Sunday, February 20, 2011

21010 Women's Runner Of The Year

Last year, The Muddy Buzzard announce his first ever Male Runners Of The Year.  But, didn't really follow the women's side in 2009; so, did chose a female ROY for 2009.  But, that changes here and, in follow up the Male ROY's that were identified in late January here are the The Muddy Buzzard's First Annual Female Runners Of The Year for Montana.

Now, let me first suffice this by saying that I had a bit of dilemma on how to handle some of the rankings and where to categorize one of our top athletes  (you'll understand as you review the rankings).  She started the year as an open runner; but, entered the Masters category just before Bloomsday.  So, in the end, I took a bit of an easy way out.  The Buzzard will have 3 female categories this year - Overall, Open and Masters.

And, with that, let's get right to it.

Nicole Hunt @ 2010 USATF Club National XC

The picture above pretty much gives away The Buzzard's choice for Overall Female Runner Of The Year ---- Nicole Hunt of Deer Lodge.  And, I think it was a pretty easy choice to make.  During the season, Nicole had only a handful of losses on the open side all year.  Her only loss in the Masters category was at the USATF Club XC Championships.

Just a couple of years removed from the birth of son Eon, Nicole has thumbed her nose at the 40 year old age barrier and has returned back to the dominating form that she showed in the late 1990's and early 2000's.  Here range of distance and terrain were stunning.  Here's a list of her top performances from 2010.

AOH Saint Patrick's Day Run - Anaconda - 3 mile - 15:50 - 1st
Big Butte Run - Butte - 11K - 50:05 - 1st
Don't Fence Me In Trail Race - Helena - 12K - 54:12 - 1st
Ice Breaker - Great Falls - 5 Mile - 29:33 - 3rd
Bloomsday - Spokane - 12K - 43:43 - 17th overall, 1st Master
Governor's Cup - Helena - 5K - 18:04 - 1st
MT Washington Road Race (Uphill) - New Hampshire - 4th overall, 1st Master - new masters course record
World Mountain Running Championships - Slovenia - 17th overall, 3rd American
Bozeman Classic - Bozeman - 5K - 18:36 - 2nd overall, 1st Master
MT Helena - Helena - 43:34 - 1st
Montana Cup - Billings - 6K +- - 24:45 - 3rd overall, 1st Master
Veteran's Day - Butte - 5 miles - 32:51 - 1st - new masters course record
USTAF Club Championship Cross Country - 6K - 21:50 - 3rd Masters

Pretty hard to argue with that record that Nicole wasn't well deserving of of the overall Runner Of The Year designation.  Add to that the fact that she's a pleasant, unassuming, hard working, passionate person only makes it all the better.  Nicole is a true ambassador for the sport and a fantastic role model for younger female runners.

And, while Nicole's record stood out for it's breadth of competition locally, regionally, nationally and internationally The Muddy Buzzard's Open Woman Runner Of The Year was ever so close to matching those accomplishments.

I got to know this woman during the time that we lived in Billings.  Like Nicole she is kind, pleasant, humble and unassumming.  She's also one of the most aggressive racer's that I've ever seen on the women's side and has an incredibly wide performance range.

Sarah Graves at 2010 Montana Cup
Sarah may not be a household name to most of you in the Montana running scene.  She's one of those athletes who quietly shows up, hammers her race, cheers the rest of the field, then heads back home.  But, she virtually always leaves a mark on the field of any event from the mile to the marathon.  Here's a look at some of the best of what Sarah accomplished last year.

New course record at the Newport Marathon in 2:47:52 (and less than 2 minutes from an Oly Trials qualifier)
1st at the Montana Women's Run 5-mile in 30:01
1st at the Heart and Sole 5K in 18:41
1st at the Beartooth Run 8.4 mile (uphill) in 65:53
1st at the Montana Marathon Half Marathon in 78:40
1st at the Montana Cup in 24:24
3rd at the Run To The Pub 1/2 Marathon in 88:17
5th at the Montana Mile in 5:19.4
82nd at the hot Chicago Marathon in 2:55:43

Sarah just missed qualifying for the 2008 Oly Marathon Trials; and, as you can see above, is just off the mark for the 2101 Trials.  If the Buzzard could have one wish granted for the 2011 year, it's that Sara will finally get that 2:46 mark and make the field for Houstan.

Behind Sarah came a tight field of athletes; and, it was a challenge to pick a ranking order; but, here goes:

# 2 Open Runner - Meg Lerch of Missoula.  Meg didn't race a lot in the 2nd half of the year due to some nagging hip issues.  But, she had a great 1st half of the year; especially at the 5K distance.  She went sub 17:00 3 times - winning the Oregon Twilight Track Meet in 16:42, a 16:43 at Mt. Sac, and a 16:27 in winning the Riverbank Run (and placing 5th overall against the full field).  She also was 28th overall in February at the USATF Cross Country Championships (28:58 8K) and won the Missoula Marathon half marathon in a course record 1:22:24.  She finished off her competitive season with a 23:09, 2nd place finish at the Roots Festival in Missoula.  Here's to hoping that Meg gets her leg woes behind her and is back to full force for the entire 2011 season.

