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2021 Western States 100 Group Think Predictions

The wisdom of the masses predict the 2021 Western States 100 winners and top finishers.

By on June 24, 2021 | Comments

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 in a given year. Yes, it’s geeky, but it’s also informative as heck. For the 12th-straight Western States, I’ve tabulated and analyzed 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. U.S. 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 1,241 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 75 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, 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 (and night) to see how your picks are performing.

2021 Western States 100 Women’s Field

2021 Western States 100 Women's Groupthink Predictions

2021 Western States 100 women’s group think based on iRunFar’s prediction contest.

Interesting Women’s Field Notes

  • While I’m far too tired to confirm this, this must be the closest result for first-place votes in the overall women’s or men’s voting in the history of our Western States prediction contest with Clare Gallagher beating out Brittany Peterson by a mere two votes!
  • However, Clare also received the most votes to finish both second and third, so she had some clear separation atop the cumulative rankings.
  • A few spots behind Clare, Kaci Lickteig was cumulatively ranked fourth while being the top vote getter to finish fourth, fifth, and sixth.
  • Finishing off the stair-stepping top vote getting among the women, Nicole Bitter received the most seventh- and eighth-place votes while taking seventh in the overall ranking.
  • Both the women’s and men’s fields feel like they have more “dispersed” voting than at least in 2019. That’s to say that the spread from the band going from top left to bottom right isn’t as tight or narrow as it might otherwise be. It could be that folks simply had stronger feelings in their picks in 2019 or it could be that with significantly fewer competitive results to go on over the past 17 months, there’s simply less indication of where runners’ fitness is at the moment.
  • In clear distinction from the men’s field, there are many prominently ranked international runners in the group think with Beth Pascall (U.K.) and Ruth Croft (New Zealand) ranked third and fifth to lead five international women in the top 15 ranking.
  • Magda Boulet was the clear favorite to win the women’s masters race with 685 votes to Ragna Debats’s 364. As with the men below, there was a large gap behind them with Shannon Howell (17 votes), Jenny Fox (14), and Susan Kramer (13 votes) finishing third through fifth in the voting.
  • As far as we know, all of the women ranked in the top 22 are still racing.

2021 Western States 100 Men’s Field

2021 Western States 100 Men's Groupthink Predictions

2021 Western States 100 men’s group think based on iRunFar’s prediction contest.

Interesting Men’s Field Notes

  • There’s a pretty distinct/significant separation between each of the top five men, including between Matt Daniels in fifth and Mark Hammond in sixth.
  • As is often enough the case, the first three cumulatively ranked men each have the most votes for finishing in that respective position, with Jim Walmsley receiving the most first-place votes, Jared Hazen with the most second-place votes, and Tim Tollefson with the most third-place votes. Tim broke that trend by also receiving the most fourth-place votes, before Matt Daniels in fifth and Mark Hammond in sixth renewed that trend.
  • While ranked 10th overall, Jeff Browning received the most seventh- and eighth-place votes while also getting a decent number of fifth- and sixth-place votes. That suggests folks see little chance of Jeff finishing on the podium this year, but plenty of faith that he’ll have another strong run at States.
  • Correction: After a small retabulation (due to a cut-and-paste error), two masters runners, Jeff Browning and Max King tied for tenth in the cumulative rankings. However, in the terms of votes for top men’s masters runner, Browning received 741 votes while King only receiving 288 to finish second. Jorge Maravilla and Gordy Ainsleigh tied for third with 16 votes with Scott Wolfe in fifth with 10 votes.
  • In strong contrast to the women’s field, the first non-U.S. residents to make the rankings are Jiaju Zhao of China and Elliot Cardin of Canada in T-20th and 22nd, respectively. (Shout out to Jorge Maravilla who was tied with Zhao for 20th, who’s got dual U.S./El Salvadoran citizenship.)
  • I’d guess we had one of the highest percentages of the men in the race receiving at least one vote with 184 out of 253 men receiving a vote.
  • As far as we know, all of the men ranked in the top 22 are still racing.

[Author’s Note: As noted at the outset, this is one of those late-night passion projects. Please forgive any typos or muddled thoughts. Tabulating and 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 predictions?
  • 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!
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.