Traer Battles to Top-10 Finish in Western States Debut

“Who’s the guy in the dress shirt,” a Twitter follower inquired, offering a fist-bump emoji of respect in his response to the iRunFar photo from the start of the 2022 Western States Endurance Run on Saturday, June 25.

Though a commenter quickly provided the answer, as the 100-mile race reached the late miles it became clear to spectators and followers of the action alike who the man was: Scott Traer. Though his white button-down shirt projected a “business casual” look, there was nothing casual about Traer’s performance at American ultrarunning’s premier 100-mile race. Traer had big goals for his Western States debut, and the 41-year-old from Woburn, Mass., made the most of his opportunity with a smart, savvy performance.

Traer kept his emotions in check early, maintained a comfortable pace and sat at the back end of the top 20 for the first 24.4 miles to Duncan Canyon. He traded places with a few runners but largely held his ground during the next 19 miles as he navigated the canyons, handling the steep climbs and descents as well as the late-morning heat without letting it upend his race. By the time he arrived at Last Chance, mile 43.3, it was 10 minutes before noon and Traer was in 18th place with other runners in his sights.

Traer went to work during the next 4.5 miles to Devil’s Thumb (mile 47.8), picking off three runners along the way and easing into 15th place. He was just getting started. Between Devil’s Thumb and El Dorado Creek (mile 52.9), he tracked down and passed three more runners and moved into 12th place overall. By then, the biggest climbs were behind him and plenty of fast descents and singletrack ahead.

Traer continued to hunt during the second half of the race. He broke into the top 10 by the time he reached the notorious river crossing at Rucky Chucky, passing Jonathan Rea just shortly before the mile 78 checkpoint. Less than two miles later ascended to ninth place after passing Cody Lind. Traer and Lind traded positions during the remainder of the race. Neither managed to catch Alex Nichols who was just a few minutes ahead, but both fended off other challengers to hold their position in the top 10 the rest of the way and secure automatic berths into the 2023 Western States.

Traer ultimately finished in 10th place overall in 16:35:23. Lind, 27, of Challis, Idaho, placed ninth in 16:29:30, and Nichols, 37, of Colorado Springs, Colo, placed eighth a minute earlier in 16:28:34. Jeffrey Colt, 31, of Carbondale, Colo, attempted to chase down Traer, Lind and Nichols but came up just short, placing 11th overall in 16:51:53. The top 11 finishers completed the race in less than 17 hours.

Adam Peterman, 26, of Missoula, Mont., won the race in 15:13:48, followed by 31-year-old Hayden Hawks of Cedar City, Utah, in 15:47:27. Arlen Glick, 29, of Massillon, Ohio, rounded out the top three in 15:56:17.

Less than an hour after Traer finished, 33-year-old Ruth Croft of New Zealand dashed across the finish line to win the women’s race and place 12th overall. The runner-up at Western States a year ago, Croft’s victory in 17:21:30 was the third-fastest women’s time in course history. Her runner-up time of 17:33:47 ranks sixth all-time. The top female finisher from the Northeast was 30-year-old Ellie Pell of Ithaca, N.Y. Pell spent a majority of the race in the top 10 before finishing 14th in the women’s field and 39th overall in 21:37:12.

Traer wasn’t the lone New Englander to finish Western States. Tom Starodaj, 35, of New Britain, Conn., also had a strong day. He was in contention for a sub-24-hour finish for much of the race before finishing in 24:39:01 and placing 104th overall. Additionally, 48-year-old Steven LaBranch of Oakdale, Conn., finished in 28:04:44 and 39-year-old Michael Michaud of Bridgeport, Conn., finished in 29:12:44.  Additionally, former Charlestown, Mass., resident Mike Kenney, 44, (now of Duvall, Wash.) finished in 29:06:27.

Five current or former New England residents also took part in the race but did not finish within the time limit. Dane LeBlanc, 64, a longtime resident of Littleton, Mass., now living in Mexico, dropped after 78 miles. Tom Golembeski, 48, of West Hartford, Conn., dropped after 62 miles. Both Kristin Lundy, 52, of Charlotte, Vt., and Benjamin Fiandaca, 45, of Peterborough, N.H., dropped after 38 miles.

Additionally, former Sharon, N.H., resident Jennifer Shultis, 53, now of Kingston, Wash., was the final finisher, though just over the cutoff, finishing in 30:02. A cancer survivor who battled back from a torn meniscus 15 months prior to Western States, Shultis received a rousing reception as she crossed the finish line. Due to listener demand, she was invited on the Ten Junk Miles podcast to share her story as well as her experience from the race. That podcast can be heard at this link.

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