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2012 Western States 100 Women’s Preview

A preview of the women’s field at the 2012 Western States 100.

By on June 15, 2012 | Comments

Western States 100 logoAs good as the men’s field will be at this year’s Western States, the women’s field might very well represent a larger percentage of the world’s top trail ultra talent. Eight of last year’s Top 10 are scheduled to come back, a ton of talent was added via the Montrail Ultra Cup, and Lizzy Hawker comes to America via the the international entry option. That’s not to mention the many other great runners racing this year. It’s almost easier to note who’s missing from the field than who’ll be there. Actually, it would be easier, but that’s not how we do things here at iRunFar. So, without further ado, the women of the 2012 Western States 100!

2011 Western States Top 10 Women

  1. Ellie Greenwood (17:55:29 – 2011 WS 100 time) – Last year, Ellie Greenwood ran the second fastest time in Western States history (interview). Granted, it was on a fast “snow course,” but you can bet she’ll be chasing Ann Trason’s ghost this year as she goes after the women’s course record. Ellie’s had a stellar spring, even by her standards. In April, she won the American River 50 Mile in 6:18, 7 minutes faster than she ran last year and the third fastest time in course history… behind only Ann Trason. A month later, she set a marathon PR of 2:42:15 in Vancouver… breaking her PR of 2:43:05 that she set in London just this April. Earlier this month, she placed second at the Comrades Marathon. She’s the clear favorite at Western States and, if she’s got something left in her legs, she’ll be chasing only men … and Ann Trason.
  2. Kami Semick (18:17:34) – Kami has been more or less off the radar since she moved to Hong Kong last year. She started, but did not finish the TNF EC 50 Mile last December (pre-race interview). Your guess is as good as mine as to what she’s been up to since then. We understand she won The North Face 100 2012 Beijing International Endurance Challenge in May, a 100k race.
  3. Nikki Kimball (18:17:39) – Nikki raced her friend and TNF teammate, Kami, around the Placer High track last June to finish third. This marked her return to form. This May, Nikki ran a strong third place finish at the Transvulcania ultra (pre-race interview) on La Palma. A week later, she finished eighth at the Zegama Marathon, but broke her hand in two places along the way; however, she’s been running in a cast and plans to race.
  4. Tracy Garneau (18:22:15) – Tracy, the 2010 Western States champ (interview), will not be running this year’s race.
  5. Rory Bosio - Western States 100 2011

    Rory Bosio

    Rory Bosio (18:37:17) – Rory is only 27, but she’s one of the steadiest top American women’s ultrarunners. I don’t say that lightly. In 15 ultras, she’s had exactly one bad race, placing 20th woman at the Way Too Cool 50k last year. In two Western States (her only two hundreds!), she’s finished fourth (’10) and fifth (’11). This year, she’s won the Mount Mitchell Challenge (40 miles) and taken fifth at both the Way Too Cool 50k and Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.

  6. Aliza Lapierre (18:45:25) – Amazingly, Aliza might be even steadier than Rory! Aside from her sixth at States last year, Aliza has never finished lower than second in an ultra. In three ultras since last Statesmas, she’s won the Waldo 100k (second fastest time ever) and set course records in winning the Stone Cat and Bull Run Run 50 milers (by 13 and 18 minutes, respectively).
  7. Meghan Arbogast (18:50:19) – Meghan is rewriting the record book and redefining what is possible. Last year, she set the 50-and-over women’s world record for 100k by running 7:51:10 at the IAU World Champs where she finished fifth. This April, Meghan returned to the World Championships where she took 10 minutes off her own record in running 7:41:52 (joint interview with Amy Sproston and Pam Smith, see below), which was good enough for fourth place. While the WS100 page hasn’t been updated *cough, cough,* Meghan took over THREE HOURS off the women’s 50+ record at WS last year. Oh yeah, she was only 6 minutes and 21 seconds off Doug Latimer’s men’s 50+ course record. Doug, you’re on notice.
  8. Amy Sproston (19:36:19) – If there’s anyone from last year’s Top 10 set to jump five or more places, it’s Amy. Prior to last year’s Western States, she’d had a break out run in winning the 2010 JFK 50 (6:57:19)… or at least what looked like a break out at the time. With the perspective of her 100K World Championship win in Italy in April, she’s definitely made another huge leap forward. Her 7:34:08 in Italy puts her among the fastest American women ever for 100k.
  9. Becky Wheeler (19:46:54) – Becky will not be racing Western States this year.
  10. Pam Smith (20:40:48) – Pam has been tenth two years in a row at States. However, with a 10-minute 100k PR (7:43:04) en route to fifth at the IAU 100k World Championships in April and a fourth place not far behind Joelle Vaught at Chuckanut in March, it looks like she’s in the best shape of her life.

