Kim Matthews on verge of ATM title & Sefli Ahar delivers statement!
While Brunei's Sefli Ahar hauled himself alongside Steven Ong in the ATM championship ranking last Sunday, Melbourne's Kim Matthews defeated Ruth Theresia from Indonesia to jump to number 1 in the female ATM championship ranking with just 3 races left to go. That's in a nutshell what this year's Clark-Miyamit Falls Ultra delivered. But the Philippines' SuperTrail always has a lot more stories. It is an out-and-back course, which in today's trail world often seems conservative and old-fashioned, but every year again runners are devastated by the difficulty of the 50 miles course. No wonder there were so many delightful scenes at the finish!
The drama began already before the start as ATM champion and triple winner of CM50, Manolito Divina, announced he was suffering from serious toothache. According to insiders, he was even considering pulling out from the race. He did not, and as always, ran for what he was worth. However, once more this season, someone else matched his pace...and eventually beat it also. Sefli Ahar from Brunei stayed with the Filipino champion at nighttime until he " could not wait anymore ", as he said afterwards. Sefli has matured quickly in the trail running world, coming from a successful track & field and road marathon world. His trail inexperience still cost him the victory at Penang Eco 100K last May, but now he really has got his act together. A winner in Merapoh Trail last August, three weeks ago at Bromo Tengger Semeru Ultra and now CM50. Together with his home race, Beach Bunch Trail Challenge, that's 4 wins in the bag and another race - Izu Trail - coming up. Sefli has 2100 ATM points and is a joint fifth in the championship with Malaysia's Steven Ong. The important thing here is that both these top runners only have 4 results so far, while championship leader Arief Wismoyono (2475) and Manolito Divina (2450) already have five. The rules of the ATM championship say "the best five results count", which implies for the likes of Arief, Manolito and also Isaac Yuen Wan Ho, it is now about eliminating their worst result of the season with a better one, while Steven and Sefli can still get a full whack. 525 for winning UT Panoramic, 550 for winning Izu.
Steven and Sefli are both, of course, racing still this season. Ong will be in Thailand for UT Panoramic 100 miles, and Sefli is going to the Japan SuperTrail Izu Trail Journey on the same weekend. The men's championship is going to be a thriller! It's not just about these two, both Manolito and Arief are also in the mix for obvious reasons. To finish first, you first need to finish. And Arief is in the lead now. The 2015 champion from Indonesia is undecided whether to run or not run in Thailand still, as he is struggling with a shin splint injury sustained after BTS Ultra. Manolito, the defending champion, is not giving up neither and has announced his intention to challenge Steven on the 100 miles at UT Panoramic!
Indonesia vs Malaysia vs Brunei vs Philippines: stay tuned for the outcome on 10 December!
While the men's championship is anyone's guess at the moment, Kim Matthews has the women's title within reach as she stayed ahead of Ruth Theresia at CM50. The pair was never more than five minutes apart during the race until Ruth fell quite hard in a descent and lost momentum afterwards. Kim did not suffer from the heat as much as in a few other races this time, and was able to push on straight to the finish. In fact, she looked stronger and fresher at the finish than ever before this season! The Vietnam-based Australian scored her fifth win of the season and jumps ahead of defending ATM champion Tahira Najmunisaa in the ranking. Matthews totals 2635 against Tahira's 2600. Ruth remains third with 2575.
The ambitions of the Malaysian superstar are currently the subject of big debate. The truth is: Tahira holds the key to the women's 2017 ATM championship. But she needs to race - Thailand now as the only option - and face Kim Matthews in a straight dual if she wished to defend her title. The coming days will bring more clarity!
The CM50 race in Clark saw two great third place finishers as well. Kristian Joergensen proved to be in excellent shape and was the only runner able to keep pace with Sefli and Manolito last weekend! Behind him was a big void to fourth place, but Joseph Gentileo showed talent in beating Spain's Pablo Diago Gonzales, who had "not his best day" in Clark. Pablo had championship ambitions still before the start, but unfortunately for the triple race winner this season it will be a place of honour at the end. Pablo is one of those runners who can still cause an upset in Izu Trail Journey, though, and steal points away from others....
Also in the women's CM50 race, third place was perhaps less expected. Melanie Hingpit got it, and not even far behind Ruth Theresia. A new name on the women's scene!
For post-race interviews and videos of the protagonists' arrivals, please see our facebook page!