For the second time, Hal Koerner of Ashland has won the prestigious 100-mile Western States Endurance Run.
Hal Koerner went a long way to defend his championship.
One hundred miles, to be exact.
The Ashland runner broke the tape at the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run Saturday night in 16 hours, 24 minutes and 55 seconds, successfully defending his 2007 win. The 2008 race was canceled because of wildfire danger.
Koerner finished well ahead of runner-up Tsuyoshi Kaburagi, of Takasaki, Japan, whose time was 16:52:06.
Western States is the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile run in the world. The course begins in the Sierra Nevada mountains at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe and finishes in Auburn, Calif. It features high altitude, formidable climbs and descents and triple-digit temperatures.
The 33-year-old Koerner started at 5 a.m. and finished at about 9:25 p.m. He was in a lead pack from the beginning that included adventure racer Dave Mackey and seven-time Western States winner and course record-holder Scott Jurek of Seattle.
This year's race proved one of attrition, as first Jurek, then Mackey, fell behind then dropped out of the race, unable to match Koerner's punishing pace.
"For the first 25 miles in the high country, the pace felt more like a 50K or 50-mile than a 100-mile (race)," said Koerner. "Then I sat back from Dave to catch my breath and see what he'd do. I worked hard on the downhill then reeled him in on the climb out of the canyon and moved in front at Michigan Bluff (Mile 55)."
This was Koerner's fifth finish at Western States and his 19th complete 100-miler. Last year, he placed seventh in the national ultramarathoner rankings.
This year's race was especially difficult, as the mercury in the steep canyons topped 110 degrees — the hottest race conditions ever recorded.
"It felt like someone had a hair-dryer blowing in my face," said Koerner. "Even my eyeballs were hot."
Neil Olsen of Central Point finished 47th in a time of 22:54:14. Although this was the first complete 100-mile race for the 42-year-old family practice doctor, his ultramarathoning credentials include the 2008 USA Track and Field national championships at the 100-kilometer — 62 mile — distance.
Rob Cain of Ashland finished 67th in 23:38:40 in his second Western States finish. The 55-year-old is the president of the Ashland Woodlands and Trails Association and the race co-director of the Rogue Valley's only ultramarathon, the Siskiyou Outback 50K.
Ashlanders Tom Pelsor, 64, and Jenn Shelton, 25, bowed out partway through because of injury or fatigue.
Pelsor has completed the Western States three times. He is the former race co-director of the Siskiyou Outback race.
Shelton is a nationally ranked ultramarathoner who has won many local races in the past year, including the Crater Lake marathon.
MEN'S TOP FIVE
1, Hal Koerner, 33, Ashland, 16:24:55.
2, Tsuyoshi Kaburagi, 40, Takasaki, Japan, 16:52:06.
3, Jez Bragg, 28, Warwick, UK, 16:54:26.
4, Jasper Halekas, 33, Oakland, Calif., 16:56:26.
5, Kevin Sullivan, 38, Andover, Mass., 16:59:33.
WOMEN'S TOP FIVE
1, Anita Ortiz, 45, Eagle, Colo., 18:24:17.
2, Krissy Moehl, 31, Seattle, 19:26:02.
3, Beverley Anderson-Abbs, 45, Red Bluff, Calif., 19:53:14.
4, Nikki Kimball, 38, Bozeman, Mont., 20:55:43.
5, Caren Spore, 41, Davis, Calif., 21:17:22.
Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at email@example.com.