2019 Western States 100 Group Think Predictions

Western States 100 logoWhile it always means staying up late on one of the busiest weeks of my 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 11th-straight year, I’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 5 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 more than 1,350 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 100 runners who accumulated 50 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 winners will be crowned and receive prize packs courtesy of Drymax, Hoka One One, Buff, Julbo, AltraGU, and Squirrel’s Nut Butter with the grand-prize winner also getting a sweet print 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.

2019 Western States 100 Women’s Field

2019 Western States 100 Women's Group Think

Interesting Women’s Field Notes

  • Courtney Dauwalter was the overwhelming women’s favorite as a Western States rookie in last year’s group think, and as the defending champ this year she’s an even stronger favorite.
  • Behind Dauwalter there’s a cluster of last year’s second- (Kaytlyn Gerbin) and third- (Lucy Bartholomew) place women along with 2016 champion Kaci Lickteig. The fact that these women are ranked so highly is no surprise; however, it may be a small surprise to have Lucy ranked above the other two given that Kaytlyn bested her last year and that Kaci won just three years ago.
  • Amanda Basham is ranked fifth, one spot below her two fourth-place finishes at the race in 2016 and 2018. Ranked just a hair behind Basham is Clare Gallagher who was running in third at mile 89 in 2017 before dropping due to injury.
  • While the top two ranked women–Dauwalter and Bartholomew–also received the most votes for their respective positions and only that position, Lickteig didn’t receive the most votes for any single position. Fourth-ranked Gerbin received the most votes for both third and fourth place, fifth-ranked Basham received the most votes to finish fifth and sixth, and a bit further back tenth-ranked Aliza Lapierre received the most votes to finish seventh and eighth. With more Western States top-ten finishes than any other women in the field, the voters must see her as a solid pick in the back half of the top ten. Lapierre also outranked two women’s returnees–Cecilia Flori and Camelia Mayfield–who beat her last year.
  • After Clare, YiOu Wang had few votes up front, but lots in the middle and later part of the placings to rank seventh on the strength of votes from more than half of the voters. She’s the final woman to have a vote from a majority of voters.
  • In eighth and ninth, you’ve got the current UTMB women’s champ in Francesca Canepa and multiple world record holder Camille Herron. That recent success must be tempered in voters’ minds by the questions surrounding each runner, likely pure speed for Canepa and, then, recent injury and technical prowess for Herron. That said, Herron is tied for the fourth most first-place votes at 22 and Canepa is the highest ranked woman making her Western States debut.
  • Without diving into the next ten in detail, there’s fairly a fairly good relationship between ranking and total votes with the UK’s Beth Pascall being a lone outlier in that her ranking outweighs her vote total, perhaps due to unfamiliarity amongst some voters. If you’re one of unfamiliar, Beth was fourth at last year’s UTMB and 11th at last year’s Trail World Championships.
  • Last year, Meghan Laws dominated the voting for top masters (40+) woman. This year, Canepa dominated the masters voting even more with 821 votes. Rachel Bucklin had 69 votes, while Amy Clark had 37.
  • 84 of the 89 women listed in the contest received at least one vote. This is notable in two regards. First, because those 89 women are up from 78 women last year. Second, because last year each and every of the 78 women got at least one vote.
  • As far as we know all of the women ranked in the top 24 are still racing.

