Western States lottery day is cruel to most, and Tom Morton and Scott Slater know that feeling as well as anyone. Morton, 42, of Chicopee, Mass., and Slater, 41, of Guilford, Conn., were two of nine ultrarunners in the lottery for a record eighth consecutive year. Nobody has tried longer than them to gain a spot at the starting line of the Western States Endurance Run, the sport’s original 100-mile footrace.
Morton’s effort to get into Western States began in 2012 when he completed the Vermont 100. That year, 1,940 runners applied for entry into Western States with the longest waiting applicants being third-year qualifiers. Morton was one of the 1,221 first-time hopefuls, but he was denied.
In 2013, Morton ran the Leadville 100 as a qualifier, followed by the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in 2014, Eastern States in 2015, Wasatch 100 in 2016, the Vermont 100 again in 2017 as well as the Fat Dog 120. In 2018, he ran the Bear 100, but when lottery day arrive he was rejected for the seventh year in a row. This year he ran two more qualifying races, the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 and the Bear 100, earning him an eighth try in the lottery alongside 6,663 other hopefuls vying for 264 spots.
The eighth time was the charm for Morton. He was the 213th name drawn in the lottery on Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Placer High School gymnasium in Auburn, Calif., just a few yards from the Western States finish line.
Slater waited just as many years, but a few minutes less than Morton. His impressive list of qualifiers began with the Grindstone 100 in 2012. In the years that followed, his qualifiers included the Run Rabbit Run 100, Oil Creek 100, Cruel Jewel 100, Burning River 100, and the Eastern States 100 twice. This year, Slater’s name was the 51st selected in the lottery for Western States and the second of the New England residents selected.
The first New England resident selected in the lottery didn’t have to wait long. Melissa Ossanna, 50, of Bar Harbor, Maine, was the 33rd name drawn. She was in the lottery for the third year in a row, having completed qualifiers at the Javelina Jundred in 2017, the Vermont 100 in 2018 and the Pinhoti 100 in 2019.
The six-year wait for Western States ended for 40-year-old Jack Bailey of Medway, Mass. He first qualified for the lottery in 2014 by finishing the Leadville 100. In the years that followed he ran the Vermont 100 twice, the Umstead 100, the Grindstone 100 and the Fat Dog 120 to qualify. That final race in Canada was worth the effort as Bailey was the 109th name drawn in this year’s lottery.
Jim McCaffrey, 43, of Hamden, Conn., was the 183rd selection in the lottery. This was his seventh straight year trying to get into Western States, having qualified each year since 2013.
In addition to the five New Englanders who were among the 264 selected to be in the starting field, one more was selected for the 50-person Wait List. Dylan Broderick of Montpelier, Vt., was the 38th name pulled for the Wait List, meaning her Western States dream is still alive as long as 38 of those already in the field withdraw before race day. Broderick, 29, was in the lottery for the third straight year with each qualifying race coming at the Vermont 100 where she has finished in the top five each time. The possibility that she will make it off the Wait List might seem like a longshot, but it would not be unprecedented. In 2017, fellow Vermont resident John Fegyveresi was the 39th person on the Wait List and he secured a spot in the starting field the day before the race when the first person to complete Western States on foot, Gordy Ainsleigh, withdrew less than 24 hours before the start. Fegyveresi started and finished Western States that year.