This was perhaps the most challenging division of all. The mixture of top candidates covered all aspects of the sport. There was the track specialist, the roadie and the ultra-trail mudder. On top of that - the top 3 candidates didn't cross really cross paths during the year. So, making the top choices was a matter at looking at several variables, weighing the overall level of performances, and a couple rolls of the dice.
That being said, the #1 slot will come as a bit of a surprise to many. While his road racing resume was limited, the overall level of his performances made it pretty clear that Lyle Weese of Bozeman was the cream of the crop for men in 2012.
On the roads, he went undefeated with wins at the Run To The Pub 10K in 29:45 (questionable course length); Bozeman Marathon 1/2 Marathon in 1:13:31; and, the Huffing For Stuffing 10K in 36:53.
But, it was on the track where he really excelled. He kicked off the year with stellar indoor season. He had meets where he ran 14:18.27 @ 5K, 8:20.75 in the 3,000 and had miles of 4:13.93, 4:12.11 and 4:01.61 (that's right - Four Oh One !!!!!).
Once he hit the outdoor season he really exploded. He specialized in the 3,000 steeplechase and started the season with an 8:35.09 at the Payton Jordon Invitational @ Stanford University. Then there was the Occidental High Performance Meet - that's where he ran 8:30.83 and got the Automatic, "A" Qualifier for the Olympic Trials. And, that's where he was up next - the 2012 Olympic Trials in Track Town USA (aka Eugene, OR). There he ran 8:38:55 in his heat.
With that full combination of performances; and, being the only Montana male in the Olympic Trials, it's hard to argue that Lyle wasn't the top of the heap in 2012.
The next choice was just too hard to come to a consensus. I went back and forth on who should get the nod; and, I just could never come up with a consistent, clear favorite. So, taking the easy way out, I went with a tie for the #2 slot. This was the roadie versus the mudder between a couple of Zootown boys. Jimmy Grant and his road prowess meets Mike Foote the trail master.
Let's start with Footie (F before G). He made a presence on the statewide/regional scene on several occasions, including:
1st @ Bighorn Trail 100 Miler with a new course record time of 18:36
1st @ Catch Em If You Can 5K @ 16:29
4th overall (and 1st Montanan) @ Don't Fence Me In 30K in 2:18:05
13th @ MT Cup in 22:12 (which was only 1:00 off the lead)
But, it was at the ultra-trail stuff where Mike really hot. On the Montana front, he was 3rd at the Ridge Run in 3:22:28. And, that came at the end of a 40+ Mile day - in part he was using the race as a tune-up for the UTMB in France a few weeks later.
And, speaking of which- UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc) was clearly the highlight of his year. Perhaps the most competitive ultra trail race in the world, Mike finished 3rd place and 1st American with his time of 11:19:00 over the dark, rainy, cold and muddy 103 Kilometers.
He also scored an international victory with his win over 80 Kilometers at Ultra Des Los Andes in Chile. And, he had a top 10 finish (8th) at the competitive, early season Chuckanut 50K in 3:55:27. An impressive season for the fastest trail running Yurt dweller in Missoula.
Jimmy is no stranger to the Buzzard Rankings, having gone 1-3-3 over the last 3 years. This was another typical Grant season - high level of performances over a variety of distances, with wins at most of the major western Montana races.
1st @ Riverbank Run 10K in 31:29
1st @ Wulfman CDT 14K Trail Run in 57:27
1st @ Run 4 The Luck Of It 7-Mile in 36:04
1st @ Roots Festival 4-Miler in 19:49
1st @ Snow Joke 1/2-Marathon in 76:04
2nd @ Missoula Marathon in 2:33:24
2nd @ Top of Utah Marathon in 2:29:35 (his first sub-2:30)
4th @ Calgary Marathon in 2:31:30
That's 5 big wins and 3 marathons with an average of right around 2:31:30. Not a bad season at all.
Alan King of Billings has been ranked #1 the last two seasons. But, with the stellar seasons of Lyle, Mike and Jimmy Alan gets bumped back to #4. His season saw performances like this:
1st @ Ice Breaker 5-Miler in 26:13
2nd @ Ice Breaker 3-Miler in 16:06
1st at Montana Marathon in 2:39:31 (29:00 win)
1st @ Big Sky State Games 1/2-Marathon in 75:36
3rd @ Montana Cup in 21:41
Wins at the Shamrock Run 5K (16:43), Purple 5K (16:19), Run Turkey Run 5K (16:19) and the Quality of Life Run 5-Miler (24:51)
It was a good solid season; and, Alan is considered a contender any time he lines up at a race in Montana. But, his year was hampered a bit with some minor injuries and lack of racing outside of the Billings area.
The biggest surprise in the rankings is probably at position #5. Andy Drobek is mostly known for his efforts around his hometown of Missoula. But, he apparently decided it would be a good idea to have a husband and wife team (#1 Open Woman Trisha) in the open rankings this year.
1st @ Resolution Run 10K in 35:23
3rd in Riverbank Run Trifecta with the following
4th in 10K at 33:00
5th in 5K @ 15:39
3rd in Mile @ 4:56
8th overall in PF Changs Rock N Roll Marathon in 2:33:16
25th in Ironman Texas 70.3 in 4:14:18
#2 Montana Male @ Bloomsday in 40:45
6th @ MT Cup in 22:01
And, how about this for a topper, with 50-pounds of gear, he set a new World Fire Fighting Stair Climb Record - scaling 69 stories and 1,311 steps in 10:38.2
A suprisingly solid year with top level performances across the board - married life seems to agree with the Drobeks.
So, who missed "the cut". How about Matt Shyrock - who was on his way to a top 5 ranking if he hadn't moved outside of the state mid-year. Collin Fehr who won the Missoula Marathon. Jacob Bradosky who had dual wins at the Governor's Cup 5K and 10K - but, who just didn't have enough of a racing resume' in 2012. Ultra Trail studs Kris Kollar and Mike Wolfe. Clint Choquette had some big races; but, just not quite enough to crack into the top. And, Devan Cown had a few notable races.
It was an incredibly deep and competitive year on the open men's side. Something that the Buzzard hopes carries into 2013. It makes for some incredibly hard rankings; but, that's what makes the whole effort so enjoyable.
See you on the roads, tracks and trails
The Muddy Buzzard