It’s here, we’ve finally made it into the top three of this years TROY awards! The athletes in third position had standout performances in highly anticipated matchups. From flying up and over short mountainous terrain in course record time to having one of the the most exciting second place finishes in the ultra world – they kept us on the edge of our seats. They made us even bigger fans. If you missed yesterday’s fourth place annoucement you can find that here.
Sophia Laukli was one of our rookie’s of the year in 2022. An athlete absolutely teaming with potential, and boy did her 2023 season deliver. A timely reminder, not only does Sophia rock our trail world on the Golden Trail World Series, she’s also an Olympian and world cup standout in crosscountry skiing – who just won her first world cup in the final stage of the Tour de Ski. While we know her heart will likely remain in the ski world through the 2026 Olympics, we can’t wait to see the 23 year old take on more running challenges. Truly what can’t she do?
In 2022, Sophia got her first taste of the Gold Trail World Series, but it was an after thought to her skiing. 2023 brought the recent University of Utah grad to Europe fulltime as she established a training homebase in Oslo, Norway as a member of Team Aker Dæhlie. Sophia picked up right where she left off running an impressive Mont-Blanc Marathon, winning and setting a course record, 12 minutes clear of her nearest competitor. From there an epic battle between Sophia and Judith Wyder played out for much of the season, and we there popcorn in hand. Between there and the GTWS Finale Sophia would go on to finish second at the Dolomyths Run before winning Sierre-Zinal and the Pike Peak Ascent. While she would ultimately finish third during the GTWS Finale event in Golfo dell’Isola she still had enough points to come out on top as the series winner. While Sophia’s November through March is claimed by the ski world, we can’t wait to see what she’ll run come spring of 2024.
After years of being sidelined by injury, 2022 seemed to show us a glimmer of the Zach Miller we know and love. We whispered, “he’s back” as he finished his year with a 5th at UTMB. If 2022 was a whisper, 2023 was an enthusiastic yell. While we could dedicate this entire piece to the bus Zach lives out of, or the way he shows up to trailheads and just starts making donuts (in said bus) for whoever is around – but instead we’ll save that story for another day because we’ve got racing to celebrate!
Zach kicked off his season early, by skipping over to the Southern Hemisphere to run at the Tarawera Ultramarathon 100-mile race. While Zach is probably more regularly lauded for his mountain running prowess, his win and course record run in New Zealand was a strong reminder that he’s got leg speed as he covered the course in 14 hours and 41 minutes. After his early season performance Zach joined Team USA in Austria as a member of the long trail team at the World Mountain Trail Running Championships. In one of our favorite, North American centric, performances of the year Zach along with Drew Holmen and Eric LiPuma pushed themsevles to a near three-way tie for 5th clinching the silver medal for Team USA. Speaking of moments of the year, Zach’s final race on the calendar might have brough about our favorite moment of the season. Yes, we are talking about the infamous point at Jim as he came across the UTMB finish line in second. In Zach’s words, “It was an honor to battle it out with you this year. I’m proud of you and your tenacity, your dedication to the cause, your commitment to putting in the work and figuring it out, your willingness to learn and grow, and your courage to fail and keep coming back.” Thank you for letting us bear witness to your grit and determination.
2023 with Sophia and Zach meant getting to see a new star rise and an old star return – a trend we want a whole lot more of. Both of these athletes left a lasting impression on us this year and we can’t wait to continue to celebrate with them again this season. We know they will both be keeping us on the edge of our seats.
Trail Runner of The Year 2023 is brought to you with support from our friends over at Ketone IQ