Who Will Be This Year’s Surprise Top-10er At Western States?

As we roll into Statesmas Week, I can’t help but reflect on the last few years and to try to set up a bit of context for this year’s race. Above and beyond the drama that is always so much a part of the Western States experience, one thing I have always enjoyed thinking about are the sub-plots in the race – the “races within the race,” if you will. And, from that perspective, to me nothing is more exciting than a little analysis of the top-10.

Over the past decade or so, the status of being a top-10 finisher at Western States has grown exponentially. As such, many runners have toed the line with that as their specific goal. While it is always fun to prognosticate on who will win, I happen to think it is even more fun to think about who will be the surprises in the top-10. Over the years, the surprises have been quite compelling. A quick look back:

2011Timothy Olson came into the race with a win at the Pine to Palm 100 and a pretty impressive sub-100 mile resume. However, his performance on Race Day took him to another level. From my perspective, his 6th place finish earned him Rookie of the Year, for sure, and his crew produced an awesome video to boot.

2010 – As hard as it is to believe now, in 2010 Nick Clark was a somewhat unproven runner at the 100-mile distance. After his 4th place finish in a blazing fast time, he was no longer under the radar. But, at the time, he was not necessarily on everyone’s list. Not to be outdone, local runner Rory Bosio pulled off a 4th place finish in the women’s race in her first 100 miler. She nearly repeated that in 2011 by finishing 5th!

2009 – The last year (until this year) we ran the Real Course, this year saw a tremendous duel in the front and Kevin Sullivan took the surprise honors with his 5th place finish. While he did have a 2nd place Vermont on his resume from 2008, the competition there had been quite slim. :) So, with this incredible race where, along with Jasper Halekas, Jez Bragg and Tsuyoshi Kaburagi, things were tight and dramatic all day, Sully served notice that he was a force to be reckoned with.

2007 – While she is quite experienced, Suzie Lister came out of nowhere this year to finish 7th. Patiently moving through the field all day. Suzie took advantage of her local’s knowledge to run a great race. While anyone who runs with her knows she is never exactly “under the radar,” this result certainly was the surprise of the year.

2006Graham Cooper had run a relaxed top-20 finish in 2005 and nobody expected that he could do what he did on this day. But his intense heat training and laser beam focus gave him the opportunity to seize the victory when it came his way. To this day, I think this performance represents the most significant year-to-year improvement I have ever seen on the men’s side.

2005Ronda Sundermeier blasted a 3 hour PR to finish 8th this year. While she brought tremendous experience to the race with a resume that included finishes at Wasatch and Angeles Crest, prior to WS 2005 she had not been on anyone’s top-10 list. Hard training and a disciplined race plan paid off with a great finish.

2004 – I have to think that not many people thought I could find my way into the top-10 this year. My only other WS finish had been an unspectacular 35th place in 2001 and conventional wisdom suggested I would fold under pressure. I actually almost did just that as Dave Terry, Craig Thornley, and about half of the state of Oregon were coming after me in those final miles. Fortunately, I was able to hold them off to finish 8th in the first of my top-10 finishes. (Bonus: Here’s an interview I did with Bryon on How to Run a Top 10 at Western States.)

So, that’s quite a group! On the one hand, they are all quite different. However, on the other hand, these surprise top-10’ers all have one thing in common, in their “surprise years” they were patient and they simply took what the race gave them. Rather than force the issue and attempt to over-achieve, these runners all accepted where they were in the grand scheme of things and accepted the outcome. That’s a good lesson for us all!

Who will be this year’s surprise top-10’ers?

Bottoms Up!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from town dear to at least two Western States favorites. Bozeman, Montana is home to Nikki Kimball and, until recently, Mike Wolfe and also a great little brewery. Bozone Select Amber Ale from Bozeman Brewing in Bozeman, MT is a light amber ale with a creamy head and a wonderfully light mouthfeel. It’s a great summer amber to follow a Sunday long run.

