Sewanee is full of extraordinary people with fascinating stories. Here they share those stories–in their own words.

Will Stacey, C’25

In December 2021, I competed in the XTERRA World Championship in Hawaii for the third time. XTERRA is a type of triathlon in which the bike and run portions are on the trail instead of on the road. Sewanee’s Perimeter Trail offers a great way to train for this kind of off-road racing—the 20-mile length is perfect, it has some steep uphills, and it’s a great technical bike course.

When we’re training or developing race strategy, my mountain bike coach is constantly reminding me, “The name of the game is to stay focused, stay positive, and keep moving forward.” Easy to remember. Harder to do.

The course on Maui becomes really challenging when it rains and it’s choked with mud. I did the race in 2018, which was a particularly bad mud year. Several times during the race, the mud was so thick that my bike frame would goop up and my wheels wouldn’t turn. I'd be like, dang it, I've got to get off my bike, I’ve got to get this mud out, I'm going slow, people are passing me. I let the conditions get the best of me. I lost focus and got mad, and the results weren’t great.

Last December, it rained again. The course was slick and the mud was deep. About five miles into the bike portion, at the start of a pretty technical climb, I caught sight of a group of riders struggling around a corner in some deep mud and slick roots. As I got closer, I could see that one of the racers was a guy who had beat me in the U.S. Championship. I sensed that he was getting frustrated with the conditions and was frustrated that he was jammed up with the other riders. Right then, I knew I had to make a choice.

So, I unclipped, popped out of the saddle, wheels still rolling, and ran past all three of them carrying my bike. They looked at me like what the heck is that guy doing? In that seven- or eight-second stretch I passed three guys and was able to break away. I never saw any of them again for the rest of the race. This time, I remembered: Stay focused, stay positive, and keep moving forward. I finished second in my age group at the World Championships.

I just want to give all the glory to God and a huge thank you to my parents and coach for making it possible for me to train and compete in XTERRA.

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