Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Merry Statesmas! My WS100 Picks and a Pre-Squaw GUR Top 50 Update


I'm recycling the title of this post from last year.  Let's get into it!

I've been way behind on the Gunksrunner Ultra Rankings this year, mostly due to finishing my exercise physiology coursework, but I finally got caught up in the past two weeks, and have a pre-States GUR Top 50 at the end of this post.  As such, though, I haven't been quite as immersed in results as in previous years, so my picks for this weekend's Big Dance are likely to be even less reliable than usual.  But you get what you pay for.  Which is nothing.  So here goes.

Ladies
Six of last year's top ten return, joined by a very deep field that includes ten of the current GUR top 50 (including six of the top 10), and twelve of the 2016 top 50 (including 10 of the top 20).  The depth of this group is frightening; while both the men's and women's fields have at least twenty solid contenders for those magical top-10 places, the talent and experience on the women's side might outflank the men, especially at the 100-mile distance.

1. Kaci Lickteig
Final 2016 GUR: 1
Current 2017 GUR: 5
2016 WS: 1
Western States does tend to look kindly on defending champions--think Krar, Olsen, Trason, and Jurek, to name just a few.  Whether the Pixie Ninja belongs among the all-time greats is still debatable, but the returning champ has three straight top-5 finishes here, and her buildup to this year's event looks awfully similar to last year.

2. Magdalena Boulet
Final 2016 GUR: 2
Current 2017 GUR: 3
2016 WS: DNF
The 2015 champ and UROY dropped early in last year's race, then gutted out a difficult fifth-place finish at Speedgoat later that summer.  She bounced back, however, with a strong second at North Face in December, and this year has looked very strong, placing second to Camille Herron at Tarawera and earning her ticket to WS with a T2 at Lake Sonoma.  She's got the speed, the experience, and the 100-mile chops to ascend the podium again.

3. Andrea Huser
Final 2016 GUR: NA
Current 2017 GUR: NA
2016 WS: NA
She's got wins or runner-up finishes at a dizzying array of Europe's most competitive trail ultras, including Diagonale des Fous, Lavaredo, Madeira Island, and UTMB.  We don't often see rookies or Euros atop the States podium--usually it takes a couple of tries to get it right--but she's not your average rookie.  Is she too much of a mountain specialist for this course, or does she have the wheels to hang with Magda, Kaci, and Camille when things start heating up on Cal Street?

4. Amanda Basham
Final 2016 GUR: 18
Current 2017 GUR: 9
2016 WS: 4
Speaking of wheels, I like the recent UROC champ to reprise last year's finish.  Undefeated in three ultra starts this year, though has yet to face a field of this caliber in 2017.

5. Camille Herron
Final 2016 GUR: 24
Current 2017 GUR: 2
2016 WS: NA
I gave a lot of serious consideration to picking Camille for the overall win.  Already this year she's beaten Magda at Tarawera, and may have already locked up Performance of the Year with her dominant win at Comrades two weeks ago.  (An honor she won in 2015, her first year in ultrarunning.)  However, she hasn't yet proven to be quite as dominant on the trails as she is on the roads, and this will be her 100-mile debut; besting a field of this caliber under those circumstances may be too much to ask, especially if there's any residuals fatigue from Comrades.  If anyone can pull at Walmsley on the women's side, though, it's definitely her.

6. Maggie Guterl
Final 2016 GUR: 17
Current 2017 GUR: 128
2016 WS: 8
She's lightly raced so far this year, having picked up wins at some smaller, short East Coast trail races, but she smoked a 14:47 at Brazos Bend in December.

7. Jacqueline Merritt
Final 2016 GUR: 69
Current 2017 GUR: 6
2016 WS: NA
Another East Coast stud, she already has four wins this year and a second-place finish at the Georgia Death Race to lock up her Golden Ticket.

8. Amy Sproston
Final 2016 GUR: 6
Current 2017 GUR: 109
2016 WS: 2
I picked Amy seventh last year and commented, "I feel like I actually might be selling her short here."  She went out and crushed a second place finish.  Naturally I've dropped her to eighth this year, so I fully expect her to win and make me look like an idiot.

9. Stephanie Howe Violett
Final 2016 GUR: 133
Current 2017 GUR: 16
2016 WS: NA
The 2014 WS champ missed most of 2016 due to injury but rebounded for ninth at North Face and then bested a solid field, including Camille Herron, to win at Bandera in January.  Definitely selling her short here.

