MassUltra Roundup: Mesquite Canyon and Way Too Cool

After a quick start to the 2020 ultramarathon slate in Massachusetts with two fatass-style races in January and the TARCtic Frozen Yeti at the beginning of February, a period of relative quiet has settled over the local ultra scene. That will change in a few weeks when the Trail Animals Running Club plays host to the To Hale and Back 6-Hour Ultra, followed by a jam-packed April lineup. In the meantime, several runners have spent March heading out-of-state to race. That was the case on Saturday, March 7, when Easthampton’s Ethan Abeles traveled to Arizona to race the Mesquite Canyon 50K. Additionally, Cambridge resident Kai Hoeffner and Milford’s Martha Stapels took part in the massive Way Too Cool 50K in California. Both races are included in this week’s roundup.

Mesquite Canyon

After taking a year off from running ultras, Ethan Abeles made his return to long-distance racing with a challenging course at the 11th annual Mesquite Canyon Ultras on Saturday, March 7, in Waddell, Ariz.

Abeles, 46, of Easthampton, Mass., last crossed an ultramarathon finish line in 2018 when he earned a top-20 finish at the Catamount 50K in Vermont. His performance in the 50K race at Mesquite Canyon proved he hasn’t lost a step during his time away from ultra racing. Abeles navigated the technical singletrack trails, big climbs and steep descents just fine, ultimately placing 10th overall and eighth in the men’s field in 5:50:46.

Aarick Nietert, 38, of Waddel, Ariz., topped the men’s field in 4:32:28 while 45-year-old Angela Shartel of San Diego, Calif., was the top women’s finisher and sixth overall placer in 5:40:26. Eighty-three runners finished the race within 10 hours.

Mesquite Canyon also offered a 50-mile race. Sixteen of the 30 runners who started that race ultimately finished. None of the finishers were New England residents.

Way Too Cool 50K

Both Kai Hoeffner and Martha Stapels ran their first ultramarathons at the 2018 TARC Summer Classic 50K; both also finished 60 miles at the 2019 Ghost Train Ultra. Their ultra paths once again aligned when they traveled cross-country to run the 31st annual Way Too Cool 50K on Saturday, March 7, in Cool, Calif.

Way Too Cool is one of the largest ultras in the country, with 572 runners finishing this year’s event within 8 1/2 hours, overcoming 4,800 feet of climbing on singletrack dirt – some of it on the historic Western States course. Darren Thomas, 26, of Encinitas, Calif., took home the overall win in 3:18:04, holding off men’s runner-up Justin Grunewald, 34, of Minneapolis, Minn., by three minutes. Kimber Mattox, 31, of Bend, Ore., topped the women’s field in 3:49:57.

Hoeffner, 39, of Cambridge, Mass., finished 281st overall in 6:07:29. Stapels, 42, of Milford, Mass., crossed the finish line in 7:30:47.

Both Hoeffner and Stapels will share a course again this summer as both are entered in the 40-mile race at the TARC Summer Classic. Both also will race Ghost Train again in the fall.

*Editor’s Note: Results are found on a variety of sites, including, UltraRunning Magazine, and official race websites. We do the best we can to find as many results as possible to report on and recognize the local ultrarunning community.


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