If I had to summarize the 2019 Spartan Race season so far, I’d say that this is the year where the “best of the rest” finally caught up to the “historical best.” Raise your hand if you thought back in January that Johnny Luna-Lima, Ryan Kempson, and Tyler Veerman would all finish ranked in the top-5 of the US National Series (USNS)? I’m sure you also thought they’d all have at least a .500 record head-to-head against Robert Killian and Ryan Woods, too, right? Ok, put your hand down, you liar.
The same 7 men dominated Spartan Race from 2016-2018: Ryan Atkins, Robert Killian, Hobie Call, Cody Moat, Hunter McIntyre, Jon Albon, and usually Ryan Woods. They were on a different level and rarely lost to anyone outside that small list of names. So how rare was it for someone else to beat them (even once) before this year? Very.
Combined, those “historical top-7” men ran exactly 100 total Spartan Races in 2017 and 2018. Only 15 different people worldwide managed to beat just one of those top-7 guys even once last year at any distance (not counting Robert Killian running Iceland with a weight vest). Only 4 men who beat ANY of those top-7 men in multiple races both years 2017-2018 (Angel Quintero, Ryan Kent, Mark Batres, and Veejay Jones). That’s insane.
Then something happened this year: the “historical top-7” men started losing to new people. In just 5 months of racing this year, SEVEN separate guys have taken down at least 2 of the “historical top-7” in at least 3 separate races. Keep in mind that Hunter and Hobie aren’t active on the Spartan scene anymore, and Cody rarely races. That means fewer chances to beat those “historical top-7” men this year. Is age or too much racing finally catching up to Woods and Killian? Was this new crop of OCR stars really talented all along, but it just took them a few years to master the sport? It’s probably a combination of the two, but more likely the latter.
The only certainty about this season is that the competition on the men’s side is at an all-time high and will continue to get deeper next year. But what about the women’s side?
On the women’s side, it’s been all about Lindsay Webster and Nicole Mericle. Nicole started the year on fire with two wins, including a nearly 7-minute win in Jacksonville. Since then, Lindsay has been unbeatable, winning each of the last 3 US National Series races by at least 2:50.
However, just like on the men’s side, several women have tried to disrupt the status quo and have challenged most of the “Fab 5” all season. Rose Wetzel has made a comeback with a 4th-place ranking in the US National Series standings. Leigh Anne Wasteney has finished in every position 4th – 8th in the 5 US National Series races. Unfortunately, Rebecca Hammond has dealt with injuries since Seattle after a breakout 2018 campaign, but her ability is undeniable.
Two new women showed potential to be the next Rebecca Hammond and finally break up the “Fab 5” at the start of the year: Nell Rojas and Tia Reagan. However, Nell (understandably) decided to give up on OCR to focus on the 2020 Olympic marathon trials, while Tia is still in the growing stages of the sport (similar to what Ryan Woods went through a few years ago).