Saturday, January 21, 2012

2011 Open Women's Runner Of The Year

Okay - so the 2011 Open Women's ROY has already been announce as Sarah Graves of Ballantine (see my January 7, 2012 post).  But, let's recap what an amazing season Sarah had:

  • 1st @ Wulfman CDT 14-K Trail (68:34) (# 3 Time on Course)
  • 1st @ Women's Run 2-Mile (11:33)
  • 1st Overall @ Beartooth Run 8.4 Mile (84:48) (2,000' elevation gain)
  • 1st @ MT Marathon (Billings) 1/2-Marathon (79:05)
  • 3rd @ MT Cup (only :33 out of 1st Place)
  • Houston Marathon - 1/30/11 - 2:47:21 - 16th Woman
  • Eugene Marathon- 4/30/11 - 2:46:20 - 6thWoman
  • Philadelphia Marathon - 11/19/11 - 2:46:24 - 6th Woman
  • California International Marathon - 12/4/11 - 2:44:25 - 16th Woman (Oly Trials Qualifier)
She then opened her new year with a 2:50:16 at the Oly Trials in Houston on January 14th.  That's 3 marathons in 8 weeks with an average finish time of 2:47:01 - Simply Amazing.  Yessirree, she was miles ahead (pun intended) of the rest of the Montana women this past year.

But, that by no means suggests that the rest of the females on the Big Sky racing scene were slackers.  Unfortunately, they just ran into a buzz saw of a runner who had a career defining year.  That being said, let's move onto the rest of the list.

The field on the women's side was suprisingly deep this year and picking a top 5 was a huge challenge.  The choice is made even harder by the fact that some of the women don't race a lot (understandable since many of them have kid and family duties that most of us guys don't deal with quite as much).  So hard in fact that I took the easy way out and went 6 deep for the women.  I'll explain why later.  The biggest challenge on the women's side was choosing between 2 and 3.  But, after much deliberation - here goes:

Number 2 - Trisha Miller of Missoula.  Trishs had a solid year over a variety of distances and terrain - from 5K to Marathon, roads to trails to XC, Trisha tackled them all.  Her performances of note include:
  • Run To The Pub 1/2 Marathon - 1:22:59 - 1st
  • 11 Miles to Paradise - 1:16:02 - 1st
  • Pengelly Single Dip - 44:11 - 1st
  • Hellgate 5K - 17:12 (short course ???) - 1st
  • Pacific Crest 1/2 Marathon (OR) - 1:22:24 - 2nd
  • Eugene Marathon - 2:54:00 - 3rd
  • Montana Cup - 7.2K - 27:34 - 6th
Trisha got big help in securing the #2 slot with her Eugen performance (just 1 place behind ROY Sarah Graves) and her head to head wins over Lisa Minnehan. 

On the same day that Sarah was in Houston at the Oly Trials, Trisha was in Tempe, AZ at the PF Changs Rock and Roll Marathon....................where she scored an overall win of 2:49:12.  That time didn't affect the 2011 rankings; but, may have some major bearing on the 2012 season. 

That then brings us to Number 3 - Lisa Minnehan, Billings.  A lot of people may not recognize this name.  Lisa started her college career as a golfer; but, ended up running for Dave Coppock at MSU-Billings during her graduate work.  Over the last couple of years she's been honing her running and racing chops; and, it's all starting to come together.  She races often, at a wide range of ditances.
  • Women's Run 2-Mile - 12:17 - 2nd
  • AOH Shamrock Run 6 Mile - 27:02 - 2nd
  • Boston Marathon - 2:54:29 - 57th Woman
  • Jennie Kramer 5K - 18:38 - 1st
  • An Ri RA 10K - 38:21 - 1st (2nd Overall)
  • Heart and Sole 5K - 18:44 - 1st
  • Beartooth Run 4.2 Mile - 33:45 - 1st
  • Governor's Cup
    • 10K - 39:59 - 1st
    • 5K - 19:38 - 1st
  • Hellgate 5K - 17:23 - 2nd
  • Montana Cup - 7.2K - 28:37 - 7th
  • Big Sky State Games Athlete Of The Year
Lisa had a great year obviously.  And, her same day Governor's Cup double was impressive.  But, it was hard to overlook her 0-2 record against Trisha.  And, given the tail wind at this year's Boston, I would say that Trisha's Eugene time is intrinsically superior to Lisa's Marathon.

