Samantha Stimac has been a force on the Midwest ultrarunning scene since making her debut at the 2019 Frozen Gnome 50K in Illinois as a 24-year-old. Stimac finished third that day, and it was just the beginning of what has been a successful series of ultras in the years that followed.
Now 29, Stimac, of Antigo, Wisc., has finished on the podium of every ultramarathon she has finished, including runner-up finishes at both the Kettle Moraine 100-miler and Hennepin Hundred in 2021 and an overall victory at the inaugural Midwest States 100-miler in Wisconsin in 2022. Stimac also made her first foray into New England ultras in 2022 when she finished third overall and was the women’s runner-up at the Vermont 100K.
Stimac returned to New England for another race at the third annual Mt. Toby Ultra 50K on Saturday, April 8, in Sunderland, Mass. By the time she was finished tackling the rugged doubletrack and technical singletrack course and overcoming its 7,000 feet of vertical gain that included three long, steep climbs, she found herself in a familiar position. Stimac placed third overall and first in the women’s category. Not only was she atop the podium, but her time of 5:48:55 established a new course record that was 17 minutes faster than the previous mark set by Isabel Lane in 2022.
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The race for the women’s runner-up spot was between two runners making final preparations for upcoming 100-milers. Emily Kisicki, 37, of Montpelier, Vt., finished second in 6:33:09, just four weeks out from racing the Riverlands 100-miler on May 6 in Maine. Ten minutes later, 32-year-old Lisa Rising of Somerville, Mass., rounded out the podium in 6:43:27. Rising will toe the starting line of the grueling Cruel Jewel 100-miler on May 19 in Georgia. Karen Benway, 51, of Williston, Vt., finished fourth in 6:50:37. Benway will race the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-miler in July, but first has a date with the Blood Root 50-miler in Vermont in mid-May.
In the men’s field, another runner who has enjoyed a string of recent successes surged to the front and took home the victory. Peter Bonito entered the Mt. Toby Ultra fresh off of a massively successful 2022 racing season that included victories at the Beatdown On Drummer 6-Hour Ultra, the Drummer Hill 50K, the Ragged 50K, and the Wapack Fall Race 18-miler, as well as a runner-up finish in the Groton Forest Trail Run 26.5-miler. All of that had Bonito well prepared to tackle the trough trails and competition at Mt. Toby.
Bonito, 37, of Westmoreland, N.H., had another big day as he raced at the front of the field for most of the day and ultimately took home the win by a comfortable margin in 4:49:51. Matt Geary, 32, of Haydenville, Mass., repeated as the event runner-up in 5:03:12 – a massive 39-minute improvement from the year before. Matthew LePage, 32, of Westfield, Mass., improved upon his 11th-place finish in the men’s field a year ago by knocking 33 minutes off of his time and taking third this year in 5:50:12. Daniel Hartman, 38, of Easthampton, Mass., was fourth in 5:56:12, and 38-year-old Kevin Ellis of Richmond, N.H., followed in 5:57:15 as the final sub-6-hour finisher.
Thirty-eight runners finished the 50K race, most of them within nine hours.
Shamey, McGurk Set Course Records in 24K Race
A year ago, Matt Shamey set the course standard for the 24K distance when he navigated the singletrack and doubletrack trails and their 2,700 feet of climbing and fended off a fierce challenge from Ryan Williams that ended with a sprint to the finish and a 2-second victory. This year, Shamey enjoyed a bit more breathing room on his way to defending his title.
Shamey, 43, of South Deerfield, Mass., knocked 2 1/2 minutes off of his time from the year before in winning the 2023 24K race in a new course-record time of 1:49:37. Jacob LeBlanc, 28, of Enfield, Conn., finished second in the men’s field in 1:52:59, followed by 44-year-old Brian Rusiecki of South Deerfield, Mass., in 1:53:59. It was Rusiecki’s second straight third-place finish in the event, and he knocked more than three minutes off of his time from a year ago. Bryce Spare, 39, of Adams, Mass., finished fourth in 1:56:59, followed by Jack Spaulding, 24, of Clinton, Mass., and Tim Honig, 34, of Easthampton, Mass., in 1:58:58 and 1:58:59, respectively as the final sub-2-hour finishers.
Shamey wasn’t the only runner to establish a new course record in the 24K. Elizabeth McGurk toppled the women’s mark with her victory in 2:07:25. McGurk, 28, of Peterborough, N.H., took nearly eight minutes off of the mark previously set by Jada Wensman in 2022. Elizabeth Atwater, 43, of Sudbury, Mass., was the runner-up in 2:16:13, and 38-year-old Elena Betke-Brunswick of Hadley, Mass., rounded out the podium in 2:17:40. Brenda Fortin, 39, of Worthington, Mass., finished fourth in 2:25:38 just two weeks removed from her course record-setting performance in the 12-hour race at the Spring On the Trails Endurance Run in New York. Samantha Gluck, 30, of Boston, Mass., rounded out the women’s top five in 2:34:24.
A total of 126 runners finished the 24K race, nearly all within five hours.
Up Next for the Beast Coast Trail Running Series
Up next for the Beast Coast Trail Running Series is the notorious Seven Sisters Trail Race. A New England classic, the sold-out event tests runners with 12 miles of steep, gnarly, often muddy singletrack and more than 3,500 feet of climbing. Following Seven Sisters, the Chesterfield Gorge Ultra and 25K will take place on June 3-4 at the Chesterfield Gorge Reservation in West Chesterfield, Mass.