#3 Open Runner - Marta Fisher of Helena.  A trail specialist who rarely raced on the roads, Marta had a stellar year playing in the dirt.  1st at the Don't Fence Me In 30K in 2:58:54; 1st at the Pengelly Double Dip in 2:03:42; 2nd at the Big Butte Run 11K in 52:55; 2nd at Wulfman CDT 14K in 70:33; 2nd at Mount Helena in 46:26; 6th in the 35-39 age group at Bloomsday in 49:36; and, 8th in MT Cup in 26:24.

#4 Open Runner - Michelle Bazzanella of Helena.  Another trail runner, Bazz had some epic battles with Marta. But, with Marta having a 4-2 head to head record, Michelle just misses the top 3.  She won the Wulfman in 69:16; got seconds at Don't Fence Me In 30K (2:59:32), Pengelly Double Dip (2:05:56), and Veteran's Day (35:34); thirds at Mount Helena (47:30) and Big Butte 11K (53:20); and, 6th at Montana Cup (26:18).

#5 Open Runner - Dani Shahan of Bozeman.  Dani will be entering the masters rank later in 2011; but, like Nicole, she isn't letting age slow her down.  Dani would likely place higher in the rankings; but, her lack of racing keeps her from jumping ahead of Marta and Michelle.  Dani won the Bozeman Classice 10K in 38:12, won the Run To The Pub 1/2 Marathon in 85:57, was 2nd at the Montana Marathon 1/2 Marathon in 79:56, and was 4th overall at Ice Breaker in 30:01.

Just missing out on the top 5; but, still having solid years, were (in no particular order) - Jenny Newton, Trisha Miller, and Rye Palen and Beth Shumate.

The Master's women don't have quite the depth of fields or performances that we see on the men's side - yet.  But, with folks such as Jenny Newton and Dani Shahan crossing the 40+ mark, I expect 2010 to be different.  That being said, we still had several top notch women master's in 2010.

The top of the list was pretty easy to conclude (especially with my chicken-$&(8! way of creating the Overall category and taking Nicole out the mix :D ).  The choice was made even easier by the "lobbying" that was put forth by her team members of Helena's Vigilante Running Club as they provided ample evidence of her great year.

Debbie at 2010 MT Cup
Part of Helena's Blue Thunder
Debbie Gibson of Helena had a great year, with only one loss at the master's level in Montana.  Debbie excels on the roads and trails; and, is a distance and ultra specialist.  Some of her highlights last year included:

Run to the Pub 1/2 Marathon - 1M - 1:39:58
Wulfman 14K - 4th overall, 1st Master - 72:41
Montana Cup - 13th overall, 3rd Master - 27:32
Montana Marathon - 1st overall - 3:16:11
Last Chance Half Marathon - 2nd overall, 1st master - 1:25:25
Snow Joke Half Marathon - 1:37:30
Le Grizz 50 Miler - 1st overall - 7:26:44
Missoula Marathon - 1st Master - 3:15:26 (new masters course record)
Fat Ass 50K - 1st overall - 5:29:32 - new course record

A solid season with competitions at a wide array of distances against some very solid competitions; and, Debbie had a solid, consistent season.  And, that's exactly the type of thing that will get you a top billing by The Muddy Buzzard.

2nd on the Master's list is someone who doesn't race a lot; but, when she did, it was pretty spectacular.  She won (overall) the Diva Dash 5K in Missoula in 19:11; was 2nd in the 45-49 age group (and 6the overall master) at Bloomsday in 48:05; and, was 3rd in a master mile at the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque in 5:12.94.  That's some solid racing.  Work and family limit her racing; but, man, does she make the best of the time when she toes the line.

After that, the depth and level of performances starts to drop off.  Towards the top of the remaining list would Janika Umile of Missoula who had a solid run at USATF XC in Februry, finished just behind Mary at the USATF Indoor Mile, and had a couple of good races in the Missoula area.

Suzie Kaluza of Butte, now in the 50 - 59 age group, continues to perform quite well in the master's category.

Demaris Taylor of Helena, Kristina Smith of Great Falls, Julie Gilchrist of Ovando and Joann Weber of Helena all had some good performances.  But, just didn't see enough volume to really develop a deep ranking on the women's master's side.  I'll be a bit more diligent this year to keep track of the women master's to try to have some more meat to this part of the ranking.

So, there it is for 2010.  My take on the Women Runners Of The Year. 

Would love to hear any comments or feedback.

See you on the Roads, Tracks and Trails

The Muddy Buzzard

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

...and I believe the Mt. Helena win was a new course record...