Long before the first rumbles of thunder rattled through the valleys and well before more than four hours of torrential downpour soaked the dirt roads and trails and drenched runners to the core, a different storm of sorts rolled across the Vermont 100 course.
Course record-holder Brian Rusiecki was back for the eighth consecutive year at the Vermont 100-Mile Endurance Run on Saturday, July 16, in West Windsor, Vt. After finishing 16th overall during his inaugural appearance in 2009, Rusiecki has occupied a permanent place in the top 10 including top-five finishes each year since 2011.
Rusiecki—who won the 2012 race (14:54:05) and then earned his second victory with a record-setting performance in 2014 (14:47:35)—finished second to Woburn, Mass., resident Scott Traer in 2015.
Rusiecki returned to the top in 2016, and he did so in dominating fashion. He put together a tactically smart performance, seized control by mid-morning, and stormed to victory by a half-hour margin on the rest of the field while winning in 16:02:11.
The race was close early as Rusiecki and Joshua Finger of Spring City, Pa., battled within a few seconds of each other during the early miles. Finger, the fourth-place finisher at the 2014 Vermont 100 (16:26:24), surged ahead during the six-mile stretch between the Taftsville Bridge and Pretty House aid stations and built a lead of about two minutes by mile 21.3. Finger dashed right through the Pretty House aid station without slowing down, and darted down the gravel road and out of sight before Rusiecki came into view. Upon his arrival, Rusiecki stopped for a water bottle refill and jersey change, and then took off in pursuit of Finger.
The chase continued for nine miles. Finger was the first to arrive at the Stage Road aid station (mile 30.3). This time he stopped for a snack. Seconds later, Rusiecki tore through the aid station without pausing and surged into the lead. Finger quickly faded. Rusiecki built a four-minute lead within the next three miles and continued to expand the gap. Finger ultimately dropped at mile 47. As Finger fell back, Michael Arsenault of Middleton, N.H., was the next closest threat to Rusiecki’s lead. Arsenault passed Finger around mile 34 and was within four minutes of Rusiecki at mile 39, but he didn’t get any closer. Rusiecki had a 12-minute lead by mile 50.8 and continued to pull away en route to the victory.
Arsenault, 38, ultimately finished third in 16:59:56. Andrew Vermilyea, 34, of Castleton, Vt., steadily worked his way through the pack and finished second overall in 16:32:12.
Gina Slaby, 35, of Seabeck, Wash., was the women’s champion and seventh finisher overall in 18:05:42.
While Rusiecki brought with him the experience of a savvy veteran with considerable familiarity of the course, he wasn’t the only Massachusetts resident to be among the fastest finishers. Jake Dissinger, 34, of Leeds, Mass., notched his third top-10 finish at a 100-mile race in the last 15 months when he placed ninth overall in 18:29:15. Dissinger placed seventh at the C&O Canal 100 in Maryland in April 2015, and then was the runner-up at the Ghost Train 100 in New Hampshire in November 2015. With more than 300 starters, Vermont was by far the biggest of the three.
Although Dissinger was new to the Vermont 100, he was well prepared for the race thanks to quality training runs and a training partner with deep insight into the course.
“I was (and am) fortunate to run fairly often with Amy Rusiecki (the event’s race director, and wife of Brian) this last winter/spring as we live close to each other and our training aligns a lot,” Dissinger said. “I definitely took advantage of picking her brain about the race and felt like I knew what to expect for the most part leading up to my first time there.
“I didn’t have a set time goal, per se, but was cautiously optimistic that I could hang around the top 10 and maybe sneak into it if everything worked out well.”
Dissinger spent almost the entire race in the top 10 while sticking to his plan and resisting the temptation to battle with the front-runners.
“I definitely made a conscious decision as well not to try to hang with Brian and the rest of the faster guys up front from the start, which was actually tough to stick to at first,” he said. “The first 15 miles of the course are pretty fast, and I probably started out quicker than I should have, even with holding back.”
As other runners faded, Dissinger remained steady. He credited his parents, who served as his crew, for getting him through a low point energy-wise at mile 47 by helping him boost his nutrition without stopping for very long. Additionally, he credited his pacers, Max Darnell and Phil Cook, for keeping him on track during the final 30 miles.
