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This weekend’s JFK 50-Mile in Hagerstown, Maryland, will see Thanksgiving-like temperatures between the 20s and 40s, in keeping with many past editions of the race. But that’s where the similarities between the 2021 JFK and previous races end.
Over 1,000 athletes will descend upon Hagerstown on Saturday with every possibility that a new champion will be crowned in both the men’s and women’s races.
On the men’s side, the most recent champion to return to JFK is David Riddle, who won in 2011. It might be 10 years since his victory, but he’s fresh off a win at the Super Bull Trail Championships 50K in Wooster, Ohio and has won Alabama’s Mountain Mist 50K a whopping nine times, most recently this January.
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JFK has a brand-new course record set last year by Hayden Hawks (a blistering 5:18:40), and a stacked field of lesser-known names will see how close they can come. Ultra newcomer Adam Peterman, who was second at this year’s Pike’s Peak Marathon and won the Speedgoat 50K in July, will look to make his mark on the men’s field. The top returner is Anthony Kunkel, who was fourth last year. Other names to watch include Ben Quatromoni, who won the Kilkenny Ridge 50-miler in September and the Algonquin 50K in February; Jared Bassett, who won the Rogue Gorge 50K in October; and Sean Van Horn, fresh off a second-place finish at the Grand Traverse 40-miler and third at the 2020 Javelina Jundred 100-mile.
But it’s on the women’s side where things get really interesting. Like the men, the women have only one of the past two decades’ champions returning in the form of Devon Yanko, who claimed the crown in 2009. Yanko is also one of nine women in the field to have raced in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials back in February 2020. Others from that road marathon include Sarah Cummings, Anna Kacius, Sarah Biehl, Starla Garcia, Jeanne Mack, Rachel Viger, Karen Dunn and Caitlyn Tateishi.
Anna Mae Flynn will make her JFK debut this year. The 2019 champ at both the Speedgoat 50K and the Lake Sonoma 50-Mile will be one of a slew of athletes chasing Ellie Greenwood’s course record from 2012 of 6:12:00. Also watch for Kimber Mattox and Kristina Randrup. Mattox won the 15-mile Smith Rock Ascent in Oregon in May (where she was 5th outright) as well as the 2020 Way Too Cool 50K. Randrup won the American River 50 Mile in California in May by nearly an hour, and was third at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in September.
And the stories at JFK won’t end with those vying for the win. Watch for Carolyn Showalter, who will be looking to extend her record of 34 JFK finishes. The 67-year-old also holds two other JFK records: she’s tied for most wins by a woman with six AND most consecutive finishes with 22, a streak she held from 1982-2003.
No matter what, one thing is for sure: this year’s JFK will be one of a kind.