It’s the second half of June, which means the Western States 100 is right around the corner. On June 29th, 400-or-so runners will head out from Squaw Valley with a bevy of top dudes leading the way. Perhaps two dozen will compete for a top-ten spot with maybe 10 having at least an outside shot at the win. This year’s race is heartily stocked with past WS100 champs and even more returnees from last year’s top ten. There are also a handful of Western States newcomers who promise to spice things up.
Perhaps the most notable absence from this year’s race is foreign-residing competition. In recent years, the likes of Kilian Jornet, Ryan Sandes, Jez Bragg, and Tsuyoshi Kaburaki have added an international flavor to the race. This year will see US-residing Brits Nick Clark and Ian Sharman competing and Gustavo Reyes making the trip north from Argentina; however, this is a far cry from, say 2011, when nine of the top-14 runners were foreign born with five of those living outside of the US at the time.
- Dylan Bowman video interview
- Nick Clark video interview
- Rob Krar video interview
- Mike Morton video interview
- Andy Jones-Wilkins video interview
- Timothy Olson video interview
- Rob Krar long-form profile
- Timothy Olson, Hal Koerner, and Mike Morton written interviews
- Nick Clark, Dave Mackey, and Ian Sharman written interviews
- Dylan Bowman, Cameron Clayton, and Karl Meltzer written interviews
Champions of the “Recent” Past
The most likely place to look for future champions is among those who have already proven they can win. Western States is no different, as its history with many multi-win champions shows.
Hal Koerner won Western States in 2007 and 2009 with no race run in 2008 due to forest fires. Since then, Koerner’s continued to run an huge number of races with some standout performances as well as plenty of ho hum (for him) runs. Still, when he focuses on a race, he’s almost always damn good. Witness, his 2012 Hardrock 100 win. I’ve not seen Koerner recently enough to know if he’s all in for States, but we can only assume he is!
Despite winning Western States by the largest margin of victory (51 minutes) since Scott Jurek’s 54-minute win over Dave Mackey in 2004, Graham Cooper’s 2006 victory will always be looked at differently given Brian Morrison hitting the track in the lead with a comfortable margin before failing to finish under his own power. Following his win, Cooper has finished in the top ten twice more with a third in 2007 and seventh in 2011. Cooper’s only ultra finish in 2013, fourth at the Quicksilver 50 Mile in 7:36 in May, suggests a top-ten finish would be a good one for him this year.
Last Year’s Top Ten
With less than two weeks until race day, it looks like seven of last year’s top-ten men will toe the line in Squaw Valley on June 29th. That would match last year’s top-ten-returnee rate. The three M10s known not to be running as of June 16th are Ryan Sandes (2nd), Zeke Tiernan (6th), and Neal Gorman (10th). Aside from Olson (discussed above), here are the returning runners from last year’s top ten.
4th – Dave Mackey (15:53:36) – Mackey improved on his eighth place in 2011 with fourth place last year. He also broke 16 hours and broke Tsuyoshi Kaburaki’s masters “unbreakable” course record of 16:07:04. Mackey’s run some strong performances this year, including second (to Sage Canaday) at the Bandera 100k in January, winning the Mount Mitchell Challenge, and fifth at Lake Sonoma. He’s also been cranking out massive amounts of training after years of being stretched thin by schooling. However, I can’t quite figure out why he started the San Diego 100 (but DNF’ed due to taking a wrong turn after mile 60) on June 8th. Dave, care to explain what were you thinking?
7th – Dylan Bowman (16:03:24) – Last year, Bowman faded his way to seventh in just over 16 hours. I could be wrong, but I think he was the top-ten runner most disappointed with his performance on the day. With another year of experience and training, Bowman should be disappointed if he’s not top five this year. He’s won both of his ultras – the Ray Miller 50 Mile and the Miwok 60k – in 2013 and ran the Grand Canyon R2R2R in 6:55 (the 3rd-fastest time ever?) in mid-May.