Given the race’s 4 a.m. start time, not many runners finished before midnight. Eric Ahern, 39, of Somerville, Mass., placed 17th overall in 19:47:50 and was the last runner to cross the finish line before the clock rolled over into Sunday. Another Bay Stater, Joe Loureiro, 48, of Andover, Mass., finished just after midnight in 20:04:49, good for 18th overall out of 256 total finishers.
While Ahern and Loureiro may have experienced a few sprinkles or a couple minutes of rain during their final miles, the remainder of the field was pummeled by a relentless, multi-hour thunderstorm. The dirt and gravel roads were soaked, the trails morphed into ankle-deep streams, and lightning flashes illuminated the meadows.
Matthew Elam, 24, of Allston, Mass., splashed his way through the final miles and finished 41st overall in 21:26:06. Jeremy Fuller, 34, of New Bedford, Mass., pushed through the storm and finished 57th overall in 22:24:20; and John Brown, 58, of Northbridge, Mass., crossed the finish line in 70th place in 22:50:53.
Six more Bay Staters endured the drenching and finished in less than 24 hours. They were Jack Ryon, 35, of Everett, Mass. (79th; 23:05:16); Brian Tjersland, 49, of Dartmouth, Mass. (87th; 23:12:41); Dane LeBlanc, 58, of Littleton, Mass. (94th; 23:26:07); Christopher Lay, 36, of Somerville, Mass. (96th; 23:29:04); Andrew Novis, 52, of Medford, MA (96th; 23:29:04); and Amy Morgan, 38, of Woburn, Mass. (102nd overall/13th female; 23:35:21).
Novis finished the race for the ninth time, Morgan finished for the sixth time, and LeBlanc finished for the seventh consecutive year.
Just a few minutes removed from a sub-24-hour finish, 41-year-old David Souza of Winchester, Mass., earned his seventh straight Vermont 100 finish, and eighth overall, in 114th place in 24:07:22. A few minutes later, first-time 100-miler finisher Alex Brinkert, 30, of Medford, Mass., finished in 24:19:05, good for 117th overall and 15th-place female. Jeff Hansen, 46, of Greenfield, Mass., earned his first 100-mile finish shortly thereafter, placing 119th in 24:27:06.
Eighteen more Massachusetts residents finished the race, either during the downpour or after weathering the storm and the early-morning humidity that followed. Steve Wiltshire of Franklin, Mass., withstood the elements the longest while beating the 30-hour time limit. Wiltshire, 47, crossed the finish line in 29:39:18 for his first 100-mile finish.
View full results here.
Cvik, Wetzel Among Fastest in 100K
The flow of the 100K race was defined by small packs and large gaps.
The first four runners ran away from the field, all finishing in less than 11 hours with Quebec, Canada, resident Julien Lachance, 25, cruising to the victory in 10:16:22. He was followed by runner-up Michael Halovatch, 37, of New York, N.Y., in 10:24:14, and then women’s champion Neela D’Souza, 38, of Ontario, Canada, who crossed the finish line in 10:38:26, three minutes ahead of men’s third-place finisher Nicolas St-Vincent, 42, of Quebec, Canada.
A 24-minute gap separated the leaders from the second wave of runners. Both runners in that wave hailed from the Bay State. Pavol Cvik of Boston, Mass., and Lori Wetzel of Danvers, Mass., crossed the finish line less than two and a half minutes apart, claiming fifth and sixth overall. Cvik, 30, was fifth in 11:05:20. Wetzel, 43, took sixth and was the second-place female in 11:07:45.
A 24-minute gap separated Cvik and Wetzel from the next runner.
Cvik has now turned in back-to-back stellar showings at the Vermont 100K. His performance was a 30-minute improvement from 2015 when he placed 11th overall.
Wetzel’s strong showing was in line with the way her racing season has gone so far in 2016. She was the women’s champion at the TARC Spring Classic marathon in April, the ninth-place female at the always-tough Miwok 100K in May, and then claimed third-place female honors at the Catamount Ultra 50K in June. Her ultra season is far from done, too, as the TARC Summer Classic 40-miler and Mountain Lakes 100-miler loom late this summer and early fall.
