American Hayden Hawks and Newcastle’s Stephanie Auston have claimed victory in the men’s and women’s Kosci100 races at Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko by UTMB, impressing across the 100km course.
The pair were the runners to beat all day, working their way to the front of the field and then pushing ahead to cross the finish line first.
Unseasonably cold weather and snowfall resulted in a course change for Friday’s event, with the start moving to Perisher Valley, and the early course looking more like a winter wonderland than a summer’s day.
Hayden Hawks finished the 100km course in 7:48:55, almost 16 minutes clear of Ronnie Sparke, with Blake Hose a further 10 minutes behind in third.
Hawks, from Utah, is one of the stars of trail running and was impressive in his first ever race on Australian soil.
“I feel pretty good, I feel like I executed my gameplan perfectly today, I was able to stay on top of my nutrition, my hydration so I don’t feel too beat up, I feel like I’ll recover pretty good from this and I feel pretty happy that I was able to get the win today,” said Hawks. “The start was actually pretty cool, it was icy up there, it was pretty chilly and we were definitely having to bundle up and wear some extra gear that we’re not normally used to, other than that it was pretty cool, we got up to Seaman’s Hut at the top and the sun was coming in through the clouds and it was a pretty cool experience and being out there with the other guys, I really enjoyed it.
“We had a group of maybe six or eight guys and we were chatting away, having a good time, joking with each other, really we kept it pretty chill for about 50km and they were sharing a lot about Australia with me and I was sharing a lot about the United States and we had a good time,” he said.
Hawks’ Kosci100 win capped off a year of highs and lows for the 31 year old.
“It’s great to finish off 2022 with a win, I had some great performances this year, Western States and other races, but I also had some other pretty challenging moments and I didn’t have some good races so to finish off with a win I feel really good,” he said. “I kind of look at this race as the start of 2023 to be honest with you, I took a little break after CCC this year, reset, and was able to have a big block of training going into here and I’ll only build from there, I’ll build into Tarawera next and then Western States in June.”
Sydney-based Englishman Ronnie Sparke claimed second step on the podium in his first ever 100km run.
“I’m over the moon, in a bit of shock as well, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, probably about 30 or 40k in my legs were like ‘oh’ this is about normally how far you run so what are you doing, but I’m over the moon, it was amazing, a great experience,” said Sparke. “I wanted to quit probably about a hundred times but happy I made it. I knew what to expect, people have said you go through peaks and troughs and you’ve just gotta fight through and I did, there was a few times where I thought I might quit but you just keep going and that feeling disappears and your legs come back and it’s a bit of a cycle, but I love it.”
Sparke enjoyed the support from spectators and volunteers along the 100km course.
“All of the checkpoints had a good buzz around, the course was marked out really well, I get lost a lot, I’ve got lost in a lot of races before, I didn’t get lost today which was good,” he said. “The atmosphere was great, volunteers were good, course was great, even if it wasn’t the original course we had everything, there was mountain tops, snow, single trail, road, it was great, a good experience.”
The final place on the podium was taken by Blake Hose from Bright in Victoria who was hot on the heels of Hawks and Sparke all day.
“I’m stoked, I’m really stoked, I came in and wanted to get a podium, I wanted to punch a ticket over to the UTMB festival, so mission accomplished with that,” said Hose. “It was hard fought, it was a hard race, I think the original course would have been easier with the climbing, it was tough that it was so runnable for me, it’s not necessarily my forte. I had a great day, kudos to everyone involved, making those changes in the last 24-48 hours is a monumental amount of work so kudos to everyone for getting it done and running a really well organised event.
“It was interesting how it played out, after Guthega I was second or third, just staying at the same kind of effort, just cruising, then Ronnie went and Hayden followed and so did Dion (Finocchiaro) and I was just sitting back with Mikey (Dimuantes),” he said. “I kind of just sat back because for me it was too early and I knew if I went with the move then I wasn’t going to finish well, I just kind of stayed within myself, focused on my nutrition and just did what I knew I could, didn’t run for anyone else and by the time I got to 60, 70 ks I felt like I was rolling, I passed Dion, still had Ronnie and Hayden ahead obviously, I didn’t have anyone around me so I ran my own race.”
