Here’s Who To Watch For At The Cocodona 250 – And How
The second iteration of the Cocodona 250 will kick off Monday, May 2 in Arizona with a formidable field of athletes.
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The second-ever Cocodona 250 will kick off on Monday, May 2nd, with an alternate course beginning in Prescott, Arizona, and ending in downtown Flagstaff. Over 200 runners will have roughly five days to cover over two hundred miles of some of the Southwest’s most beautiful and challenging terrain.
The race takes place on the current and historic homelands of many Indigenous groups, including the Jumanos, Yagapaiv Apache, Hopitutskwa, Pueblo, Zuni, Hualapai, Hopitutskwa Hualapai, and Hohokam.
Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 Cocodona 250, which athletes to watch for, and how to follow along.
Course Changes for 2022
Due to the Crooks Fire, which started on April 18, race officials rerouted nearly a quarter of the course after the Prescott National Forest was placed under an emergency closure through May 3, for ease of firefighting efforts. As of April 26, the Crooks Fire was 16% contained and burning around 6,400 acres south of Prescott in the Bradshaw mountains.
The new course will start in Prescott, Arizona, rather than Black Canyon City.
“[The fire] basically broke out less than a mile from the mile 63 aid station,” said Jamil Coury, owner of Aravaipa Running and one of the Cocodona organizers. “We’ve been able to do a reroute of the first 70 miles of the race course…and we’re going to be running about 60 miles and then we’ll merge back with the course and we’ll make up the rest of the miles later on in the race.”
As a relatively new race, Coury says there are still some challenges to work through with an event as long as Cocodona. The last-minute course changes proved particularly challenging, but he hopes the event will continue to settle into a routine over the coming years.
“We’re trying to work out the kinks for sure. You know, a lot can happen in this length of race,” he says. “Everything else is mostly kind of like last year. We’re looking to do a livestream of the event again on our YouTube channel until at least the top female podium comes in and we’ll see from there, we might try and do some bonus broadcasts with some of our finishers in the last couple of days. It’s more like we’re trying to test a couple more ideas for the course. We’ll get feedback from those and then maybe settle into a more long term route.”
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Runners to Watch
In its first-ever running last year, Cocodona featured 176 runners, 108 of whom finished. This year the field is considerably larger, with 234 registered runners. Twenty-one of those are finishers from last year’s inaugural event: 17 men and four women.
Those 17 men include 2021 champion Michael Versteeg and three other top-10 finishers (Joshua Locke, Tod Bachman, and Mark Vogel). The women’s field includes only two returners from last year’s top 10, fifth place finisher Sarah Ostaszewski and ninth place finisher Jodi Semonell.
But alongside those returners comes a strong contingency of newcomers who will look to challenge both the men’s and women’s course records of 72:50:25 and 85:30:38, respectively.
“For the women, I think the biggest name on the list would be Annie Hughes from Leadville. She won the Moab 240 last year, Leadville 100 last year, and then Coldwater this January,” says Coury. “Briana Grigsby from Tucson was fifth at the Black Canyon 100K this year and second at the Javelina 100K last year. And then Sarah Ostaszewski. She finished last year, and she’ll be returning.”
Hughes, at just 24, will seek to remain undefeated at the 200+ mile distance. She’s been training for Cocodona with shorter ultras since winning the Moab 240 in October. She won the Coldwater Rumble 100 in January and the Staunton Rocks Running Up For Air 12-hour event in February. At that race, she racked up 56 miles in just under 11 hours and beat all the other competitors, regardless of gender. She then celebrated her 24th birthday on March 13 by running for 24 hours around her home in Leadville, Colorado, covering nearly 120 miles.
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“I feel like with 200s, there’s just so much time to go through highs and lows, and you just kind of have to ride the highs when you’re feeling good and just go with it,” said Hughes. “You can’t really plan for these things, so I’m just kind of going into it looking at it as an adventure.”
After Cocodona, she will continue a full racing schedule through the summer with three 100s: High Lonesome in July, Run Rabbit Run in September, and Javelina in October, back in Arizona. For Cocodona, she’ll focus on carefully scheduling sleep and nutrition, seeing the experience as an opportunity for adventure.
“I think it’s really cool that [200s] are becoming more popular and that a brand new race as amazing as this one is now available for runners,” said Hughes. “I’m really excited to be a part of this race in one of the first years it’s ever been run, because I think it’s going to become really big.”
