Kevin Setnes’ running career began at Bloom Township High School in Illinois, where he ran cross-country and track, distinguishing himself with a best of 9:40 for the 2-mile run. The then entered the U.S. Navy and spent the next 6 years serving in the U.K. and Italy, where he took advantage of the opportunity to compete in European track, cross-country, and road races in the 1970’s. He gravitated to the longer distances and became a 3-time winner of the annual USAFE (U.S. Armed Forces in Europe) marathon, with a best time of 2:23:43.
His competitive ultra career began with a bang in 1990 at the age of 36, as he won the Minnesota Voyageur Trail 50 Mile, and then returned to win again the following year. Next up was the 1991 USA 100Km National Championship in Duluth, MN, where he gave notice that he would be a force to be reckoned with on the national stage by taking the silver medal in brutally cold and windy conditions in 7:00:59.
Two years later he attempted his first 24-hour race at the USA National Championship at Olander Park in Toledo, where he and Tom Possert waged a neck-and-neck dogfight at national record pace over the final 15 hours. Setnes prevailed for the national title, setting a new American Record of 160.426 miles in the process.
Marriage and children followed (she gave birth to 3 children in five years), and, now as Lorna Michael, she took a hiatus from ultrarunning of almost a decade. But her return to ultra racing was even more spectacular than anything she had done previously. In 1992 the Trans-USA footrace (2900+ miles) was revived, 63 years after it had last been run. Out of a field of 28 men and no women, 13 finished. The following year, 1993, there was one female entrant in the field of 13: Lorna Michael. The race was run in 64 consecutive daily stages averaging 45.5 miles each. In other words, 64 consecutive, daily 45.5 mile competitively timed races, with no rest days. Michael finished 3rd overall in the field, finishing in a cumulative, aggregate time of 585+ hours for the 2,912 mile distance. She became the first woman to complete a trans-USA race. Remarkably, she also bettered the fastest known female solo trans-USA crossing (which had been accomplished on a much more flexible, round-the-clock, 24-hours/day forward motion option) by 4 miles per day.
Over the next decade he distinguished himself with consistently top placings in some of the most competitive ultras in the country, garnering victories in the GNC 50 miler and 100Km, the Vermont 100 Mile Trail Race, and another win at the Olander Park 24 Hour. He achieved best times of 3:12 for 50Km, 5:30 for 50 Miles, and 6:58 for 100Km. During this decade he won the 100Km USA National Championship three times and the USA National 24-Hour title twice. In 1998 he became (and still remains) the only American man to win both the National 100km and 24 Hour titles in the same year. For 8 consecutive years he was a member of the U.S. National Team to the World 100Km Championship. In two of those years he was a scoring member of the World Championship silver-medal winning American team. Three times he was chosen to receive USA Track & Field’s Ted Corbitt Award as the outstanding American Men’s Ultrarunner, and twice he was selected as #1 American Men’s ultrarunner by Ultrarunning Magazine. He continued to compete in ultramarathons through 2007.
In 1995, Setnes began a coaching program for aspiring ultrarunners. Eventually his tutelage would produce 18 USA National Champions. Also in 1995 he created and served as Race Director of the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Trail Race. He would later serve as Race Director of the 2002 USA National 100Km Championship.
In 2000, during a turbulent time in the relationship between the national federation (USA Track & Field) and its ultrarunning constituency, Setnes served as Co-Chair of the Mountain/Ultra/Trail (MUT) Council of USATF, taking the primary leadership role in advocacy for the athletes. During the next half decade he served as Coordinator of the National 100Km Team, and then as president of the American Ultrarunning Association (AUA). His leadership on behalf of the athletes resulted in AUA being named “Contributor of the Year” by the MUT Council of USATF in 2003.
Athlete, coach, event producer, race director, administrator, leader. No one else from the U.S. ultra community has ever blended quality of athletic performance and effective administrative/political leadership at a national and international level on behalf of the sport as well as Kevin Setnes. We welcome him into the American Ultra Hall of Fame.
(Note: In order to become eligible for induction into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, an athlete must have been retired from ultramarathon competition for 10 years or have reached the age of 60)