10. Clare Gallagher
Final 2016 GUR: 13
Current 2017 GUR: 65
2016 WS: NA
Talk about selling short...she won Leadville last year in her 100-mile debut, but has flat speed honed during a stellar collegiate career, backed up with a fifth place finish at TNF in December.  I could easily see her in the top 3.

Hedging my bets
11. Meghan Laws (nee Arbogast)
12. YiOu Wang
13. Kaytlyn Gerbin
14. Nicole Kalogeropolous
15. Alissa St. Laurent

Lads
Eight of last year's top ten return, though unfortunately not defending champ Andrew Miller, recovering from injury.  Eight of the current GUR top 50 are in the field (including three of the top 5), and thirteen of last year's top 50, including eight of the top 20.  Add in several top-flight Europeans and you've got a very solid field of contenders...but absolutely nobody is picking an upset.

1. Jim Walmsley
Final 2016 GUR: 1
Current 2017 GUR: 3
2016 WS: 19
Allow me to become the 457th commentator to observe that the only person who can beat Jim right now is Jim.  His stunning 100 mile debut was one of the most electric performances of the year, notwithstanding the wrong turn at 91 miles that cost him the win and likely the course record.  Did you know that other than that wrong turn, Jim hasn't lost a race in over two years?  I could see him maybe blowing up if he is serious about chasing his stated goal--a sub-14:00 finish, which would better the course record by nearly an hour--but it's not likely.  And short of that, or injury, I don't see anyone in this field who can beat him.

2. Kyle Pietari
Final 2016 GUR: 23
Current 2017 GUR: 1247
2016 WS: 8
OK, I'm going straight chalk with my picks for the winners, but here's a little bit of a dark horse for you.  He backed up last year's top-10 with a second place finish at Leadville.  He's been quiet this year, with only one ultra finish back in March.  Is he ready for a huge breakout?

3. Alex Nichols
Final 2016 GUR: 12
Current 2017 GUR: 46
2016 WS: NA
Alex has a long history of stellar performances at huge ultras and other mountain races, including multiple wins at Pikes Peak, and has represented the US in the World Mountain Running Championships.  He made his long-awaited 100-mile debut last year with a win at Run Rabbit Run, and backed that up with top-five finishes at Speedgoat and North Face.  The WS course sets up well for people with Alex's particular skill set--climbers who have flat speed to burn.

4. Jeff Browning
Final 2016 GUR: 11
Current 2017 GUR: 25
2016 WS: 3
When you've been running ultras for fifteen years, it's hard to have a career year at 45--but that exactly what Jeff did last year, with a win at HURT, third at WS, and fourths at Hardrock and Run Rabbit.  He's undefeated in three low-key 50Ks so far this year.  It may be too much to expect a repeat of 2016, but I feel weird picking against him.

5. Chris Mocko
Final 2016 GUR: 29
Current 2017 GUR: 4
2016 WS: 7
He may have had the best 2017 so far of anyone in the field not named Walmsley: second at Way Too Cool, third at Sonoma, wins at Marin and UROC.  As long as he hasn't cooked himself too early in the season, he'll be heard from this weekend.

6. Jonas Budd
Final 2016 GUR: NA
Current 2017 GUR: NA
2016 WS: NA
I always have trouble picking the Euros (though I did hit Lorblanchet exactly last year, and wasn't too far off on Giblin) so who the hell knows.  But Jonas has the speedster pedigree of the Euros who usually perform well at States, and he was second to Walmsley at Tarawera earlier this season, though not really without shouting distance.

7. Ian Sharman
Final 2016 GUR: 3
Current 2017 GUR: 1528
2016 WS: 6
I'll pick him to finish in the top ten every year.  More dependable than taxes.

8. Thomas Lorblanchet
Final 2016 GUR: NA
Current 2017 GUR: NA
2016 WS: 4
Fourth in 2016, fifth in 2015.  Pretty safe bet he'll be up there again.

9. Brian Rusiecki
Final 2016 GUR: 2
Current 2017 GUR: 5
2016 WS: NA
The perennial UROY contender and 2015 GUR #1 makes his long-awaited WS debut.  Brian usually excels on more technical tracks, and so the WS trail might not quite be in his wheelhouse.  But he's incredibly smart and tough, and he comes in off one of the best stretches of his career, including his recent runner-up finish at Cayuga Trails.

10. Mark Hammond
Final 2016 GUR: 8
Current 2017 GUR: 57
2016 WS: NA
Maybe a little bit of a dark horse here, but I like his form recently, particularly a runner-up finish to Nichols at Run Rabbit (ahead of Browning), and a smoking 14:49 at the Salt Flats 100 in April.

