Massachusetts Trio Set to Take on Western States

As folks in Massachusetts are sipping their coffee on Saturday morning and finishing breakfast before heading out for a weekend long run, there’s a good chance some will be logged onto and looking intently for the first few nuggets of information about the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.

The 44th running of the Western States 100 begins at 5 a.m. PST (8 a.m. EDT) Saturday, June 24, and runners have 30 hours to complete the 100.2-mile journey from Squaw Valley to Auburn, Calif., in ultrarunning’s original 100-mile trail footrace. Runners will climb more than 18,000 feet and descend more than 23,000 feet during the course of the race.

Three Massachusetts residents will be among the 369 runners to toe the starting line in what is expected to be a highly competitive year overall, and arguably the deepest women’s field in the history of the race.

South Deerfield resident Brian Rusiecki was one of the last runners into the field as he secured the UltraRunning Magazine Race Series’ Golden Ticket in May. The 38-year-old secured Golden Tickets for the 2010 and 2011 races, but passed on them both times. Since then, he tried repeatedly to secure another to no avail. His heavy and consistent racing schedule paid off this year, however, and one of New England’s toughest and most consistent racers is projected by many (here’s another) to finish in the top 10 at Western States this year.

MassUltra caught up with Rusiecki last month to talk about his hopes and expectations for this year’s race. That story can be found here.

While Rusiecki earned a Golden Ticket into the race, Newton resident Karen Ringheiser and Newburyport resident Maddy McCarthy got in the old fashioned way – through the highly-competitive Western States Lottery. There were 4,248 lottery applicants vying for 250 spots in the field on Dec. 3, 2016. Few runners had qualified for the lottery more times in a row without getting in than McCarthy; this was her sixth try. Ringheiser was in the lottery for the fourth straight year.

McCarthy’s name was the 209th drawn. Ringheiser waited even longer. Her name was pulled 244th.

Ringheiser, 53, prepared for the race by attending Western States Training Camp in May. The three-day camp allowed her to run on the race course and get an up-close look at the challenge ahead.

McCarthy, 33, has also spent some time on the Western States course – well, part of it. Her last-ditch effort to qualify for the Western States Lottery last November took her to Granite Bay, Calif., for the Rio Del Lago 100-miler. A portion of the course overlaps with the No-Hands Bridge area of the Western States course, so McCarthy enjoyed a few miles on the hallowed Western States trails en route to placing second among the women and 12th overall at Rio Del Lago.

McCarthy was named as one of the “Others to Watch” among the women’s field at Western States.

MassUltra caught up with Ringheiser and McCarthy after the Western States Lottery in December. That story can be found here.

While Rusiecki, Ringheiser and McCarthy are the lone Massachusetts residents in this year’s race, a runner who represented the Bay State last year – former Boston resident and current resident of Edgewater, Colo., Kyle Pietari – is back in the field. Pietari bypassed the lottery process by finishing eighth at last year’s race. The top 10 male and female finishers of the prior year’s race are guaranteed entry into Western States the following year if they choose to accept it.

Pietari spoke with MassUltra after last year’s Western States race. That story can be found here.

Additionally, Jim Roche – formerly of Hudson, Mass., and now living in Swansboro, N.C. – is also taking part in Western States this year. Roche, 48, previously finished Western States in 2015 (27:12:30).

Beyond the Massachusetts trio, New England representation will be light at Western States this year. Five runners from Connecticut – Jarrod Neeley, 44, of Canton; Sean Greaney, 36, of Durham; Steven Labranche, 43, of Oakdale; Sarah Greer, 33, of Simsbury; and James Whipple, 39, of Norwalk – are in the field. Whipple was the 37th of 50 runners on the initial Western States wait list, but his opportunity to enter the race came on Tuesday.

One more New England hopeful – 40-year-old John Fegyveresi of Quechee, Vt. – was the next name up on the wait list as of this article’s posting. He was the 39th runner on the wait list and traveled to California in case a last-minute spot opened up.

UPDATE: 9:13 p.m., June 23 — John Fegyveresi is in Western States. Gordy Ainsleigh, the first person to complete Western States on foot, gave up his spot in this year’s field to John.

Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine are absent on this year’s list of entrants.

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