2017 Western States 100 Group Think Predictions

Western States 100 logoWhile it always means staying up late on one of the busiest weeks of the entire year, as always here are YOUR Western States 100 group-think predictions in one of my favorite iRunFar articles of each and every year. Yes, it’s geeky, but it’s also informative as heck. For the ninth-straight year, we’ve tabulated and taken a look at all the votes cast in our Western States prediction contest. In the past, these ‘group think’ predictions have generally been (much) better at forecasting the race’s outcome than individual pickers. So, if you’re looking for a solid relative ranking of this year’s Western States 100 competitors, look no further.

[Editor’s Note: You can read both our women’s and men’s previews ahead of the race and follow our live race coverage starting 6 a.m. PDT on Saturday.]

How the Group Think Predictions Work
Back to the predictions. Below, we attempt to apply a hive-mentality approach to see how the men’s and women’s fields play out when the collective thoughts of over 1,100 participants are accumulated. In addition to showing how many picks the top runners received for each place, we ranked the runners by MVP-style voting (i.e., 8 points for first, 7 points for second, and so on). Both the men’s and women’s tables show all WS runners who accumulated 30 or more points. Read on to see how the masses predicted the outcome for the Big Dance this weekend as well as some iRunFar analysis of those predictions and commentary on the race.

The Just Rewards
Thanks again to all who participated in the contest! After this weekend, four lucky winners will be crowned and receive prize packs courtesy of Drymax, Altra, GU Energy, and Julbo with the grand-prize winner also getting a sweet triptych from Maggie Tides. Remember to follow us on Twitter to receive updates on the leaders throughout the day to see how your picks are performing.

2017 Western States 100 Women’s Field

2017 Western States 100 Women's Group Think

Interesting Women’s Field Notes

  • It’s no surprise when the defending champ returns as the odds on favorite and such is the case with Kaci Lickteig this year. She was the top vote getter for first place by more than a 2-1 ratio and the clear favorite in the point total.
  • Magdalena Boulet, the 2015 women’s champ, was the top vote getter for both second and third place, as well as the clear second in the point total.
  • Stephanie Violett, who won in 2014 and was third in 2015 before missing last year’s race, was ranked third, but bunched with YiOu Wang who finished 13th in last year’s race. Violett had the most votes for a fourth-place finish, while Wang had the most votes to finish fifth.
  • Only a few weeks off winning the Comrades Marathon, Camille Herron was ranked fifth and didn’t receive the most votes for any single position.
  • Aside from Lickteig, each of the rest of the returning finishers from last year’s top 10 were ranked significantly lower than their finish last year with last year’s runner up Amy Sproston being ranked sixth (and the top vote getter to finish sixth and seventh), last year’s fourth-place finisher Amanda Basham ranked 9th, last year’s fifth-place finisher Alissa St. Laurent ranked 12th, and last year’s eighth-place finisher Maggie Guterl ranked 11th. Note that St. Laurent was also ranked 12th in last year’s group think.
  • In both the women’s and men’s race, three runners making their Western States debut are ranked in the top 10. On the women’s side, that includes Herron (fifth), Andrea Huser (seventh), and Clare Gallagher (eighth). Huser is also the only foreign woman ranked in the top 10.
  • Ranked 10th overall, Meghan Laws (formerly Arbogast) had the most votes to finish eighth and the third-most votes to finish seventh. With four finishes between sixth and 10th in the past six years (along with a fourth and a 12th place), she’s a solid safety pick.
  • With Boulet, Sproston, Huser, and Laws, four masters women were ranked in the top 10. The order was a bit different in the independent voting for top masters woman with the order going: Boulet (571), Laws (277), Huser (108), Sproston (76).
  • Slightly reversing the trend of an increasing percentage of women at least getting one vote, the percentage dropped to 92% this year, the lowest such percentage since 84% received a vote (with 25% fewer total votes) in 2013. Along the same lines, the number of women receiving 10 or more points decreased for the fourth-straight year, going from 62 to 57 to 51 to 47.

