by Ben Holmes, RD
The Free State Trail Run always offers the (slightly) off-beat 40-mile and 100k ultra distances, along with a trail marathon and half. We feel that many want to attempt a “stepping-stone” distance prior to attempting their first 50 or 100-miler.
For its eighth iteration, the course’s trail was in great condition. It was a beautiful day: 80 degrees and sunny, with a slight breeze. Beautiful, yes, for the aid station workers; but for the runners there was no breeze to speak of on the wooded course, so it felt downright unseasonably hot for an April trail race.
The heat and the rocky three-loop 100k-course swallowed twenty of the original starters, whittling them down to 14 total finishers. Jeremy Morris, from Kearney, Nebraska won the men’s race. He’s a tough and smart runner. While marking the course, I saw him out there scoping-out different sections, striving to wrap his head around it. He’s meticulous and leaves nothing to chance. Hot off a win at the Rockin’ K 50-Mile exactly two weeks prior, the Free State 100K men’s race became the “Jeremy Morris Kansas Trail Show,” episode number two. He was never truly challenged during the 9 hours and 59 minutes it took him to finish. Kendrick Callaway and J. Bob Jones, garnered second and third, respectively.
The women’s 100k field was a slightly closer contest. Shelley Egli, another meticulous and tough runner, took first in 12:14:45. The ever-smiling Mindy Coolman followed in 13:01:58. Jen Eichelberger rounded-out the top three, with a decent 14:11:23 finish.
In the men’s 40-mile race, human metronome Brady Poskin kept an even race pace and won in 6:47:19. Aaron Norman had initially led the race, but went out a little too fast on his first 20-mile loop, and paid for it on loop two. He took second place in 7:06:05. Drew Jordan drew third in a respectable 7:21:29.
Meanwhile, local Trail Nerd Shaylene Caffey won her first 40-mile race in a time of 8:29:30. Shay has changed her life and the lives of her family and friends in many positive ways, during her quest for better physical fitness and self-confidence. This was just more proverbial icing on the cake. Heather Grazzini-Sims took second place about 45-minutes later, finishing with her canine pacer. Brandy Holey, a Trail Nerd that volunteers as much as she runs, finished in third.
It’s been a pleasure for me as a race director to see this race “breathe-in” new ultrarunners while it “breathes out” a few veteran runners to go onto longer distances, year after year. And so it goes.