Wood River Valley ultramarathon runner Andy Jones-Wilkins bested a field of 250 competitors to win the 19th Annual Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run on Saturday.
Jones-Wilkins, the headmaster at The Community School in Sun Valley, finished the race in 15 hours and 53 minutes, 19 minutes ahead of his closest competitor and one of the fastest finishes in the history of the race.
For 39-year-old Jones-Wilkins, who competes in about a half-dozen ultramarathon races each year, it was his first 100 mile win, even though he is a past national champion.
"It was great," Jones-Wilkins said in a telephone interview from Cape Code on Thursday. "It was my first win in 15 tries."
Ultramarathon running is a grueling sport, with races from 50-100 miles long and normally over rough terrain and up and down hills or mountains.
Jones-Wilkins said he used a different strategy to win the Vermont competition. He stayed with the pack for the first 15 miles and then kicked into a higher gear to take the lead and retain it for the remainder of the race.
"I didn't feel like I could win it unless I pushed myself early," he said. "So I ran in the lead for 85 miles, which was a little different for me. It's 15 minutes faster than the last time I ran there, which was in 2003."
Jones-Wilkins, considered a top national ultramarathon competitor, often finishes races in the top five, but said this is his first 100 mile win.
He won his national championship at the 2006 USA Track and Field 100 Mile Trail Running Championship in February of that year near Huntsville, Texas. But he doesn't consider it a win. He was the top U.S. finisher, but actually finished second to a runner from Mexico.
Other career highlights for the headmaster include a first place finish at the 2005 Mt. Diablo 50 Kilometer Trail Race and second place finishes at the 2005 Western States 100, the 2005 Rocky Raccoon 100 and the 2003 and 2005 Angeles Crest 100 mile races.
Somewhat of a newcomer to the Wood River Valley, Jones-Wilkins moved here with his family in the summer of 2006 after being hired as headmaster at The Community School. He's originally from the East Coast of the U.S. and his parents still live on Cape Code in Massachusetts.
Following his victory in Vermont, Jones-Wilkins and his family were enjoying a vacation this week on the East Coast before returning to the Wood River Valley on Sunday.
His family, wife Shelley and sons Carson, 9, Logan, 7, and Tully, 4, serves as pit crew for his ultramarathon adventures.
In addition to having a supportive family, Jones-Wilkins said his running career is made possible by his main sponsor Montrail Footwear.
Jones-Wilkins plans to run two more races this year. In September he'll compete at a race in the Grand Tetons and after that it's off to a race in Arizona.