With so much unknown this year, how should we rank the athletes going into a new season of OCR? People move on and new names show up. The schedule, prize money, and distance have all changed at the Spartan Series.
Even with all those changes: What athletes are we watching for this year? What athletes are you most excited about?
Prize money is down this year, cut in half at Spartan 3k events. Savage Race prize money went up 50%—a steady growth over previous years. For both series, prize money is $1,500 for first place, but is that enough for athletes to come out consistently? Athletes have a lot to consider. Is it worth the chance to go to these events to make just enough to pay for travel? Spartan announced that the winners of the 3k World Championships in Abu Dhabi would receive $20,000, and the winners of the 3k Pan American Championships in Mexico would receive $5,000, while the 21k is receiving much less love. The 21k World Champion will win $2,500, and the 21k Pan American Champion will get $1,500.
Is it enough for athletes to contemplate getting their practice in at lower-paid events to be prepared for the World Championships?
Where will we see the top obstacle course athletes in 2023? There are many athletes we look forward to seeing, so in no particular order, here they are.
Kris had a remarkable 2022 season, winning two world titles at HYROX and World’s Toughest Mudder. She was prominent in the Spartan North America Series, finishing third in total points. She is going to have an impressive year. Kris plans on going to as many events as possible with a focus on the SavagePro Series and possibly making a showing at OCR World Championships in Mammoth and at World’s Toughest Mudder. Regarding the Spartan Series, she will do her best to make the event if it fits into the schedule. She also plans on attending the GoRuck Games the same weekend as the first Spartan 3k in Palm Beach. The new Spartan format does appeal to her, but the schedule of the Spartan events does not work well.
Veejay Jones is the king of the OCR short course. He will likely dominate the Spartan 3k Series, but he is also considering the costs of attending the events and if it justifies the investment. Veejay plans to attend the OCR World Championships to defend his title in the short course. At Spartan Jacksonville in 2022 (the only sprint in the North American Elite Series), Veejay finished first. He finished second in the North America Elite Series overall. Veejay is planning on going to the Spartan 3k Series, make a showing at a Savage Race or two, chase down Deka World Championships, and train to compete in Hyrox in 2024.
It almost doesn’t need to be said: Lindsay is one of the most dominant people in the sport. Unfortunately, she is not planning on attending very many events this year. We will most likely see her competing at OCR World Championships. Lindsay might make it out to a few Spartan events and the Spartan World Championships. She has many reasons for not attending events this year. If she does compete, I’d keep my eye out for her to dominate.
Like Lindsay, Ryan will not attend many races other than OCR World Championships, World’s Toughest Mudder, and maybe a few Spartans. Due to the drop in prize money, he cannot really justify the costs of attending the Spartan 3k events. Ryan Atkins won the North America Elite Series and Spartan World Championships and is the most decorated athlete in the field. It will be exciting to see him at the 21k championship events and interesting to see him challenge the field on the shorter courses.
The athlete I am most excited to see is Nicole Mericle. After her injury at Hildervat in 2021, she was out for the year. She has steadily recovered, took 2022 off, and is ready to dominate in 2023. She is planning to attend as many events as possible. She is going to every Spartan 3k in North America, FISO Championships in Belgium, OCR World Championships, Trifecta World Championships, and Spartan World Championships. She mentioned that some of the events depend on the prize money being worth it. She is going to make a smash on the short course.
The new guy no more, when I first saw him I did not know who he was. But that goes with most people you have never met. Rylan will unquestionably be a force to reckon with this year in OCR. He won the Spartan North America Championships in Kelowna, finished fifth in the Spartan North America Elite Series points, and almost always finished in the top five in the Spartan series. He is focused on his fitness this year and that will significantly impact the events he shows up to. He’s focused on Trifecta World Championships in Greece and DEKA World Championships. As for the Spartan 3k, he is not sure he will attend because the payouts are not worth it to him.
There are many athletes out there that I wanted to include, but these are the six we should all keep our eyes on. Who are you watching for in 2023?