NBC Spartan Championship Preview

Originally published on April 22, 2017 on Race Sherpa OCR’s Facebook page.

By Race Sherpa OCR, Spartan Blog Contributor

I don’t know about you, but I am super psyched for the first NBC Spartan Race in Seattle this weekend. Rose is bummed not to be able to compete on her “home field,” but even though she is not racing, it doesn’t take away from my excitement.

Why am I so excited? Because the fields get deeper and deeper every year, and this first race will not only give us some insight as to where people are in their training, but it will also give us a “first look” at some of this season’s big names.

Here’s a quick look at some of the athletes competing this weekend:

WOMEN’S FIELD

LINDSAY WEBSTER

Lindsay Webster

Honestly, it’s Lindsay Webster. What more can you say? She has already proven herself to be among the best in the sport. If you followed her “honeymoon travels” you know that she is coming in with lots of base training under her belt. A year ago I would have said something like “As good as Lindsay is, this isn’t really the type of course/terrain that suits her strength,” but then last year she came in and won the Montana Sprint after doing a long trail race the weekend before. In other words, you just don’t bet against Lindsay Webster.

FAYE STENNING

Faye jumping over fire in Seattle. 2017.

Faye had a meteoric rise last year, and for good reason; she has the strength and the speed to be among the best. She was a little disappointed with her performances in San Jose two weekends ago, but the season is too young to indicate much. Faye had a solid race against Rose in Seattle last spring and then she went into full-time athlete mode. It paid off, as she finished second in the NBC Spartan Series and one second (or less) out of second place at the Spartan Race World Championship. She still might not be in peak fighting shape this weekend, but she will be gunning for one of the top spots by the end of the season.

ALYSSA HAWLEY

I don’t think Robert Coble has access to the numbers, but I would be willing to bet that Alyssa had the fastest time down the mountain at the Spartan World Championship last year. Seriously. I was following the top 5-8 women during the race, and I didn’t see her once near the top. And then, all of a sudden, there she was at the Rig near the end, in 5th place and shooting for 4th. It was quite an accomplishment. Alyssa also had a really good race in Seattle last October. It was clear that she had been upping her running game to compliment her amazing strength. It sounds like she has been dealing with an injury in the off-season, but I still expect her to do well.

REA KOLBL

I still remember seeing Rea coming down off of the hill towards the water near the festival area in 3rd place at Monterey last year. I remember thinking (like everyone else), “Who in the world is that?” At that moment, I knew that no one was going to be able to count Rea out of any race she was in. Sure enough, the next time I saw her was at the top of the mountain in Tahoe, in 4th or 5th place. The cold water got her on the way back down, but she still had an amazing race for her first year. She has probably raced more than any other elite female since last October, so she will come in battle-ready. I expect her second season to be filled with promise, and after sweeping the San Jose weekend, she has some early confidence.

NICOLE MERICLE

I have only seen Nicole race a couple of times, but it’s clear that she is coming into her own. I think she surprised everyone by finishing second at last year’s OCR World Championship, and just a few weeks ago she showed her running prowess by leading the San Jose race until the very end. (Spear throw!) With both a track background and climbing experience, Nicole promises to be a threat all year long. It should be really fun seeing her navigate the NBC race series.

CHIKORITA DE LEGO

Chikorita (Alex Roudayna) brings serious road speed to the OCR world. She has been around for enough seasons now to know exactly what to expect, and on just the right course, she will use her experience to make you pay. Chikorita had some really strong races last year, and I think she has a good chance to do well this year, too. A course like Seattle just might suit her racing style very well.

There are a number of others to keep your eye on; Orla Walsh will be bringing her stadium race skills to the Seattle Super course, as will EPIC Gym kettlebell-swinging Cassidy Watton. Natalie Miano will be looking to mix it up with the well-known crew, and long distance ladies like Alison Tai and Kayla Kobelin will be representing as well. I am hoping that someday soon we will see people who excel in the other OCR races, like Ashley Samples, out there, too.

None of these women should be considered as “also rans,” by the way. They present a real threat every time they race.

We won’t see Amelia Boone racing this weekend, but when she decides to toe the line, we will all know. I am sure of that. It’s been a long time away and it will be fun to see her out there again.

And then there are all of those out there that we don’t know about yet. Rose’s first Spartan Race ever turned out to be the Spartan Sprint Championship in Washougal, WA, in 2013. As a complete unknown, she led the whole first half of the race until her lack of obstacle familiarity took its toll, dropping her back to a fourth place finish. Rea had a similar situation at Monterey last year, and Lindsay got fourth at her first race, which just happened to be the 2014 SRWC. Who knows who might emerge from the masses the year?