Western States Beer of the Week Nominees
We received eight excellent nominations for Western States Beer of the Week to be featured in next week’s column. Please choose one beer from the list below and vote in the comment section for your choice (all votes must be complete by 9 am MDT on June 20th). One vote per person, please. The person who nominated the beer that wins will receive a nice package of iRunFar swag.

The nominees are:

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
AJW has made my work easy this week.

  • Who do you think will be the biggest surprise in this year’s Top 10 at Western States?
  • What’s your vote for the Western States Beer of the Week?
Andy Jones-Wilkins: finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

View Comments (48)

  • Only available beers we do have here in Italy from the list is Sierra Nevada couple, I'll have to cast my vote for the Torpedo.

    Looking forward to have a go at the Auburn Alehouse production on premises on Wednesday evening...

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Uh, forgot: biggest surprise Ryan Sandes, if you can call a Leadville winner a "surprise". Otherwise David Riddle might cause some havoc if he can manage the distance.

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

    • Davide, thanks. It's hard to think of Sandes as a surprise given his track record in big races but it should be interesting, especially if the trend toward high temperatures continues.

      Cancel reply

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Keep an eye on Josh Katzman. The man knows how to boogie.

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • founder's all day.

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • I second that Adam, Josh Katzman will turn some heads next weekend.

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • David Riddle top 5!

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

    • +1

      Cancel reply

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • I'm curious about top 10 women:

    So who "demands" top 10?

    Ellie, Kami, Hawker, Kimble

    After that maybe...

    Bosio, Arbogast, Sproston (?!), Vaught? Lapierre? [Moehl been injured right?]

    So who's on the bubble / impressive debut

    Tyler Stewart, Liza Howard, Ashly Nordell?, Pam Smith (last year's 10th)

    Personally, I'm excited/curious to see if former pro triathlete Stewart and put it together and get top 10 in her debut while she's still on the learning curve.

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

    • Alex, women's top-10 is really tough to call. However, your top-4 are solid. After that, I have to think Meghan, Amy and Rory are sure to be in the hunt. I am not sure about Krissy's injury situation but I do know Tyler was battling PF earlier in the spring. Indeed, if she is recovered she'll be tough. And, keep an eye out for darkhorse Denise Bourrasa!

      Cancel reply

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - has to be..... available in Waitrose, York, UK (as well as other quality stockists). PS looking forward to this years race, as for Top-10ers - no idea!

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise!

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

    • ...and I would be remiss if I did not vote for Yuengling Traditional Lager.

      Cancel reply

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • I should be voting for my own to get that swag, but Yuengling is definitely the best beer on that list! With Iron City a surprise 9th place finish...

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Ryan Burch; Stone Ruination IPA

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • One guy I know that will slip into the top 10...Mike Dixon.

    Yeungling Lager is legit.

    Cool blog!

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Watch out for Ricky Denesik. He is 50+ but a great competitor and a top 3 finisher at Hardrock in the past. I just hope the course is technical enough for him!

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Zeke Tiernan and Dylan Bowman

    With the heat, have to go with the lighter Belgian White

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

    • Zeke and Dylan. I second that. Elk Mountain Runners!

      Cancel reply

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • I think fellow Virginian Neal Gorman has an excellent shot at top 10. The guy's been crushing all the VA 100's, has the Grand Slam record, and is rested for Western States. He's got the ability to run 16:30. If Amy Sproston is healthy, she could be under 19 hours, and top 5 for the women.

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

    • I'm with you, Mike -- I like both of your predictions. He seems the best hope for an East Coaster to break into the top 10.

      Cancel reply

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Go Yuengling!!!

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • the surprise in 2012, Killian is running under 15 h, i guess,

    Thomas

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Dylan Bowman

    SN Pale Ale

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

  • Yassine D. Heady Topper IPA.

    Cancel reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*