This year, I was honored to be asked to cast a ballot on the UROY voting. I appreciate the trust that was placed with that decision - and understood the importance of this role. I spent many training runs with friends having the debate over who had the most impressive year, and how to objectively rank these athletes. I also spent hours culling through the long list of results that were provided to me - hoping these would somehow sort themselves into the 'correct answer'.
I know every voter approached this differently - here's how I sorted through the long list of amazing runners and decided on my ballot.
1. Tropical John provided each panelist with an extensive spreadsheet listing about 50 males and 50 females with all their results for that year (including noting course records, female overall victories, etc.). There was also a list of about 50 top age group performances. He provided some general guidelines:
2. I needed to shorten the list from the roughly 50 male/females, so I decided on some criteria that I believe are in keeping with what I believe makes someone have had the best ultrarunning year:
I understand that these criteria are highly controversial, and really it's the heart of the decision that each panelist was tasked with. I chose the criteria above based on what I think the criteria are for the best ultrarunner. When it comes down to it, it was similar to the process I deal with at work - reviewing resumes and deciding who has the strongest, most versatile experience to bring to the table.
I will note that while ideally, the top ultrarunner of the year would be someone who wins everything and can beat everyone else on the list and #2 would be someone whose lowest finish would be a 2nd place when they faced the top guy...but I understand the reality is much different. I don't know that the #2 ultrarunner can necessarily beat everyone except the #1 runner, that someone can't be the top runner if they have an off day, or that the #6 ultrarunner is the 6th best ultrarunner and was only beated by the 5 females ahead of her in the past year. In general, a lot of results are based on race distance run, course specifics, and what else they've run recently.
My husband, for the past several years, has finished in the second half of the top 10. He never understands it - he'll rank ahead of guys that he feels would beat him in a head-to-head competition. I always remind him that being voted as the #5 doesn't mean that you'd necessarily be able to beat anyone but the top 4 anytime you race them. But, I also argue that while other folk beat him during the year, I wonder how well they would race against him if they completed the same race schedule that Brian did. My point is, I believe it's about the best resume that year, not necessarily who is the fastest.
Anyway, after a lot of time and consideration (and some AWESOME debating with friends over some miles), here's the slate that I voted for:
UltraRunner of the Year:
1. Kaci Lickteig Jim Walmsley
2. Courtney Dauwalter David Riddle
3. Maggie Guterl Ian Sharman
4. Caroline Boller Jeff Browning
5. Darcy Piceu Brian Rusiecki
6. Devon Yanko Jesse Haynes
7. Gina Slaby Jesse Lang
8. Alissa St. Laurent Zach Bitter
9. Pam Smith Tim Tollefson
10. Kathleen Cusick Ryan Smith
Age Group Performance of the Year
1. Meghan Arbogast (IAU 100k) Ed Ettinghausen (Sri Chinmoy)
2. Eldrith Gosney (Headlands) David Jones (Tunnel Hill)
3. Riva Johnson (Bryce) Ian Maddieson (Lean Horse)
4. Roxanne Woodhouse (Tahoe 200) Bill Dodson (Ruth Anderson)
5. Debra Horn (Across the Years) Mark Richtman (Miwok)
Performance of the Year
1. Gina Slaby (100 mile WR) Jim Walmsley (JFK Course Record)
2. Caroline Boller (50m trail AR) Zach Bitter (100 mile AR)
3. Meghan Arboghast (100k WR-AG) Tony Migliozzi (50k World Champion)
4. Caroline Boller (50k AR-AG) Chris Vargo (Crown King CR)
5. Megan Roche (T. Headlands CR) Jim Walmsley (Bandera CR)