MEN’s FIELD

The men’s field has been deep for a few years now, and it is not uncommon for some exceptionally good athletes to not get on the podium. Heading in to this year’s NBC series, this is who we will get to see in Seattle:

RYAN ATKINS

Ryan Atkins jumping over fire in Seattle. 2017.

Can I just leave the rest blank? We all know who Ryan is and what he is capable of, at any distance. A week or so ago I wrote a post about how to determine the “fittest athletes on the planet,” and more than a couple of people just wrote “Ryan Atkins” as a comment instead of listing the qualities of fitness that I was looking for. Why? Because he embodies most of them.

ROBERT KILLIAN

After winning the Spartan Race World Championship in his rookie season, Robert battled with Ryan and Hunter all of last season to take 2nd place in the NBC Spartan Series. He will always be on the hunt for a top spot, but after two months of busy military duty, the Best Ranger Competition, and the Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge, Robert won’t be coming in fresh. Will he be able to overcome the fatigue? We will see on Saturday.

HOBIE CALL

Hobie Call in Seattle. 2017.

Hobie needs no introduction. He is truly the Godfather of OCR, and he showed everyone last year at the Spartan Race World Championship that his best days aren’t necessarily behind him. At 40 years old, Hobie is technically a masters athlete now, but, like the Bear, he will always be shooting for the elite podium. To the surprise of many, Hobie is now on the Spartan Pro Team, and I am sure that he will represent the team extremely well.

RYAN KENT

Ryan Kent at the start line in Seattle. 2017.

Like a number of other OCR athletes who have dabbled in events outside of obstacle course racing, the country now knows who Ryan is through his appearance on The Selection. I guess he plans on transferring the momentum of that success into the OCR world. Always a contender for the podium, Ryan will find success on courses that suit his skill set this year. Seattle could be a breakout race for him, depending on where his fitness level is this early in the season.

ANGEL QUINTERO

Angel Quintero leaps over fire at the Breckenridge Sprint. 2016.

My prediction is that by the end of the year, everyone will be able to pronounce Angel’s name correctly. He has already had a lot of success in the series, but he is a fast rising star, and if you don’t know him yet, you probably will very soon. I am excited to see how he does on the terrain of the Seattle race. With no long climbs or descents, it’s more like an extreme cross-country race, and the mountain people will have to demonstrate their full skill set.

BRAKKEN KRAKER

BK has been in the Spartan scene for a number of years now. With a classic running background and plenty of strength to compete with the big boys, the only downside for Brakken is that Spartan keeps making the races longer and more mountainous. While he is able to hold his own (he made the podium last year at the NBC Montana race), his real talent is in the shorter races. The Seattle race is a Super, but the terrain may give him a chance to be up near the front of the pack.

GLENN RACZ

Glenn Racz jumping over fire in Socal. 2017.

For some reason that I can’t explain, I have always thought of Glenn as a short/fast course kind of guy, but whether that was ever true or not, it is clear that he has been converting to a long distance athlete. He is always on the hunt at Spartan Races, typically right behind the lead pack. Glenn is also locked in a head-to-head tie with Chad Trammell for the “Nicest Guy in OCR” competition.

Others to watch for on Saturday are Mark Batres, who will most likely use his speed to blaze through the relatively flat Seattle course, and Veejay Jones, who seems to be the youngest elite yet to challenge the top group of elite men. Additionally, the always-competitive running standout Ryan Woods may make a presence. If so, I expect him to do well on the Seattle terrain.

Notably missing from the race will be Cody Moat, arguably one of the best obstacle course racers over the last four to five years, and Hunter McIntyre, the “beauty and the beast” hybrid strength, speed, and endurance athlete whom we have all come to know and love over the years. (Although there is a rumor that Hunter may show up after all.) Also missing will be Chad Trammell, the best obstacle course racer that is the least well known. (Chad always fares extremely well in the Spartan series but somehow escapes media detection.)

As with the women, I am sure I am leaving someone out. And there are others, like Isaiah Vidal, who may or may not show up. (So, apologies if I missed you!)

And while I mentioned yesterday that I won’t start covering the masters athletes until later in the series, how can I not mention Matt “Bear” Novakovich? A staple on the Spartan scene, and perhaps one of the most well-loved Spartan athletes, this course will not favor Matt’s strength of climbing, but being a seasoned veteran athlete who always finds a way to compete, you just never know when he will knock off some of the younger bucks.

So that is a wrap for now. Tune in to the live stream on Saturday where Rose Wetzel and David Magida will be bringing you real-time action and updates! I may do some Facebook Live streaming as well, depending on cell service coverage.

Giddy up, y’all! The 2017 OCR series is about to get crazy!

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