To everyone who runs Western States, or has even tried to get in to Western States, we all know this is a statistically difficult process. The WS lottery isn't quite as difficult as winning the Power Ball lottery, but at a 16% chance of getting in via the lottery in 2008, it is pretty difficult. The WS board knows this.
Other ways to get to the starting line in Squaw Valley (which, if held in Sisters, would be called Wychus Valley, as the creek formerly known as Squaw Creek is now Wychus Creek) are finishing top-10 female or male the year before, finishing top-3 female or male at one of six Montrail Ultracup qualifying races (White River 50m, Mt. Masochist 50m, JFK 50m, Way Too Cool 50k, American River 50m, and Miwok 100k), and special consideration.
Top-10 getting automatic entry next year - totally cool. Up to 36 other top runners getting in via the 6 qualifiers - also cool, as it makes an always competitive race even more competitive. This is good.
As for the special consideration option, I'm definitely all for this. I think it's a great way for other runners "whose contributions to the organization of the event have been unusual and substantial" to receive a starting bib. The board says "No special consideration will be given to athletes that would greatly enhance the competitive aspect of the race. Competitive athletes that feel they would greatly enhance the competitive aspect of the race have the opportunity to gain entry into WS via the Montrail Ultra Cup Series".
Okay, so last year, Scott Jurek really wanted in Western States. You know Scott, the guy who has started WS 7 times, won WS each of said 7 times, and holds the course record. Yes, that Scott. Well, last spring he came up 4 seconds short of qualifying at Way Too Cool and 4:15 short of qualifying at Miwok. Yep, that sucks. And as the WS special consideration qualifying rules are written, Scott shouldn't have received an entry into last year's race. And although he petitioned to the board to be allowed in the game, he didn't get in.
I mean really...the guy was basically the poster child for Western States from 1999 - 2005. Not only did he win by a convincing 44 minutes average margin each of those 7 years, but he was (and is) a great ambassador for Western States. Scott's closest margin of victory came in his last appearance...only 21 minutes seperated him from AJW. Scott's toughest victory arguably came against Dave Mackey in 2004, when Dave and Scott were basically neck-and-neck from Squaw to Foresthill. Scott put the hammer down on Cal Street and went on to the break the course record. Obviously Dave played a big role in helping Scott break the record, and Scott readily acknowledges this - he even thanked Dave at the award's ceremony.
Anyway, Scott likes to race against the best. After a couple years hiatus from Western States, he knew the best field ever assembled was going to be in Squaw in June, 2008, and he wanted to be toeing the line with that field. He was willing to put up his unblemished record against the best so he could race against the best.
Cool. Very cool.
But for some reason, the Board didn't think granting Scott special consideration was a good idea. As I don't know the real reason why, I can only guess on this, so I won't. But I will say it was lame.
Hey Western States Board of Trustees: when Scott Jurek wants in Western States, let him in! He has obviously done a lot to promote the race in many, many, many ways. It just makes sense to let him in. Same goes for Ann. If she ever decides to run WS again, let her in.
As most WS followers know, Scott was granted entry into this year's race. So, obviously the Board figured out the error of their ways...too bad it took a year. Since the race didn't happen last year, Scott not being in it obviously didn't do anything to the outcome. But nobody knew the race was going to be cancelled until race week. The point being, he shouldn't have had to wait a year. And hopefully he won't again.
I'm looking forward to toeing the line with Scott in Squaw Valley on June 27.
*This post is the first in a series of five Western States 100 synchroblogs leading up to the 2009 race. For this first one, the following four bloggers have agreed to write a post making a plea or request directly to the Western States Board of Directors. See what they have to say to the board:
* AJW writes a letter to the WS board suggesting ten course changes.
* Bryon Powell pleas for transparency and accountability.
* Craig Thornley urges the board to reconsider mandatory volunteerism.
* Scott Dunlap asks John Trent what the Western States Board of Trustees is and what they do.