Way Too Cool

Roes’ woe helps Pantilat repeat

2009's Ultrarunner of the Year takes costly wrong turn, settles for third
By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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COOL - Leor Pantilat looked around in disbelief Saturday after breaking the tape at the Way Too Cool 50-kilometer trail race. “Where’s Geoff?” he asked, fully expecting to see Geoff Roes waiting for him at the finish. “He blew past me. I was running for second place.” Meanwhile Roes was several minutes behind and kicking himself after taking a wrong turn. UltraRunning Magazine’s 2009 Ultrarunner of the Year was poised to win the 31-mile race before going about one mile off the course with just over three miles left. The chef from Juneau, Alaska settled for third place. “I came to a T and I went right. I don’t know why I went down there, but it took me about nine minutes to get back,” said Roes, who will compete at the American River 50-miler next month and the Western States Endurance Run in June. “I would be a lot more upset right now if this was Western States.” Pantilat was gracious in claiming his second straight Way Too Cool title. He surged ahead of Max King with about four miles left and finished in 3 hours, 41 minutes. Pantilat was quick to congratulate and console Roes at the finish. “He was in the best shape out of all of us,” Pantilat said of Roes. “I’m just surprised. I’m going to give him all the credit because he was going to win.” King, who won the American River 50 last year, looked strong until the final few miles. The course held up well under Friday’s heavy rain until the last 10 miles, in which the trail takes the runners back to Cool the same way they went out. More than 550 runners had turned the course into a muddy mess. “I was trying to push it a little bit, but stay under control,” King said. “I think for the conditions and the trail today I think I was just a little too ambitious. The last five miles was pretty muddy and I was hurting.” Pantilat and King dueled at the front of the pack for much of the day before Roes raced past both of them late in the race. “It was muddy, we got wet in every stream, so it was a little bit slower,” said Pantilat, who is an attorney from San Carlos. “But really in the last 10 miles it was just solid mud the whole way. It was a tough finish, a tough last third.” Joelle Vaught tends to do well in the sloppy stuff. She’s made Way Too Cool an annual tradition since her father moved to the area many years ago. Vaught, who works at a hospital in Boise, Idaho, won her second women’s title. She couldn’t pin down the year of her last win in Cool (it was 2006). “It was the last muddy year,” she said. Vaught outlasted Oregon’s Kami Semick, who succumbed to stomach cramps midway through the race. Semick was UltraRunning Magazine’s Women’s Ultrarunner of the Year in 2009. Race director Julie Fingar was excited to see 128 competitors running their first ultramarathon on Saturday. “I think that shows the trend of the marathoners wanting to go longer,” Fingar said. Way Too Cool is one of the most popular races in the region, attracting runners of all levels for an early season test on the trail. Fingar said 1,025 entered the lottery for this year’s race and 575 toed the starting line. Among those were six runners looking to finish for the 21st straight year - every year the race has been held. Originally named the Cool Canyon Crawl, Bill Finkbeiner, Janet Pucci, Dennis Scott, Dennis Zilaff, Gloria Takagishi and Kathy Young had finished the race every year since 1989. For complete race results, visit