Cvik and Wetzel weren’t the only local runners to turn in notable performances in the 100K. Kristin Yannetti of Topsfield, Mass., was the fifth-place female finisher and 17th overall out of 63 finishers, completing the course in 12:38:40. The performance was the latest strong outing this year for Yannetti, 45, who was the sixth-place female at the TARC Spring Classic in April and 15th female finisher at the Pineland Farms 50K in May.
Nate Combs, 55, of Andover, Mass., finished 33rd overall in 14:45:37, and 52-year-old Tom Hancock of Belmont, Mass., was 35th in 14:57:26. Given the 100K’s 9 a.m. start time, they completed the course just minutes before the heavy rainfall began. Eight additional Massachusetts ultrarunners endured the downpour en route to completing the race.
1 Brian Rusiecki; 37; South Deerfield, MA; 16:02:11
9 Jake Dissinger; 34; Leeds, MA; 18:29:15
17 Eric Ahern; 39; Somerville, MA; 19:47:50
18 Joe Loureiro; 48; Andover, MA; 20:04:49
41 Matthew Elam; 24; Allston, MA; 21:26:06
57 Jeremy Fuller; 34; New Bedford, MA; 22:24:20
70 John Brown; 58; Northbridge, MA; 22:50:53
79 Jack Ryon; 35; Everett, MA; 23:05:16
87 Brian Tjersland; 49; Dartmouth, MA; 23:12:41
94 Dane LeBlanc; 58; Littleton, MA; 23:26:07
95 Christopher Lay; 36; Somerville, MA; 23:26:35
96 Andrew Novis; 52; Medford, MA; 23:29:04
102 Amy Morgan; 38; Woburn, MA; 23:35:21
114 Davis Souza; 41; Winchester, MA; 24:07:22
117 Alexandra Brinkert; 30; Medford, MA; 24:19:05
119 Jeff Hansen; 46; Greenfield, MA; 24:27:06
126 Daniel Gulas; 39; Watertown, MA; 24:46:01
137 Lizzy Dickey; 29; Boston, MA; 25:20:08
144 Wayne Ball; 42; Feeding Hills, MA; 25:47:35
145 Susan Collins-Pulick; 48; Topsfield, MA; 25:51:06
150 Renee DeMarsh; 51; East Sandwich, MA; 26:11:29
156 John Correiro; 48; Westport, MA; 26:21:42
166 Jason Haddock; 46; Hopkinton, MA; 26:37:48
167 Keith McWilliams; 40; Holliston, MA; 26:39:24
173 Jason Como; 41; Chicopee, MA; 26:53:56
182 Leanne Tierney; 52; Boxford, MA; 27:04:52
195 Kevin Mullen; 58; Fairhaven, MA; 27:38:23
205 Dhan Rai; 34; Dorchester, MA; 28:00:24
211 Aimee Jefferson; 43; Topsfield, MA; 28:17:20
230 Chris Irving; 35; Medford, MA; 28:48:36
233 Karen Ringheiser; 52; Waban, MA; 28:55:33
244 William McCabe; 63; Stoneham, MA; 29:15:29
248 Roy Van Buren; 54; Reading, MA; 29:35:51
251 Steve Wiltshire; 47; Franklin, MA; 29:39:18
5 Pavol Cvik; 30; Boston, MA; 11:05:20
6 Lori Wetzel; 43; Danvers, MA; 11:07:45
17 Kristin Yannetti; 45; Topsfield, MA; 12:38:40
33 Nate Combs; 55; Andover, MA; 14:45:37
35 Tom Hancock; 52; Belmont, MA; 14:57:26
42 Christopher Pulick; 46; Topsfield, MA; 15:56:18
44 Kenny Rogers; 62; Fairhaven, MA; 16:11:36
45 Mike Bates; 50; Acushnet, MA; 16:13:21
46 Vicki Blais; 59; Topsfield, MA; 16:40:58
47 Bethany Couto; 31; Boston, MA; 17:12:18
48 Ryan Couto; 31; Boston, MA; 17:12:18
52 Sherry Brown; 54; Uxbridge, MA; 17:59:29
53 Lee Dickey; 62; Dracut, MA; 18:08:13