Last HYROX season introduced us to new, dynamic superstars and showed us true greatness. Records were smashed, barriers were broken, and we as fans now have to reimagine what is possible from the female side of the sport.
We have to now ask ourselves if this season can top last season as the majority of the elite field is returning for what should be an incredible battle for the top of the podium.
The 2023 season culminated with a highly anticipated clash of titans between the 2021 HYROX World Champion Lauren Weeks and newcomer and HYROX World Record Holder Meg Jacoby.
The two Americans engaged in battle, and Weeks outdueled Jacoby by just 24 seconds to claim her second HYROX World Championship.
Both athletes return this season, along with HYROX North American Champion and European Championships Runner-up Mikaela Norman. She was unable to attend the HYROX World Championships due to a medical condition.
Your top athletes to watch include these three women, but there is a lot of depth in this stacked field worldwide, which we all must pay attention to as the 2023-2024 season begins to ramp up.
Lauren Weeks (Utah)
There were many questions surrounding Weeks heading into the 2023 season. The main question was how she would bounce back from the birth of her first child. She emphatically answered those questions with the best HYROX season of all time, using her signature aggressive racing style to be crowned the 2023 HROX European Champion and World Champion.
The main question this year is how much better Weeks can get. She is the most seasoned athlete of any podium contender and will have a giant bullseye on her back at every race.
Weeks is a tremendous champion who has proven her ability to overcome challenges and deliver in high-pressure races. So, will she continue to lead the pack? Or will a talented group of less experienced athletes be able to close the gap?
Meg Jacoby (New York)
Meg Jacoby debuted at HYROX in New York City with a 66:33 finish, which included a three-minute penalty. Just one race later, she dropped a 61:56 to break the previous world record. Jacoby would later be the first woman to break the 60-minute barrier with an astounding time of 58:50 in Anaheim and would cap her rookie season with a second-place finish at the HYROX World Championships.
She has been training for HYROX for only a year, so her ability to perform is just being tapped. She has all the tools—gaining experience will make her a threat to win any race she starts.
When Meg Jacoby steps onto the course, it is a must-see event. There will be fireworks one way or another. Her toughness and fitness make her a crowd favorite, and she is poised to eclipse the best rookie campaign of all time.
Mikaela Norman (Sweden)
The second-best rookie campaign belongs to Mikaela Norman. The former CrossFit Games (CrossFit Nordic) athlete broke the world record in her first-ever attempt at the event.
She would finish second at the HYROX European Championships and was crowned the HYROX North American Champion after a masterclass in strategic racing in Chicago.
Her season was unfortunately cut short due to medical issues. Still, we have seen several high-level performances from her in the past few months, including a 60:35 HYRDOX in Dubai and two sub-35-minute efforts at DEKAFIT. Norman has the ability and the work ethic to make a serious run at the 2024 title.
Vivian Tafuto (Pennsylvania)
Tafuto is a high riser. The current DEKAMILE Record Holder (18:48), fourth place finisher at the 2022 DEKAFIT World Championships, and fourth place finisher at the HYROX World Championships is poised to have a monster season.
The former all-American Division I swimmer is a high riser due to her work ethic, and she is predicted to continue her rapid ascension to the top. Tafuto is newer to dryland racing and has shown the ability to improve on machines and stations in addition to being one of the best in the world inside the run course.
Her running continues to advance as well, and she is on the short list of athletes who can break into the three-headed monster at the top of the HYROX field.
If you did not buy some stock, now would be the time.
Belle MacFarlane (Texas)
Belle MacFarlane burst onto the scene last spring in Dallas, where she showed little fear and battled Camilla Massa to the very end of the event, defeating 2022 HYROX Champion Kris Rugloski. The former heptathlete showed prowess for muscular endurance with an impressive (and unorthodox) sled push and walking lunges.
Her fearless nature as a racer served her well at the HYROX World Championships. She asserted herself into the top pack early and finished on the podium (third place) in her third race.