2017 Western States 100 Men’s Field

2017 Western States 100 Men's Group Think

Interesting Men’s Field Notes

  • With only one previous men’s champ returning… and that being the very first in Gordy Ainsleigh, you’d think the men’s picks would be wide open. Hardly. Never has there been such a lopsided favorite in one of our group thinks than Jim Walmsley for this year’s race. The next closest would be Ellie Greenwood at roughly 7-1 (367/52) over the next place woman (Lizzy Hawker) before the 2012 race. Walmsley outpaced the next most picked winner, Jeff Browning, at an incredible 96-1 ratio (1056/11)! Further, 1091 out of 1121 (97.3%) people who voted three-men deep chose Walmsley to finish on the podium. What’s more, he received significantly more first-place votes (1056) than any one else received votes in total. (Browning had the next most votes for any of the top-eight positions with 994.) The previous men’s high for percentage of maximum number of points was Rob Krar’s 92.2% in 2015, while Walmsley hit a whopping 97.1% of the maximum point total.
  • There was a rather tight race for second, with Browning just outpacing Chris Mocko on the basis of more votes and being the top vote getter to finish third or fourth. On the other hand, more folks picked Mocko to finish second outright than anyone else.
  • Only Alex Nichols in sixth broke up the foreigners’ stretch from fourth through 10th. I don’t believe that six foreigners have previously been picked in the top 10, so, perhaps, (1) the foreign competition is increasing, (2) the domestic competition is decreasing, (3) voters are becoming more aware of international talent, or (4) some combination of these. These foreigners are: 4. Thomas Lorblanchet, 5. Ian Sharman, 7. Jonas Buud, 8. Elov Olsson, 9. Ryan Sandes, and 10. Paul Giblin.
  • Of last year’s top 10, Lorblanchet is the only man the group think predicts to finish in the same position as last year. The group think moves Browning up from third to second, Mocko up from seventh to third, and Sharman from sixth to fifth. On the other hand, it drops Giblin from fifth to 10th and Pietari from eighth to 13th. Just outside the top 10, the group think put Tòfol Castanyer in 12th, right where he finished last year.
  • Ian Sharman appears to be a favorite safety pick in the contest, with the second most votes for fifth while being the leading vote getter for sixth, seventh, and eighth position. That’s not unreasonable given his seven-straight top-10 finishes at the race. Also, I believe this is the third-straight year in which Sharman was the top vote getter for each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth positions.
  • Each of the top five ranked runners–Walmsley, Browning, Mocko, Lorblanchet, Sharman–received more total votes than any lower ranked runner and the highest vote total for each of the top eight positions was found among these five. [Added June 22 10:30 a.m. PDT]
  • Only two masters men, Browning and Buud, were ranked in the top 10. Unlike the women, the independent top men’s master ranked reflected the overall ranking with Browning (641) getting many more votes than Buud (142). Michael Wardian (97), Jesse Haynes (48), and Castanyer (34) rounded out the top five in men’s masters voting.
  • Hey California, there are three Coloradans–Nichols, Avery Collins, and Pietari– and two Bend, Oregon residents–Sharman and Ryan Kaiser–before the second Californian in the group think. Interestingly, the second and third Californians in the group think–Christopher Denucci (15th) and Jesse Haynes (16th)–actually finished ninth and 10th last year.
  • For the first time in a while, there was actually a drop in the number of men receiving at least one vote, going from 164 last year to 142 this year.
  • All the way down in 19th, David Byrne of Australia might be the highest ranked 100-mile debutant in the race!
  • Ranked sixth through eighth, Nichols, Buud, and Olson are the highest ranked Western States rookies.
  • Amongst non-running celebrities, former Major League Soccer player Nate Jaqua outpaced Charles Humphrey III of the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers 10 to six. (As a SCR fan since 2002, go Charles!)

Notes On Participation

  • At least three runners on the above tables voted, with the two men I spotted picked themselves above the group think ranking and the woman matching her group thinking ranking. Both spouses of runners on the table picked their significant other about the runners group think ranking. [Added June 22 11 a.m. PDT]
  • At least four  former Western States champs voted with Kaci and Jim ranking first. They tended to rank Olsson, Buud, Sandes, and Huser above their group think rankings. [Added June 22 11 a.m. PDT]

Call for Comments

  • So what do you think about the group-think prediction?
  • What interesting observations have you made about the data?
  • How would you change your picks based on what you know now?
  • Want to make any of your predictions public? If so, leave a comment!