2019 Western States 100 Men’s Field

2019 Western States 100 Men's Group Think

Interesting Men’s Field Notes

  • Over the past week, it’s been a neck-and-neck race to see whether Courtney or Jim Walmsley would be more dominant in the top ranking of their gender, but a last minute surge gives that position to Jim at least in terms of first place votes and gap to second highest first-place voter. Ah, but the astute reader will see that Courtney received more points and more total votes… so it seems like a few more people think Jim’s likely to win it, but Courtney’s got a better chance of some sort of top placing.
  • Interestingly, Jared Hazen out ranked 2017 champ Ryan Sandes while also receiving receiving the most votes to finish second and third. Sandes pulled out that third-place ranking despite having fewer total votes than anyone else in the top six.
  • In fourth and as the top fourth-place vote getter, Mark Hammond was on only two thirds of ballots despite finishing third each of the past two years.
  • Both Jeff Browning (fifth) and Ian Sharman (sixth) received more votes than either Sandes or Hammond, suggesting both are seen as relatively safe picks for a top finish. Browning has the slight edge here as well as being the top vote getter to finish fifth and sixth, while Sharman was the top vote getter to finish seventh and eighth… by solid margins in most cases. (Sharman wasn’t all that far behind Browning 204-183 for sixth place votes.)
  • Two Western States debutants–Tom Evans and Matt Daniels–ranked seventh and eighth with Daniels receiving more first place votes than anyone other than Walmsley or Hazen. There was a big drop in total votes from Browning and Sharman to Evans and Daniels, but much smaller jump in total points. Why? Both Evans and Daniels had significantly more first-through-third votes than either Browning or Sharman. Ninth-ranked Chris Mocko was the opposite of Evans and Daniels, receiving more total votes, but fewer votes to finish on the podium.
  • From last year’s top-ten returnees, orders are reversed from last year’s finishing order with Browning (fifth) outranking Sharman (fourth) as well as Kris Brown (tenth) outranking Paul Giblin (ninth).
  • Jeff Browning was even more dominant that Canepa in terms of masters voting, taking home 1088 votes. Paul Giblin was next in line with 51 vote. Then came Dave Mackey (28) and Yassine Diboun (25).
  • Roughly in line with last year (169 of the 291), 168 of 280 listed men received votes.

[Author’s Note: As noted at the outset, this is one of those late-night passion projects. Please forgive any typos or muddled thoughts. Turning this around on the night I close the prediction contest is a worthwhile challenge. I hope to reread the article and add more thoughts tomorrow.]

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!

There are 10 comments

  1. Sam Spinrad

    Interesting stats. My predictions are closer than usual to the group-think ones.
    Something that interests me about the group-think: wondering how much the men’s/ women’s irunfar previews affect the predictions (and how much is prior knowledge/ outside research). If YiOh sounds impressive in the blurb, how many picked her, based on that alone?

    1. Bryon Powell

      It’s hard to know “how much,” but the previews certainly influence the predictions.

      Still, there’s a good bit of independent decision making. Just a quick glance back at Paul Giblin and Kris Brown in the preview… lists Paul in his higher finishing order from last year, doesn’t particularly play up Kris or play down Paul, and the group think ranks Kris above Paul. :-)

  2. [Unknown]

    Similar to the NBA award ballots, we need to out Eric Senseman for voting 1st place for Eric Senseman!

    [Editor’s Note: Impersonating others is not permitted on iRunFar. As such, we’ve removed the commenters false name.]

  3. Daniel Bearman

    I’d be curious to see how the unknown factor plays into predictions and outcomes over the years. I bet on example of it this year is largely unknown Tyler Green who was just ahead of Mocko at Bandera but is ranked far lower with a fraction of the votes. Obviously one race does not a runner make but it’s interesting

  4. Jay D

    I love Jeff Browning, but I’m wondering if his more conservative style is going to work this year. Sounds like the snow is not going to be much of an issue and the temperatures should be (relatively) cool. Figure that Browning’s approach takes advantage of guys who go out too hard and end up blowing up, but if conditions are good… maybe there won’t be as many of those implosions as in most years? Still think he’s good for top-ten, but maybe more at the back end rather than in the top 5.

    It’s basically impossible not to adore Lucy Bartholomew, but she’s admitted she’s not in quite as good a shape as she was last year. I’d expect her to run a smarter race this year but wondering if that will be enough given the other women who are going to be fighting for the podium. Think it’s Courtney’s race to lose, and she doesn’t usually do the kinds of stupid things that might make her lose (especially now that she’s not racing every single month).

  5. Michael Owen

    Kyle Pietari has finished in the top 10 three straight years (8th, 10th, 6th) and but the group think for those years has put him 23rd, 13th, 14th. Now this year the group think has him at 11th. I wouldn’t bet against him finishing in the top 10 for the fourth straight year.

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