Olson blazes through heat to repeat in Western States 100

By: Todd Mordhorst / Special to the Journal
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Timothy Olson suffered a bit more from the oppressive heat, and he got to carry his young son Tristan across the finish line. Otherwise, his 2013 Western States Endurance Run looked a lot like his dominant 2012 performance.

Olson took command near the mid-point on Saturday and survived the sweltering canyons to win the 100-mile trail race in 15 hours, 17 minutes and 27 seconds.

“This year I had rough patches in some different places,” Olson said. “I heard cheering when I crossed the river (at Rucky Chucky) and I knew (Robert Krar) was close. I knew I had to pick up the pace. That really gave me a jolt. I just kept believing I could do it and kept looking ahead.”

Western States rookie Krar nearly chased down the defending champion. In his first 100-miler, Krar crossed the line in 15:22. A former all-American miler at Butler, Krar didn’t run his first ultra until last year and decided to run WS less than two months ago after winning the Leona Divide 50 and earning an automatic bid.

He didn’t get much of a chance to show off his blazing speed, but his determination and toughness earned him the respect of Olson and everyone else in the LeFebvre Stadium crowd Saturday night.

“This was this guy’s first 100,” Olson exclaimed at the finish line. “Insane.”

“I feel like if I would have gone much faster, the pounding would have caught up with me,” said Krar, a pharmacist from Flagstaff, Ariz. “I’m very proud of myself that I was able to run that smart of a race. It took a lot of mental fortitude.”

It was a nostalgic race for Mike Morton. He returned to Western States for the first time since his record-setting performance in 1997, when he won in 15:40. Morton tracked Olson all day, but the 41-year-old Army Ranger didn’t have the speed to close the gap and settled for third place in 15:45.

“It’s emotional just coming back and running on the trail, smelling the smells and seeing the scenery,” Morton said. “I knew the field would be really tough. Now, instead of battling out with five guys (like in 1997), you’re battling 15 or 20 guys.”

Olson battled with his good friend Hal Koerner for several miles in the middle of the race. Koerner, a fellow Ashland, Ore., resident, dropped from the race at Rucky Chucky.

Olson said he has been focused on his running, and raising his young son, this year. Western States seems to suit him perfectly based on his two straight wins in very different conditions.

“It’s my first 100 of the year, so I’m fresh and I’ve done a couple of 50-milers to get my speed ready and I really like the 100-mile distance,” Olson said. “My buddy from Ashland — Hal — paced me last year and ran this year and it’s great to share that with him. The Ashland crew work the aid station at Brown’s Bar and it’s always great to see them. I know the new race director (Craig Thornley) and I just love coming here.”

Ian Sharman finished Western States for the fourth consecutive year. The Walnut Creek resident finished in 16:20. Fellow Bay Area resident Dylan Bowman improved on his seventh place finish from 2012, taking fifth in 16:32.

Cameron Clayton raced out to a slim early lead over Olson and a pack of eight frontrunners, but he ran into foot trouble when he hit the hot canyons. The youngster from Colorado dropped at Devil’s Thumb — 47 miles into the race.

Auburn’s Dan Barger, 47, was on pace for another impressive WS finish. A former top-10 finisher, Barger checked in at the Auburn Lake Trails aid station — 15 miles from the finish — at 9:15 Saturday night.

Rocklin’s Jacob Rydman was 20 miles from the finish at 9:01.