9th – Joe Uhan (16:13:14) – Despite having frequent contact with Uhan as he’s an iRunFar columnist, I’ll admit that his top-ten performance was still the biggest top-ten surprise in last year’s race. A year later, I see that I shouldn’t have been or be surprised by Uhan cracking top ten at States. He’s following in the footsteps of runners like Craig Thornley and Andy Jones-Wilkins in being 100%-focused on Western States preparation and performance. While others are chasing competition, prizes, and adventure in racing, by design Uhan has run but one ultra in 2013, taking seventh at Lake Sonoma. Although that’s two spots lower than he finished at Sonoma in 2012, it was also almost 19 minutes faster.
While it’s fun to think about how Western States veterans will fare in an upcoming edition of the race, talented newcomers add a whole different level of excitement to the event. This year, there are four men making their Western States debuts who could really shake up the race from start to finish. As a bonus, this group is as varied as can be, with three of the runners making their 100-mile debuts and another who has more 100-mile wins than any other runner in history.
[Update: Trent Briney has withdrawn due to illness.]
A Few Additional Contenders
- Yassine Diboun – Twelfth at last year’s WS100, Diboun ran himself into this year’s race by taking third at the Pinhoti 100 in November. Not sure what’s behind his racing three of the past four weekends, including placing fifth at the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile on June 8th.
- Topher Gaylord – His racing in the US has rarely reflected his fitness, particularly at Western States. However, in following his training on Strava, Gaylord impresses me on a regular basis. It’s time for him to finally bust one at States.
- Jeremy Humphrey – This will be Humphrey’s first highly competitive ultra since he’s broken out in the past two years. He earned his way into WS with a second place at the Pinhoti 100 last November (beating Yassine Diboun) after winning the Cascade Crest 100 last August just 4 minutes off Rod Bien’s course record.
- Andy Jones-Wilkins – AJW had his seven-year, men’s-top-ten streak broken when an injury kept him out of last year’s race. He’s trained well and knows how to race this course as well as anyone. A low-teens finish would be a triumph after his injury-riddled 2012.
- Mark Lantz – Earned M9 at the 2009 WS100, but is a teens-at-best runner in the new era of Western States. Took fifth at the American River 50 Mile this April, but 44 minutes off the win.
- Nick Pedatella – Pedatella likely lacks the raw speed needed for at top-ten finish at States and he’s running the Grand Slam this summer. That said, he’s super strong in 100s and likely to finish in the second ten. If it’s a hot day, Pedatella’s smarts could squeeze him into the top ten.
- Gustavo Reyes – A speedy Argentine runner who took eighth at El Cruce in February before a rough go at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon in May. He could be the top non-North American resident in this year’s race.
- Jacob Rydman – Although he only has one 100-mile finish (a 22-hour Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in 2011) to his credit, this local and Western States devotee should not be underestimated. Rydman was the first person to run himself into this year’s States via the 2012-13 Montrail Ultra Cup when he placed second behind Timothy Olson at last August’s Waldo 100k. Rydman ran a respectable 11th at Lake Sonoma in April.
- Paul Terranova – Without the Grand Kona Slam (Grand Slam of Ultrarunning plus Kona Ironman) on his plate this summer, Terranova can focus on States. He’s run well this year with a third at the Bandera 100k, second at the Nueces 50 mile, and wins at the Hells Hills 50 Mile and Squak Mountain 50k. He could have had his confidence shaken by his most recent race – an eighth at the Quad Rock 50 Mile last month.
Other Speedy Entrants
- Dan Barger
- Quent Bearden
- Joseph Czabaranek
- Lon Freeman
- Jesse Haynes
- Paulo Medina
- Erik Skaden
- Brandon Stapanowich
- Bruce Fordyce
- Neal Gorman – Out due to a bout with cytomegalovirus.
- Ryan Sandes – Last year’s runner up and owner of the second-fastest run in WS history is out with ankle injury.
Call for Comments
- Who do you think will win? Who will join him on the podium? Any big surprises looming?
- Who would you add to this preview?
- Got any insight into the fitness level of anyone listed above? If so, do share. Likewise, let us know if any of the above will not be racing.
- Any thoughts at the decline in foreign participation in this year’s Western States whether on the cause or the effect?