But, it will be exciting to see if Lisa can take another step forward in her racing progression in 2012.

Number 4 - Jessica Johnson of Bigfork. Here's another name that may not be super familiar. Jessica races mostly within the NW and Western part of the state. But her forays to Missoula, Seeley Lake and Great Falls helped her move up onto the list.
  • Snow Joke 1/2 Marathon - 1:30:07 - 2nd
  • Riverbank Run Trifecta - 1st
    • 10K - 39:05
    • 5K - 18:20
    • 1 M - 5:34
  • Herron Hustle 10K - 38:34 - 1st
  • Boogie To The Bank 10K - 38:21 - 2nd
  • Montana Cup 7.2K - 27:20 - 5th
  • Whitefish Lake Tri - 1st - included 19:07 5K
Would love to see her mix it up a bit more on the Missoula scene.  But, living in the far NW corner of the state, it gets a bit tough to hit as many races as some of the other women.

Number 5 - Suzanne Huse - Missoula.  Here's someone who doesn't race much due to taking care of the kids.  And, she also spends a good chunk of her competitive time in triathlon.  But, she had a couple of big performances that shows what a stud she is.  Part of the powerful Mountain West group, when she shows up to race, you now she's going to be challenging for the win.
  • River City Roots 4-Mile - 23:02 - 1st (15th Overall)
  • MT Cup - 1st - 26:02
  • Spring Meadow Triathlon - 2nd
Sue clearly has the chops to place higher in the rankings.  But, her lack of events keeps her from ranking higher.  While she had some big wins - I'd have to see her wit more races under her belt at a wider range of distances to see how she would stack up against others on the list.

Number 6 - Michelle Bazanella of Butte was 4th in last years the open women's rankings  (by the way - only Sarah and Bazz return from last year's rankings).  This was my "Editor's Choice" if you will.  Bazz races a lot - all across the state, in a wide variety of distances, on all types of surfaces.  She's usually near the front; and, on almost any given day at almost any race against most all competition, she would be a top 5 finisher.  All that being said, I just couln't let her seaon pass by without some recognition.
  • Veteran's Day 5.2 Mile - 35:29 - 1st
  • Governor's Cup 1/2 Marathon (Helena version) - 1:31:00 - 1st
  • Big Butte Run 11K - 52:28 - 2nd
  • Wulfman CDT 14K - 68:57 - 2nd
  • AOH Shamrock Run 6-Mile - 39:54 - 3rd
  • Boogie To The Bank 10K - 39:43 - 4th
  • Diva Day 5K - 20:00 - 5th
  • Montana Cup 7.2K - 13th - 30:00
In several of those races, she was only beaten by people like Nicole Hunt, Nikki Kimball and Lisa Minnehan.  Her gutsy performance at the Wulfman was perhaps her shining moment of the year.

One person missing on the list was Nicole Hunt of Deer Lodge.  The 2010 Overall Woman ROY was starting off gangbusters, with wins at the AOH Shamrock Run 6-Mile and a solid 3rd overall at Ice Breaker -both coming in the very early stages of her pregnancy (with twins Roam and Ember born in early November).  But, if history shows us anything, Nicole will be back to the top of the ranks in no time.

Performance Of The Year:  Easy Cheesy Selection.  Without a doubt it would have to be Sarah Grave's 2:44:25 Olympic Trials Qualifying Marathon.

That would be followed by the new Snow Joke 1/2 Marathon course record of 1:23:57 set by Kara DeWalt of Missoula on a cold (-10 F) and snowy day.

Thanks for all the great performances in 2011 ladies.  And, with the early season performances of Sarah Graves, Trisha Miller and Julie Gilchrist (Houston 1/2 Marathon) - we look to be off to another great season for 2012.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

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