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.
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
(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