Bruce, Gray Tie At XTERRA World Championships

Joe Gray, left, and Ben Bruce battle to a first-place tie. Photo: XTERRA

Unprecedented photo finish is declared a draw. 

OAHU, Hawaii — The battle for victory at Sunday’s XTERRA Trail Run World Championship came down to an incredible photo finish — and even the photo couldn’t determine a winner.

Ben Bruce, 30, of Flagstaff, Ariz., and Joseph Gray, 27, of Renton, Wash., crossed the finish line shoulder to shoulder after leapfrogging and staying within 30 seconds of each other throughout the 21K (half-marathon) race. Initially named the winner, Bruce walked away wearing the laurel wreath, but after nearly an hour of deliberation and reviewing film and photos from both race photographers and spectators, race directors deemed the race a tie, with both Bruce and Gray splitting the $3,000 first-place prize, and sharing a finishing time of 1:21:58.

PHOTOS: 2012 XTERRA World Championships

“They came around the corner so fast and I thought to myself, ‘it can’t come down to a photo finish. That doesn’t happen in a 21K race,’” race director Dave Nicholas said. “After the finish I talked to the guys and they didn’t even know who [had won] for sure. I looked at the TV cameras and talked to people on the line—there was no way of knowing for sure. So we decided the best thing for everyone was to just declare a tie.”

In the woman’s division, pre-race favorite Lucy Smith, one of Canada’s top masters runners, took home first place in 1:41:39, two minutes ahead of second-place finisher, Amber Moran, of Asheville, N.C., who finished in 1:43:41. Polina Babkina of Honolulu and Will Christian of Norfolk, Va., took third place in 1:45:34 and 1:25:54, respectively, in the women’s and men’s races.

“The biggest challenge with these races is just pacing yourself, because it’s unlike any other half marathon,” Smith said of the unforgiving hills and undulating terrain of the singletrack off-road course. “But it went great. I think I’ll bring my whole family back next year.”

Noticeably absent from this year’s race was Max King, the only winner of the men’s title at the XTERRA Trail Running World Championship since its inception in 2008. He stayed at home in Oregon as he and his wife are expecting the birth of their second child any day. Bruce, who came in second to King last year, was determined to make 2012 his XTERRA year.

“It opens the door and I think it’ll make for a lot of people go for the win,” Bruce said about King’s absence the night before the race. “My number one goal will be to win the race. Second or third doesn’t do a lot for me since I have gotten that taken care of before.”

Also noticeably absent from this year’s race was last year’s women’s champion, Morgan Arritola, who sat out due to injury.

More than 2,000 other runners took on the 21K, 10K and 5K courses through Kualoa Ranch, a 4,000-acre cattle ranch on the northeast side of Oahu. Not only the annual backdrop to the XTERRA Trail Running World Championship course, but it has also served as the set for the ABC hit TV series, “LOST” and numerous films, including “Pearl Harbor” and “Jurassic Park.”

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