Maybe the two-hour mark is forever safe!
On a day where conditions were perfect for a sub two-hour Patch Sprint time – cool temperatures, dry course, and an elite field of runners – the elusive barrier remained safe by over five minutes.
Austin Huneck of Rexford, NY captured the 2015 title in a time of 2:05:23. Huneck, who had finished 4th and 6th in two prior Patch Sprints, used a blistering pace on the final mountain to run away from the competition Saturday morning.
Huneck’s Sugarloaf to Pok-O-Moonshine split of 40:37 bettered the former record mark by nearly three minutes. “I've run the Patch Sprint a couple of times before, and both times I've gone out too hard, and suffered big time going up Pok-O,” said the champion, who was in 8th place after Bare mountain, tied for 4th on Rattlesnake, and in third place, 30 seconds back, on Sugarloaf. “This year I went in trying to pace it so that I'd have the energy to get up the last mountain with a decent time. I took it easy from the start and focused on racing the down hills, and I think I made up time there. By the time we got to Sugarloaf, I was feeling great so I went with it, and it turns out I paced it really well and was able to put in a good last effort, so I was happy about that.”
Huneck is just one member of an impressive Patch family; his brother Aaron ended up in 6th place, while father Tim also cracked the top-20, missing his P.R. by one second!
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"This is the most challenging and, by extension, most enjoyable prediction year in a while!" For the 20th consecutive year, USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan makes his picks for the Patch Sprint. In 2014, Sheridan hit on two of the four racing divisions, though "with so many new elite racers entering the mix, this has become a much more difficult race to call!"
For 2015, Sheridan says, "Pay close attention to the women's race; it's gonna be a classic with the top two shadowing each other all morning. In my opinion, this year youth will win out over experience. For the men, a group of veteran champions should do battle with some youngsters who have been knocking on the door in recent years." As for the finish times, Sheridan says that "the excellent conditions will slightly help those going for a P.R., but the two hour mark is safe for another year."
Racers are required to find their own volunteer Sherpa or trekker to carry personal supplies, and beverages and snacks to the summit of Pok-O.
As a rule, The Patch Sprint does not transport personal supplies. However, if you are in a pinch, please alert an event manager Joey Elton , and we will try to make arrangements. Additionally, volunteer Andy Paine will be stationed at the Pok-O trail head and will likely have some gear to be brought up. Please ask what you can take.
Trekkers must carry their own gear to the finish.
While event officials will attempt to have space blankets (if necessary), and water on the summit of Pok-O, this is not guaranteed.
As a rule, Please make your own arrangements.
Last week, we previewed the contenders in the 2015 Patch Sprint's largest division - Men's Racers - from where the overall winner is likely to emerge.
Today, 2 1/2 weeks before the big race, we look at the top picks in the other racing and trekking divisions. Look out a few days before the event, for exact finish time and placing predictions.
A record 34 runners will toe the start line, ranging in age from 11 to 57, and the 2015 winner will likely be one of the youngest, or oldest racers in the field.
In 2014, 40-year old Patty Hurlburt edged out Tyra Wynn, 16, for the title. Both are back in 2015 and, according to Danny Sheridan, "while Patty remains solid, and probably the fave, Tyra has the benefit of youth, not to mention the advantage of now having been over the course. As much as anything, this will boil down to race strategy"
To be sure, there are other contenders this year. Local ultra-racer Elizabeth Bouchard-Hall is making her Patch debut. The 31-year old has a strong resume of races ranging in distance up to 50-miles, and has been seen training on the PS course this spring. Veteran Norwood Styles, 51, is also running the Patch for the first time, but brings years of running, climbing and general outdoor experience to the event.
1998 Olympian, and four-time Patch Sprint Champion Deborah Nordyke is back in 2015. Nordyke holds the course record, by a wide margin, but has chosen to trek with her daughter this year..
Others with slightly longer shots of taking the title include Erin B-K (PR of 3:05), Mindy Burkhardt and event rookie Phoebe Kittredge. All should challenge the three-hour mark, weather permitting.
In contention for a Top-5, but certainly not the title, are veteran Patch Sprinters, Katie Moffett, Elizabeth Lawless, Cara Gentry and Karen Lounsbury, all of whom have enjoyed outstanding spring training.
PLEASE READ MORE for other divisions.
With only three weeks remaining until Patch Sprint 2015, long-time event odds-maker Danny Sheridan gives his early indication on who will contend in each division. He writes: "As always, my exact place and time predictions for every racer and trekker will come a few days prior to the event, and will be dependent on the latest information available, including recent race results, injury reports and weather forecast.
However, for now, here's a general overview of what to expect on race day...."
With the field of racers and trekkers now sold out, 53 are entered into this year's men's division and Sheridan says:
"This could change a lot in the weeks to come. None of the Top-3 finishers from 2014 - Aaron Newell, Jan Wellford and Chris Fey - have signed up!" However, last minute opening often occur and, as former champions, both Newell and Wellford would receive automatic entry, should they choose to run and donate.
For now, however, the distinction of pre-race favorite falls firmly on the shoulders of three-time champion Cole Starkey. Starkey, who last finished the race in 2012, showed up unexpectedly at a recent BEAST training run, and is displaying the same quick running and strong climbing form that led him to set a course record in 2010. (Hit read more for the best of the rest)