Hedging my bets
11. Tofol Castanyer
12. Paul Giblin
13. Jared Burdick
14. Dominick Layfield
15. Zach Szablewski

Pre-Western States GUR Top 50 (as of 6/16)


Men
State
Points
Women
State
Points
1
Sage Canaday
CO
126.4
YiOu Wang
CA
191.5
2
Max King
OR
125.5
Camille Herron
OK
178.1
3
Jim Walmsley
AZ
118.5
Magdalena Boulet
CA
95.3
4
Chris Mocko
CA
107.1
Ladia Albertson-Junkans
WA
74.5
5
Brian Rusiecki
MA
96.3
Kaci Lickteig
KS
71.8
6
Tim Freriks
AZ
71.75
Jacqueline Merritt
GA
61.7
7
Hayden Hawks
UT
68.5
Sabrina Little
TX
59.25
8
Cody Reed
AZ
63.6
Courtney Dauwalter
CO
58
9
Chris Raulli
NY
55
Amanda Basham
UT
48.5
10
Tim Tollefson
CA
52.5
Marianne Hogan
CO
48
11
Dakota Jones
CO
45
Kaytlyn Gerbin
WA
46.8
12
Chikara Omine
CA
43.9
Hillary Allen
CO
46.7
13
Michael Owen
OH
43.5
Kathleen Cusick
FL
46.5
14
Matt Flaherty
IN
40.75
Camille Shiflett
WI
45
15
Justin Ricks
UT
40
Cassie Scallon
CA
43.7
16
Zachary Szablewski
WA
38.5
Stephanie Howe Violett
OR
40
17
Franz van der Goen
CA
38.2
Nicole Kalogeropoulos
TX
38.5
18
Masazumi Fujioka
WA
38.2
Megan Roche
CA
35
19
Ed Ettinghausen
CA
38.05
Rachel Drake
OR
34.5
20
Ryan Kaiser
OR
35.8
Ashley Nordell
OR
33.75
21
Dylan Bowman
CA
35
Devon Yanko
CA
33.6
22
Scott Trummer
CA
35
Dani Filipek
MI
32.5
23
Ronnie Delzer
TX
33.9
Janessa Taylor
OE
31
24
Matthew Thompson
VA
33.5
Gina Slaby
WA
30.6
25
Paul Terranova
TX
32.3
Shandra Moore
TX
30.2
26
Jean Pommier
CA
31.65
Julie Koepke
TX
29.9
27
Dominick Layfield
CA
31.2
Rachel Jaten
WA
28.9
28
Anthony Jacobs
TX
31
Sheila Vibert
VA
28.9
29
Travis Morrison
UT
29.9
Penny McPhail
CA
28.3
30
Ben Koss
CA
29.75
Caroline Boller
CAN
28
31
Cole Watson
OR
29.5
Meghan Arbogast
CA
28
32
Bob Shebest
CA
29.4
Molly Schmelzle
OR
26.9
33
Olivier Leblond
VA
28.6
Kirsten Hite
FL
26.3
34
Avery Collins
CO
28
Amy Macintire
TN
25
35
Ryan Bak
OR
27.25
Julia Stamps
CA
25
36
Jesse Haynes
CA
26.9
Rachel Entrekin
AL
25
37
Mario Martinez
CA
26.1
Bree Lambert
CA
24.9
38
Joe McConaughy
MA
25.025
Katalin Nagy
FL
24.9
39
Tyler Jermann
AZ
25
Jenny Hoffman
MA
24
40
Michael Daigeaun
PA
23.4
Alicia Hudelson
GA
23.9
41
Jason Schlarb
CO
23.05
Shawn McTaggert
AK
23.5
42
Ryan Ghelfi
OR
23.05
Meg Landymore
MD
23
43
Jean-Bernard Flanagan
IL
23
Chavet Breslin
CO
22.5
44
Matt Smith
TX
23
Karen Holland
CAN
22.5
45
Alex Nichols
CO
22.5
Amy Rusiecki
MA
22
46
Rob Krar
AZ
22.5
Camelia Mayfield
OR
21.9
47
Tyler Green
OR
22.5
Michelle McLellan
TN
21.5
48
Drew Macomber
CA
21.7
Addie Bracy
CO
21
49
Noah Brautigam
UT
21.7
Katrin Silva
NM
21
50
Patrick Caron
MA
21.5
Keely Henninger
OR
21










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