It wasn’t exactly a changing of the guard, but two Massachusetts residents who have been mainstays in the top 10 at the Vermont 100 for most of the past decade opted to race the 100K instead of 100 miles in 2018. That meant the Bay State had new standard-bearers at the 30th annual Vermont 100 on July 21-22 in West Windsor, Vt.
Four-time men’s winner and two-time defending champion Brian Rusiecki and 11-time women’s top-10 finisher Lori Wetzel took their talents to the 100K this year, opening the door for new faces to carry the flag for the Bay State among the front of the field. They had some worthy successors in the form of Greg Soutiea, Will Swenson, Sarah Pandiscio, and Deirdre Lowe. None had raced VT100 previously, but all four turned in top-10 performances to lead the way for Massachusetts contingent.
Both Soutiea, of Quincy, and Swenson, of Andover, entered their first VT100 with high hopes. Both have proven 100-mile credentials, Soutiea mostly at time-based events (he ran 121 miles in 24 hours at the Run4Water 24-hour event in 2017 and 143 miles at the Desert Solstice 24-hour event in 2016) while Swenson’s 100-mile credentials include a personal-best 16:08:35 at the 2017 Ghost Train 100 as well as 16:28:34 at the 2016 Rocky Raccoon 100).
Soutiea has had a busy year of racing already, turning in top-10 finishes at the Black Canyon 100K, the Ultra Race of Champions 100K, and the Zugspitz Ultratrail 74K prior to VT100, and he carried that momentum into another strong showing. Soutiea raced among the frontrunners all day and finished fifth overall in 17:35:54.
Swenson has been less busy on the ultra scene in 2018 with a victory at the inaugural Watuppa 50K in May has his lone ultramarathon of the year prior to VT100, but he was true to form when he hit the dirt roads and trails of Vermont. Swenson wasn’t far behind Soutiea throughout the day, and he ultimately finished sixth overall in 17:54:21.
For Pandiscio, VT100 was her second 100-miler. She proved herself in 2017 when she was the 12th female finisher at the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado (27:00:33). Racing back below 10,000 feet in Vermont, her lung strength matched her leg speed as she blazed to a fifth-place finish (17th overall) in 18:50:22.
Meanwhile, Lowe was also chasing her second 100-mile finish. She blazed to a runner-up finish at the Ghost Train 100 in 2017, finishing the multiple out-and-back rails-to-trails course in 18:44:38. VT100 threw 17,000 feet of climbing at her, and Lowe once again handled it well on her way to a top-10 finish. She placed eighth in the women’s race in 20:20:31.
Podium finishes eluded the Massachusetts crew this year.
Jason Lantz dominated the men’s race and secured his second VT100 title – he previously won the 2013 edition – winning in 15:36:49. Ryan Witko of Brooklyn, N.Y., who previously completed the race in 2014, claimed the runner-up spot in 16:32:53. Alexander Jinks improved on his fifth-place finish in 2017 as the resident of Montpelier, Vt., knocked 14 minutes off his time and secured third place in 16:50:38.
The women’s race featured a dominant winner. Waterbury, Vt., resident Lindsay Simpson improved on her fifth-place finish in 2015 by cruising to a 33-minute victory in 18:02:21. The rest of the lead group was packed tight, however, with 2016 finisher Riley Brady of New Hope, Pa., posting a 6 1/2-hour improvement to place second in 18:35:07, followed less than two minutes later by three-time champion and 14-time finisher Kathleen Cusick of Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., in 18:36:42. The 2017 runner-up, Montpelier resident Dylan Broderick, narrowly missed the podium as she finished fourth this time in 18:45:51 despite a 44-minute improvement. She finished less than five minutes ahead of Pandiscio.
While he didn’t crack the top 10 – a feat he achieved in his first seven VT100s – nine-time finisher Daniel Larson of Cambridge, Mass., made his ninth trip across the finish line a memorable one as he placed 15th overall in 18:38:25. It was his fifth-fastest time in nine tries at the course, and an improvement of nearly an hour from 2017.
Other notable performances from the Bay State included Brookline resident Davis Cutter who made his 100-mile debut, placing 18th overall in a speedy 18:53:04, and Somerville’s Tom Dmukauskas who cracked the top 25, placing 24th overall in 19:23:36.
Fifteen Massachusetts residents were among the 136 runners to complete the race in less than 24 hours, earning a large belt buckle for their efforts. They included Melrose’s Matthew Berk (46th; 20:31:53); Athol’s Eric Despres (54th; 21:12:36); Salem’s John David Toscano (55th; 21:18:02); Greenfield’s Carsten Braun (57th; 21:21:42); Hudson’s Russ Dresher (101st; 22:57:25); Framingham’s Brian Huffman (102nd; 22:57:56); Boston’s Joseph D’Allesio (123rd; 23:29:35); and Falmouth’s Chris Risko (133rd; 23:47:14).
