletes qualifying for this race the home crowd will be hoping for a strong performance from their native talent. This hope is built on good grounds; Dylan Scott (USA) enters this race as the top seed (at the time of the qualifying cut off), a standout athlete in elite races over the past 12 months. Renowned for his intense training methods Scott has put in precise performances in his races this season combining his fast run times with marked improvements in the weighted workouts.
Ryan Kent (USA), reigning North American champion and 2nd place in last years World Championship, has a point to prove; qualifying with a 1:01:03 significantly off his best times, he will be looking to show a return to form and battle for the title. Kent went blow for blow last year with world champion Hunter McIntyre in a memorable series of races and is a formidable competitor, on his day, capable of challenging anyone.
Colin Stiefer and Alfons Deu Ruiz finish off the American contingent and will both need to run personal bests to challenge for qualification spots.
From the European Championships race line up, all three podium finishers, Alexander Roncevic (1st), Tim Wenisch (2nd) and Michael Sandbach (3rd) have all made the trip and enter the race dialled in and eager to reaffirm their elite credentials. With their World Championship places already secured, this is a valuable opportunity to test themselves, and their race strategies relatively unburdened.
Joathan Wynn (AUS) and Florian Gast (GER) will both believe with their qualifying times under 59 minutes that they have are in contention for qualifying places.
57:26* Euro Champs
58:44 * Euro Champs
58:11 * Euro Champs