Morrison stripped of Western States title
By Sylas Wright
For the first time in the 33-year history of the Western States Endurance Run, the winner of the 100-mile race was stripped of a title by disqualification.
Seattle’s Brian Morrison, 27, crossed the finish line at Placer High School in Auburn in first place, 18 hours, 5 minutes and 13 seconds after the 5 a.m. start of the race on Saturday at Squaw Valley. Problem was, a physically exhausted Morrison received assistance from others in the final stretch around the Placer High track.
The Western States 100-mile Endurance Run Board of Trustees released the following statement regarding the disqualification:
“In his last quarter mile in the stadium, runner number 320 (Brian Morrison), consistently staggered and fell on the high school track. Several times he was lifted, carried, and thereby assisted to maintain forward momentum. It was not a single episode of helping a runner to his feet, but instead a series of material forms of assistance. The actions of runner 320’s crew and others was not given for bad motive; indeed by facilitating his arrival in the medical area, their action likely prevented a life-threatening seizure.”
Graham Cooper, 36, of Oakland, finished behind Morrison in 18:17:27 and thus was awarded the first-place prize. Folsom’s Erik Skaden, 34, was second in 19:9:05, while Nikki Kimball, 35, of Bozeman, Mont., won the women’s race and finished third overall in 19:26:50.
Beverley Anderson-Abbs, 42, of Red Bluff, Calif., placed second among women in 20:10:35. Truckee’s Kathy D’Onofrio, who won the race in 1986 and 1988 and finished in 29:52 on Sunday, was awarded a commemorative belt for reaching 1,000 miles in Western States competition. D’Onofrio also received a bronze buckle for completing the race in less than 30 hours. Those who finish in less than 24 hours are awarded a silver buckle.
Betsy Nye, a Truckee resident and first-time Western States entrant, ran to a strong finish in 22:54:31. South Lake Tahoe’s Alan Barichievich finished in 25:42. Barichievich, a physical therapist at Barton Memorial Hospital, thought he could finish in 24 hours but said the conditions were difficult.
“It was brutal,” Barichievich said. “People were dropping out all over the place. I just ran out of gas there at the end. I’m just stoked to finish.”
As with any 100-mile race, especially one as physically demanding as Western States, not all the entrants finish within the allotted amount of time. Last year, 317 of the 360 ultrarunners completed Western States within the final cutoff of 30 hours.
This year was different.
Of the 399 athletes who began the race early Saturday, only 211 – or 56 percent of the field – made it to the finish line in 30 hours, according to John Trent, media relations coordinator for Western States. That’s the lowest total since 1995.
“It was a day just to stay hydrated and wet,” said Trent, who also competed in the race and finished in 20:33. “It was a challenge.”
Several factors made the ever-challenging run even more extreme.
The most obvious factor, Trent said, was the heat, which topped 100 degrees in the lower elevations of the trail. About five miles of backcountry snow also slowed runners, he said, as well as a different version of the course that sent runners into Duncan Canyon from mile 24 to 30.
Auburn resident Tim Twietmeyer, who finished the race in 11th place in 20:33:49, said the Duncan Canyon area was particularly tough because a fire that closed that portion of the trail five years ago left few trees for shade.
“It was hard,” Twietmeyer said. “There was no breeze at all. People had to figure out their own form of cooling. I’m happy to have gotten through it without a meltdown.”
After his 25th running of the Western States, Twietmeyer received a belt honoring the 2,500 miles of trail he has covered.
Canadian Richard Travis did not fare as well. The 51-year-old suffered an apparent heart attack at Lyon’s Ridge, 10.5 miles into the race, Trent said. He was hospitalized at Sutter Roseville Medical Center and was upgraded Sunday from serious to stable condition.
Tahoe Daily Tribune sportswriter Jeremy Evans contributed to this report.