On the men’s side, Coury will be watching for 200+ veteran Michael McKnight, who DNF-ed last year’s race due to heat struggles, and last year’s winner Michael Versteeg, as well as backcountry guide, coach, and pro Brooks athlete Joe McConaughy, who will take his first crack at the 200+ mile distance. McConaughy currently holds the fastest known times (FKTs) for the Arizona Trail (supported), Long Trail in Vermont (self-supported), and Appalachian Trail (northbound, self-supported).
“[McConaughy has a] strong thru-hiking, kind of FKT background,” says Coury. “Also really fast at short distance and then even at like the 100-mile distance, he’s got some really fast times. He has this interesting mix of super long and short and fast.”
McConaughy also brings recent experience with running fast in the area where Cocodona takes place.
“I’m stoked. It’s an awesome route. [Aravaipa is] an awesome race organization. There’s lots of great runners. So it’s kind of like everything you want from an effort,” says McConaughy. “I did the Arizona Trail last year and I did it right around the same time…So it’s really cool thinking I did the Arizona Trail and now coming back for another big section of trail. And adventuring in Arizona is really exciting. I just love the desert and the vibes and the whole area. It’s just a very, very lovely, fun state.”
Michael McKnight (32, Smithfield, UT): two-time champion of the Triple Crown of 200s (which includes the Moab 240, Tahoe 200, and Bigfoot 200), his record on those three combined races is the fastest ever by nearly 45 hours (162:00:51). He has multiple wins at both Bigfoot and Moab.
Michael Versteeg (Prescott, AZ): Last year’s winner, also won the 2020 Fuego y Agua 100K and was fourth at the 2019 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile
Chad Trumbo (39, Columbus, OH): Won the Fuzzy Fandango 50K in November, sixth at the Mohican 100 Miler in 2021.
Joe McConaughy (30, Seattle, WA): Third at Gorge Waterfalls 100K earlier this month, fourth at the 2021 Javelina Jundred, holds numerous thru-hiking FKTs.
Cole Crosby (33, Cranston, RI): Fifth at the USATF 50K championships in 2020, recent wins at the Manchester to Monadnock 55 Miler and MCW Westfield Ultra 9 Hour.
Eric Senseman (33, Flagstaff, AZ): 2017 JFK 50 Mile winner, with top-three finishes at the 2019 and 2021 Black Canyon 100K.
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Annie Hughes (24, Leadville, CO): Recent wins at the Leadville 100, Coldwater Rumble 100, and Moab 240.
Rhoda Smoker (35, Elverson, PA): Recent wins at the Conquer the Wall Endurance Challenge 47 hour run, Dogwood Ultras 12 hour, and Green Monster Trail Challenge 50K.
Brianna Grigsby (34, Tucson, AZ): Recent wins at the Sinister Night Runs 54K and McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K, plus top-five finishes at the Black Canyon 100K and Bandera 100K earlier this year.
Lee Conner (49, Cleveland, OH): Top-five finishes at the Forget the PR Mohican 50K, Run Lovit 100 Miler, Outlaw 100, and Cloudsplitter 100 – all in the last 8 months!
Jodi Semonell (49, Omaha, NE): Second at the 2020 Moab 240, ninth last year at the inaugural Cocodona 250, recent wins at the Dizzy GOAT 12 hour run and Hitchcock Experience Endurance Runs 100 Miler.
Sarah Ostaszewski (30, Beaverton, OR): Fifth at last year’s Cocodona, with recent wins at the Bristow 24 hour run, Mogollon Monster 100 Miler, and Across the Years Marathon, plus a top-10 finish at the Javelina Jundred in October.
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Course Description At-A-Glance
- Distance: 250.4 miles
- Cutoff time: 122 hours (five days, two hours)
- Elevation range: High point around 9,000 feet and low point around 3,000 feet.
- Elevation change: estimated gain of over 41,000 feet (though with course changes this is likely to be lower).
- Towns the course passes through: Prescott, Jerome, Clarkdale, Sedona, and Flagstaff.
Aravaipa Running will be providing live coverage for as much of the course as they can through the first half. You can find the livestream on the race website, and a recap video of the inaugural Codona 250 on YouTube.