Newcastle’s Stephanie Auston hit the front early on the climb up to Charlotte’s Pass and didn’t look back, eventually taking the win by almost 12 minutes.
“It was an amazing course, just to run in snow in December in Australia is epic, the course was lovely, it was magical, I had a really good time, I’m obviously tired but I feel good and the energy out there was awesome, when you’re running down the road people are tooting in their cars, you feel supported the whole way,” said Auston. “It’s been over 30 degrees where I live, I wasn’t prepared for the snow but it was such a cool thing to be a part of, if it never happens again you can say at least I did it, it might be good training for UTMB if it might be cold. I layered well, I had a wet weather jacket and my arm warmers, the wind was cold on your face but once you’re moving it was ok, running through snow was like running through weird sand.”
Auston’s race plan played out to perfection as the put the hammer down early to gap the chasing runners.
“I just wanted to get through the cold part as quickly as possible and then just try to hold a good pace, I knew that the other girls wouldn’t be too far away, just tried to keep it steady, I had some low bits but food always helps, sugar and Coke, then I felt strong the last bit, not that I’d want to go further,” she said. “To be at the inaugural in such epic conditions and to have a good run I couldn’t finish the year any better.”
Cecilia Mattas’ strong run of trail running form continued, backing up her recent fourth in the 100km race at Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB® with second in the Snowy Mountains on Friday.
“I’m feeling good, really happy with my performance I must say. I enjoyed it out there today though there was one part my legs didn’t enjoy and that was the asphalt run and downhill as well, that was painful, but then we were back on the trails and it was ok,” said Mattas. “Running up to Charlotte’s Pass was amazing, to hear the crackling of the snow when you run through it is so cool, and then to see everyone coming up as we went down was cool, I thought we were all a bit crazy, running around here in this wind.
“I did what I could and did my best, I did UTA five weeks ago and came fourth there, I’m never sad over a performance, I’m always proud of myself because I know I did what I could on that day, some days are better, some days are worse, but today I’m super stoked, coming second to Steph and being so close to her is great because she is fast,” she said.
Patricia McKibbin is another runner who went into Kosci100 off the back of a strong performance, taking victory at October’s UTA50 in the Blue Mountains.
“I’m really happy, I’m exhausted but happy to finish third. I’ve had a really amazing season, this is a really nice way to finish off, I’m happy to have a rest now, I’m going to take a two week holiday,” said McKibbin. “The conditions just kept changing, it was really cold running to Seaman’s Hut, we were running on snow and a little bit of ice, as we started to come back down it would get warm, then it would be freezing cold again so gloves on gloves off the whole day.”
McKibbin, from Canberra, used her local knowledge well, having spent a lot of time training in the region.
“I think the local knowledge helped a bit mentally, I have run on snow before so I wasn’t too worried about that, and just to know where all the aid stations were I think it did help, especially the grind up the TVT, I’ve never run up it, I’ve mountain biked up it so I had a rough idea of how far it was to go,” she said.
Runners will continue to cross the Kosci100 finish line in Bullock’s Flat until 10am on Saturday, while those taking part in the KosciMiler have until 6pm Saturday to finish.
Ultra-Trail Kosciusko by UTMB® is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.
For more information on Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko by UTMB® visit www.ultratrailkosciuszko.com.au
Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko by UTMB® – Kosci100 – Men’s Results
- Hayden Hawks – 7:48:55
- Ronnie Sparke – 8:06:48
- Blake Hose – 8:15:26
- Michael Dimuantes – 8:56:28
- Dion Finocchiaro – 8:56:32
- Mark Hollingsworth – 9:05:27
- Josef McGrath – 9:09:56
- Shaun Pettit – 9:17:26
- Sam Hopper – 9:34:24
- Tony McEntee – 9:36:24
Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko by UTMB® – Kosci100 – Women’s Results
- Stephanie Auston – 9:44:42
- Cecilia Mattas – 9:56:13
- Patricia McKibbin – 10:12:09
- Anna Pillinger – 10:58:34
- Lucy Nell – 11:43:00
- Toni Gracia – still on course
- Janet Smith – still on course
- Robyn Hansen – still on course
- Lucy Clark – still on course
- Lisa Ryan – still on course
Header image: Hayden Hawks winning the Kosci100. Credit: Tim Bardsley-Smith