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Rookies rule, records fall

By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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A course that has humbled countless rookies was no match for two fresh faces. Geoff Roes became the first in Western States Endurance Run history to break the course record in his debut, smashing seven-time champion Scott Jurek’s 2004 mark of 15 hours, 36 minutes, 27 seconds by almost a half-hour Saturday. Anton Krupicka also broke the old record by more than 20 minutes in a year dominated by rookies. The top four finishers had never attempted Western States, a race often ruled by veterans. Fifth-place Zachariah Miller debuted only a year ago. Two of the top five women racing with 10 miles to go at press time were also first-time Western States competitors. “It tends to destroy fast runners, but these two held it,” race director Greg Soderlund said of Roes and Krupicka, who spent most of the day battling third-place Spanish phenom Killian Jornet Burgada. “They held it the whole way. That’s what’s amazing. These are the best runners in the country. They just pushed each other. If one or the other hadn’t been here I suspect the times might have been a little slower but they had no choice but to keep pushing it all the way. They’re specimens.” For the second straight year, five runners finished under 17 hours, and two more crossed the finish line at Le Febvre Stadium 10 minutes later. “We never had five guys even close to 17 hours before,” said Tim Twietmeyer, president of the Western States Trail Foundation. “It’s impressive.” Where two-time defending champion Hal Koerner struggled on the 16-mile stretch from the Foresthill School aid station to the Rucky Chucky river crossing, the two leaders never lost steam. “It’s tough to come in here your first time and run,” Twietmeyer said. “Geoff pretty much ruled the day.” In another first for the race, runners had financial incentive to break the course record. While Montrail officially sponsored the race, Pearl Izumi offered a $2,000 cash bonus independently of Western States to each man and woman who broke the respective course records. Krupicka said he regularly sets out with a goal of breaking a record, “especially today with the prize money for it. “I figured to win I was going to have to break the course record, so I just focused on the win,” Krupicka said. “Of course it’s disappointing, but not overly so. I’m pretty happy with my performance.” Roes, a cook from Alaska, heard about the prize purse the day before the race. “I’m not complaining about that,” he said. “I definitely wasn’t running for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to accept it. “I don’t need to ever get to a point of being able to make a decent living from prize money. But I’m certainly open to the idea of that happening,” he added. “I think it’s moving more and more toward that. It seems like four years ago you could run all the races there were with prize money and make $2,000 the whole year.” Twietmeyer focused on the prestige of topping a talented field in one of the most challenging ultraruns in the world. “A couple thousand dollars or whatever the prize money is isn’t going to change anybody’s lifestyle,” he said. “I think it’s much more valuable to win this race and be the winner of the Western States than to get the money.”