[Author’s Note: This is the final article in my four-part series leading up to this year’s Western States 100. The first two articles are about interesting features of this year’s event itself as well as intriguing storylines of people racing this year. The third article features my picks for the women’s top-10 finishers. This article focuses on my picks for the top-10 men.]
Well, my women’s predictions are out there, and that race is sure to be a barn burner. The men’s race this year at the Western States 100 has a decidedly different dynamic. But, it could be something to behold! And, in an interesting twist, while the women’s race features three former champions, the men’s race features just one, and that is 70-year-old Gordy Ainsleigh. Nonetheless, here are my picks for the men’s top 10 accompanied by bit of analysis.
10th place – Brian Rusiecki – Brian’s been wanting to get a spot at the big dance for awhile now and he finally has his chance. I do not think he’ll mess it up. Look for him to race smart off the gun, hang around the late teens/early twenties through Foresthill, and then move through the carnage after that to nab M10 somewhere after Auburn Lakes Trails at mile 85.
Ninth place – Avery Collins – This guy impressed me at the Georgia Death Race with his intensity and focus. He seems to have a very good head on his shoulders and since 90% of success in this race is typically between the ears, I’ve tapped Avery to have a good day. My guess is that he’ll yo-yo around for the first 70 miles before the race comes to him and he slides into ninth.
Eighth place – Ian Sharman – Sir Ian’s top-10 streak doesn’t get any easier but I think he’ll nab his eighth-straight finish in eighth place. He may need to run a bit more assertively in the early miles to maintain contact but I think he’ll do that well and then when the time comes to capitalize on his strengths on Cal Street, he’ll make his move and secure his entry into the 2018 race via a top-10 spot.
Seventh place – Ryan Kaiser – After finishing in the dubious M11 spot in 2015, Kaiser went on to an impressive fifth-place finish at the 2016 Hardrock 100. He patiently bided his time and secured a Golden Ticket to Western States at the Sean O’Brien 100k. I think he’s learned a lot since 2015 and will likely run smart and steady all day, staying within range of the top 10 throughout the day and then outlasting the field for a seventh-place finish.
Sixth place – Kyle Pietari – Pietari was a surprise top-10 finisher in 2016 but will not be this year. A steady runner with great discipline and a solid work ethic, Pietari proved that the first time can be the charm at Western States. His focus will pay off in this year’s race as his style and strengths suit the course to a ‘T.’ And, from what I’ve heard, his training has been spot on.
Fifth place – Elov Olsson – This talented Swede came over to the U.S. to nab a Golden Ticket spot at the rain-soaked Black Canyon 100k in February and has been focused on a top finish at Western States ever since. Olsson’s natural foot speed and positive attitude seem well-suited for the big stage at Squaw and I see him having a great debut, possibly running sub-16 hours.
Fourth place – Thomas Lorblanchet – Lorblanchet has proven that international runners can run well, and consistently, at Western States. Patient and focused, this Frenchman has all the tools for success at the big dance. Provided he does not get swept away in the early fast pace, I see a smooth-and-steady cruise to fourth place for this runner who seems to prefer staying below the radar.
Third place – Chris Mocko – Staying decidedly above the radar, Mocko, a former standout track star at Stanford University, turned that blazing speed into an eighth-place finish at the 2016 race. After quitting his job and devoting himself to training full time, Mocko has raced often through the winter and spring and seems ready for a breakout podium performance this year. My guess is that he will take it out hard and attempt to hold on for the ride. Should be fun to watch!
Second place – Jeff Browning – After his third place last year, Browning followed that up 20 days later with a fourth-place place, sub-26-hour finish at Hardrock. I have to imagine, going into this year’s race, anything less than a top two for Browning would be a failure. Certainly one of the most consistent 100-mile racers of the past decade, Browning will likely use his signature come-from-behind style to pick off runners from Michigan Bluff in to secure his podium spot.
First place – Jim Walmsley – There is no ultrarunner of the past decade who has generated as much pre-Western States buzz as Walmsley. After missing the crucial turn onto the Quarry Trail and losing his lead in the 2016 race, Walmsley has committed tremendous time and energy toward training and preparing for this year’s event. From my perspective, there is nobody who can beat Jim but Jim and if he remains focused and runs within himself I believe a win and a course record are well within his grasp.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Black Tooth Brewing Company in Sheridan, Wyoming. The host brewery for the Bighorn 100 Mile (yep, they have a host brewery!), Black Tooth makes a delicious, mildly hopped blonde ale called Caught Lookin’. A perfect summer session ale, this is one of those beers that grows on you. Check it out if you’re ever in Sheridan!
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
Who are your top-1o picks for the men’s Western States 100 race?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re interested, you can also make your picks in our annual Western States prediction contest with a chance to win great prizes… whether or not you pick correctly! :-) ]