The June 23, 2012 weather forecast for the 5th annual Wulfman Continental Divide 14k Trail Race is for temperatures to reach 83 degrees by mid – afternoon.  The racing competition between runners may just deliver even hotter temperatures earlier in the morning.

Selected by Runners World 2012 as the “Best Time Trial” Trail Race, WCDT is preparing to deliver another outstanding opportunity to run a very fast race.  “A buff fast trail!” was the description a friend of mine used upon finishing a recent training run on this course.  Guess Runners World agrees.  Nothing too technical, just a 14k mix of climbs and down hills all on a trail with current conditions rated as excellent.

Who to Watch

Women’s Overall

The women’s 2012 field includes 3 past WCDT overall champions; Sarah Graves – Ballantine, (‘11), Michelle Bazzanella – Butte, (‘10) Nicole Hunt – Deer Lodge (‘09).  Newcomer Andrija Barker – Caldwell, Idaho, recently off of a fine Bloomsday finish of 18th overall (and finishing in the money) will likely be the pre-race favorite even with a WCDT first time appearance.  Sarah Graves had a tremendous year last year highlighted by a US Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier.  Michelle has never finished any lower than third racing every WCDT race since its inception.  Nicole is making steady progress returning to her racing form following the birth of twins last fall.  Previous WCDT experience will undoubtedly be an advantage for all three of the past winners.

Any one of these four could claim the top spot and land in the money. Olivia Wood – Anaconda, fresh off of an outstanding high school outdoor track season will look to chase the lead pack as she has done the past three years. Her highest place, 4th was in 2011.  Another newcomer that could jump into the top five spot is Lisa Minnehan, Billings.  Lisa is steadily improving all of her marks from 5k and up.  Beth Shumate, Clancy with a 3rd place finish from ’11 could also be one to contend for a top five spot.

Prediction – the women’s race will be very tight – 1 – 5.

Women’s Age Graded

Anyone following the women’s distance scene in Montana for the past 30 years will recognize the pre-race age graded favorites’ name; Debbie Magilke, Billings.  Debbie has raced her way across the state winning the majority of her races and now stands atop the podium frequently with any age graded calculation.  Look for her to do the same with WCDT ‘12 as she did in ’11, and ‘10.  Elizabeth Chura – Gallatin Gateway, winner WCDT age graded ’09 could be the only one to push Magilke.  Look for these two to go 1 – 2.  Nicole Hunt should be in the top age graded finishers along with Julie Gilchrist, Missoula, Jenny Newton, Missoula, and Kathy Peterson, Dillon. Anyone of these could mix it up in any combination of finish times adjusted by age.

Men’s Overall

The men’s field is missing two time winner and recent UM graduate Lynn Reynolds, ’11 and ’10.  This opens the door for ’11 runner up Jimmy Grant, Missoula, and two time champion Thomas Jodoin, Helena, ’08 -’09.  Jodoin is a WCDT trail expert having run all four previous races finishing no lower than 3rd. Look for these two to battle it out for the top spot.   The next nine spots are a toss up.  Anyone who has an excellent day combining climbing and the ability to race steep downhill sections with reckless abandon could land in the top five.  Contenders include; Ray Hunt, Deer Lodge, racing a very respectable 4th place, ’10, Matt Choquette, Butte, Clint Choquette, Billings,  Devan Cowen, Helena, Dewey Peacock, Bozeman, Matt Edwards, Bozeman, Erik Peterson, Clyde Park and Butte High standout Josh Panasuk. This is a veteran group with multiple WCDT top ten places.

Men’s Age Graded

With the top four age graded  finishers from ’11 not racing, a wide open opportunity exists for masters and grand masters here.   A heavy favorite is Ray Hunt, Deer Lodge, winner in ’10.  Ray ran well at the 2012 11 Miles to Paradise Trail Race in May finishing 5th overall.  Montana masters’ runners are getting fast and faster.  This age group may be the tightest of the entire field.  Others to watch include; Kyle Klicker, Phillipsburg, Mark Slater, Steve Bruner, Clint May, all from Bozeman,  Marvin Speece, Butte and Erik Huff, Sheridan.  Like the women’s field, this is one group where age can be an advantage.

The Wulfman Continental Divide 14k Trail Race continues a standing room only tradition.  With trail conditions rated as excellent, zero percent chance of rain and morning temperatures in the high 40s the 2012 race should be nothing short of a sizzler.  See you on Saturday.  Until then – enjoy the run!

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