Other Massachusetts residents who earned 100-mile finishes were Somerville’s Carolyn Harper (152nd; 25:15:04); Longmeadow’s Chris Ollari (164th; 25:44:57); Somerville’s Christopher Lay (169th, 25:57:11); Littleton’s Dane LeBlanc (180th; 26:22:14); Cambridge’s Humberto Silva (185th; 26:26:38); Worcester’s Vanessa De Sota (194th; 26:40:02); Holyoke’s Mike Muller (199th; 26:47:58); Brighton’s Shelley Cheung (225th; 27:58:29); Woburn’s Roy Van Buren (226th; 27:58:46); Newton’s Spencer Farrar (231st; 28:03:33); Boston’s Ryan Couto (235th; 28:07:10); Boxford’s Leanne Tierney (239th; 28:15:12); Newton’s Joe Conti (262nd; 29:07:46); Topsfield’s Aimee Jefferson (266th; 29:15:12); and Feeding Hills’ Andy Schnepp (267th; 29:19:53).
There were 277 total finishers within the 30-hour time limit.
Rusiecki, Wetzel Victorious in 100K
Brian Rusiecki and Lori Wetzel have been mainstays in the 100-mile race at the Vermont 100 for the past decade – and in Wetzel’s case, even longer.
Wetzel has 11 finishes of the 100-mile race to her credit, all of them in less than 24 hours, all of them in the top 10, eight of them in the top five, and a personal-best time of 19:43:11 in her 2004 debut. Rusiecki has finished the 100-miler eight times, including victories in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
Both opted for the 100K race this year; it was Rusiecki’s first time racing that distance in Vermont while Wetzel raced the 100K in 2016, placing second in the women’s field and sixth overall.
Just as they’ve done year after year in the longer race, both Massachusetts residents threw down speedy, consistent performances on the dirt country roads and singletrack trails on Saturday, July 21, in West Windsor, Vt.
Rusiecki, of South Deerfield, approached the 100K similar to how he has raced the 100-miler, running from the front throughout. He led the race wire-to-wire and was unthreatened throughout as he cruised to the victory in 9:39:12.
Meanwhile, Wetzel showed the patience and veteran savvy that those who have been around the Vermont 100 have come to expect, and it paid off in the end. Wetzel and Jec Ballou of Santa Cruz, Calif., spent much of the first half of the race chasing Debbie Livingston of Bolton, Conn., before moving ahead and turning it into a two-woman race. Wetzel moved into the lead around the race’s midpoint, and she maintained a slight two- to three-minute lead of Ballou the rest of the way. Ultimately, the Vermont veteran from Danvers dug deep during the final miles and held on for the win. Wetzel posted a winning time of 11:11:13, less than two minutes ahead of Ballou who finished in 11:13:06. In addition to taking the top two spots in the women’s race, Wetzel and Ballou placed second and third overall in the 100K. Livingston rounded out the women’s podium by finishing third in 11:46:27, good for sixth overall.
The men’s runner-up, Gregory Esbitt of Ipswich, Mass., finished fourth overall in 11:33:06, followed by Bryan Bourque of Hanwell, New Brunswick, in 11:35:05.
Just six of the 67 finishers completed the race in less than 12 hours.
Quincy resident Zakarias Gomes joined Rusiecki, Wetzel, and Esbitt as Massachusetts residents in the overall top 10. Gomes placed eighth overall in 12:39:35.
Other Bay State residents who finished the 100K included Westford’s Jim Garcia in 13:04:45; Newton’s Andrew Novis in 13:32:44; North Reading’s Lori Mitchener in 14:57:26; Georgetown’s Andrew McLaughlin in 15:44:00; Woburn’s Amy Morgan in 16:16:45; Ayer’s Neil Lacey in 16:26:27; Florence’s Karin George in 16:42:28; Topsfield’s Vicki Blais in 16:54:22; Fall River’s Diane Souza in 16:59:32; Wilbraham’s Deb Anderson in 17:00:26; Woburn’s Jen Bergstrom in 17:21:38; Roxbury’s Kyle Robidoux in 17:32:52; Acton’s Kevin Draper in 17:49:35; Belmont’s Gary Richards in 17:58:58; Palmer’s Erica Simister in 19:07:41; and Dracut’s Lee Dickey in 19:24:56.