Sacramento Running News

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Fast Times at the Jed Smith Ultras

February 06, 2012 By: John Blue Category: General Running News, Masters Runners, Ultrarunning

Meghan Arbogast on her way to a new American age group record for 50 miles. (SRN Photo)

If you were looking for a top finish at this weekend’s Jed Smith Ultra Classic, you’d better have brought your “A game” because some of the country’s top talent was there throwing down.

There are many (many!) ultras in California and they are all, for the most part, pretty long. Some of them are known to be beautiful. Others are popular, mountainous, hot, sadistic, and sometimes famously hard to get into. Jed Smith has always been about speed.

The Jed Smith Ultra Classic, put on by the Buffalo Chips for the past 34 years, includes three events–a 30km, a 50km, and a 50 mile race. They are all run on an accurately measured, 4.85 mile loop course along the American River that is ideal for setting records and running 100k team qualifying times–as long as the weather on the first day in February is fine.

This particular Saturday was fine and the times were spectacular.

Being a PAUSATF Grand Prix event, the 50km is typically the marque race. There were many fast times–11 runners went under 4:00–but it quickly boiled down to a race between Quicksilver Ultra teammates Jean Pommier, of Cupertino, and Victor Ballesteros, of San Rafael.

Ballesteros took the lead early on and the two men ran less than a minute apart for almost the entire 31 miles, with Ballesteros winning in an impressive 3:17:53. Pommier earned second in 3:19:09, and he was followed in by another Quicksilver teammate, Toshikazu Hosaka, of Belmont, in 3:31:45.

Michael Fink was the first local finisher, coming in 4th with a 3:32:41.

The women’s race was not nearly so closely contested. El Dorado Hills’ Amy Phillips assumed an early lead and extended it throughout the race, finishing in 3:58:42. Mary Churchill, of Greenbrae, was second in 4:05:54, and she was followed in by Allyson Thomas-Conwell, of Cool, in 4:35:05.

In many years, the 50 mile race is an “also ran” event, with only a handful of runners. This year, there was a fair bit of anticipation about the event because a few runners came with some big plans for the race.

Sacramento’s Chad Worthen, last year’s winner in the 50km, was tackling his first 50-mile race. Rumor has it he was looking for a US 100km team qualifying time.

Mark Richtman, 56, of Novato, came with plans of setting an American age-group record, and Meghan Arbogast, 50, of Corvallis, Oregon, also came hunting for an American age-group record.

In the end, Worthen dropped out. Richtman won, but dropped off pace. And Arbogast obliterated the old record that had been standing since 1995.

Arbogast’s 6:19:06 bests the existing record of 7:47:27 by nearly a half-hour (pending ratification)!

Richtman’s winning time was 6:13:12, and he was followed in by Joe Palubeski in 6:17:54, and Ray Sanchez in 6:47:34.

The second, and only other female finisher, was June Gessner in 9:10:19.

In the 30km “fun run,”  the winners were repeats from last year with Rich Hanna, of Sacramento, finishing first in 1:47:35, and Jenny Hitchings, of Sacramento, winning the women’s race in 2:07:54.

The 2nd and 3rd women were Reno’s Jenny Capel, with 2:14:25, and Rocklin’s Stephanie Artis with a 2:17:59.

The 2nd and 3rd men were Brian Benestad, of Lincoln, in 1:56:01, and J R Mintz, of Santa Clara, in 2:16:34.

Complete results are here.

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the author of this post is co-race director for the Jed Smith Ultra Classic.


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