Her third-place finish secures her a spot in all major championships this season, which gives her the luxury of preparing for any major event she chooses.
Camilla Massa (Italy)
Massa finished just outside of the Elite 15 field in 2023. However, she went to Manchester and dropped a 65:45 to finish as the top athlete across all age groups.
This mother of three is dedicated to finding her best self as an athlete and is just getting started on her athletic journey. Her commitment to fitness is on a new level, and the results show.
Look no further if you are looking for a dark horse pick for a podium finisher. Her upside and strength are tremendous, and we could see her ascend to the elite of the elite.
Carly Wopat (California)
The professional beach volleyball player is pushing her chips into the hybrid racing scene for 2024, and the expectations are high.
Wopat has shown an aptitude for hybrid competitions with impressive performances in GoRuck games (first), Alpha Warrior (second), and Grit Games (second). She also has the DEKASTRONG world record and is the first female to break 12 minutes.
The big question for Woput is how much she can improve her running with a minimal background in aerobic sports. She has a monster engine across many modalities, but running is the one area where she is behind the field.
Her work ethic is second to none, so we should see a drastic improvement in her running ability. But will it be enough to break into a competitive Elite 15 field this season?
Others To Watch
Alina Willnow (Germany)
Willnow burst onto the scene last year and has seen significant improvement since, culminating in a ninth-place finish at HYROX Worlds last season. We should see her in many of the HYROX Major Championships this year as she continues to gain experience as a HYROX athlete.
Viola Oberlander (Germany)
Oberlander is one of the best European hybrid racers, and she is versatile across many domains, as we have seen her excel at OCR and DEKAFIT along with HYROX. She’ll need to double down further to keep up with the fierce competition.
Kris Rugloski (Colorado)
The 2022 HYROX Champion is becoming one of the world's most decorated OCR and ultra athletes. Rugloski has shown the ability to do it all in the past two years, but the change in this season's qualifications may pose a challenge. The season format will force Rugloski to be ready earlier in the winter/spring than she has been accustomed to in the previous two seasons, but the one thing we have learned over the years is to never doubt her.
Terra Jackson (North Carolina)
The 2022 DEKAFIT and DEKASTRONG Champ has shown that she can perform very well when she puts her mind and effort toward an event. She has yet to see the same success on the HYROX course as in the DEKA arena. Still, her high-end ability is as good as anyone in the field, and she is a sleeper to finish in the top five this season.
Maria Fecik (Canada)
The current top Canadian racer has made a point to travel internationally and invest in herself by working with some of the top coaches in the world to help her improve. Finishing second behind Massa with a time of 66:06 in the overall age group last year, she is poised to make a big jump into the HYROX Elite 15 by year-end.
Zara Piergianni (United Kingdom)
Piergianni is another fringe contender who was locked into an epic battle of the 30-34 y/o HYROX Age Group World Championship. She finished behind Massa and Feck in 66:12, which puts her at the edge of the Elite 15 major qualification line. We should see her in a few big races this season, and she is a name to remember.
CrossFitters Take Over?
Athletes like Mikaela Norman, Ricky Gerard, Katlyn Van Zyl, Brandon Luckett, and others are dipping their toes in the HYROX water as the sport continues to gain exposure. It's safe to assume that more very fit, functional fitness athletes will be eying down hybrid fitness racing this season. We might not know these athletes yet, but chances are there will be new HYROX contenders with a CrossFit background.
The Future of HYROX
HYROX has demands unlike anything else in the world, and to compete at the highest end, you need to have next-level commitment.
Could this be the year where we don't see any first-time competitors break out, or is the sport still ascending?
I am excited to find out in what should be the most thrilling season yet.
About the Author
Rich Ryan is an elite Hybrid Racing athlete, coach, content creator, and co-founder of RMR Training. He is also the host of two popular podcasts, RMR Training Podcast and Race Brain Podcast.