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)
Should any of the 2014 top-3 sign up, and at least one of them is expected to, then the race is on! All three are elite runners who have regularly acquitted themselves superbly on the Patch course.
Likely Top-10 finishers, who could very well challenge for the title include Mark Corell, the 1997 champion who finished in 3rd place (2:15:55) in 2013; Kurt Schuler, who had a PR (2:12:49) in 2014, while just finishing out of the top 3; Austin Huneck who, at just 20, has already broken the 2:20 barrier; and Jason Fiegl, a record setting six-time winner who is coming off of an impressive racing season in 2014 but, according to Sheridan, "is 41 years old and has got to be slowing down a step!
THE BEST OF THE REST
While Sheridan says that, barring any unforeseen circumstance, the "Janny" will likely go to one of the racers listed above, but "the large field of male racers boasts a mix of youngsters and veterans, many of whom have a crack at the top-10, if not a surprising podium finish."
12 racers in the division have bettered 2:30 at some point in their careers and while some have aged themselves out, others, such as teenager Andrew Gonzalez, and Grant Haynes are still contenders.
Amongst the race rookies, 38-year old Kyle Smith and elite Nordic skier David Paarlberg-Kvam could make a huge opening statement. In fact, as Sheridan concludes. "bucking a long standing trend of repeat winners, the Patch Champions the past two years have been race rookies."
COMING UP IN THE DAYS AHEAD: Previews of the women's racers, Clydesdales, trekkers, and Kindersprinters.