 Montrail Ultra Cup Entries

  • Montrail Ultra CupDenise Bourassa (2nd, Waldo 100k – MUC entry method) – Denise has been busy. Since the Start of 2011, she’s run at the front of 13 ultras. She just captured her first win of that stretch with a victory at last month’s Ice Age 50 (7:12:37).
  • Darla Askew (3rd, Waldo 100k) – Darla’s run four ultras in 2012 and won them all. That’s twice as many as she’s won in her previous 6 seasons (in the span of 8 years) of running ultras. She has four 100 mile finishes with her two strongest being Kettle Moraine ’08 (1st 22:04) and Wasatch ’09 (3rd 25:55).
  • Jenny Pierce (1st, Run Rabbit Run 50) – Aside from winning Run Rabbit Run 50 last September to get her MUC slot into States, Jenny won last month’s Quad Rock 50. While she’s yet to run a 100, as Nikki Kimball’s training partner, she’s sure to know the lay of the land when she toes the line.
  • Tina Lewis (2nd, Run Rabbit Run 50) – Tina ran her first two ultras in 2010, but really stepped up her game last year with a win at San Juan Solstice 50 Mile and second at Run Rabbit Run. She also ran her first and only 100 last year, taking fifth at Leadville (21:53). This season she’s already won the Buffalo Run 50k and Miwok 100k (10:35).
  • Melanie Fryar (1st, Vermont 50) – It seems like if Liza Howard’s not winning a trail ultra in Texas, Melanie is, as she’s won nine Texas ultras in the last five and a half years. She won the Vermont 50 mile (7:43) to earn her ticket to Squaw Valley.
  • Cassie Scallon (1st, JFK 50) – Folks outside of the Upper Midwest likely had never heard of Cassie Scallon until she won last year’s JFK 50 (6:31:22) in near record time (race report). Less than two months later, she won another Ultra Cup race, the Bandera 100k (interview). Unfortunately, Cassie has been hampered by an injury the past few months that’s largely kept her from running. She managed to keep her Montrail Ultra Cup series lead over Denise by finishing Ice Age and will likely attempt the same at WS100. [Update: Cassie’s injury has forced her to withdraw from the race.]
  • Elissa Ballas (3rd, JFK 50) – Her third at JFK (7:01) is Elissa’s only ultra finish. In her early 30s, she’s steadily improved her marathon time, clocking at 2:54 at last year’s Marine Corps Marathon. While she’s hit the roads as well as finished numerous triathlons, Elissa has consistently competed in the US Cross Country Championships, which suggests she may have more trail strength than her history would otherwise suggest.
  • Liza Howard (2nd, Bandera 100k) – Liza ran two sub-16 hour 100 milers last year: 15:33 at Rocky Raccoon in February and 15:46 at Javelina in November. In 2010, all she did was log her first sub-16-hour 100 (15:45 at Rocky Raccoon) and win Leadville (21:19) (pre-race interview). She has dealt with injury problems over the past year, one of which forced her to DNF Rocky Raccoon this February.
  • Joelle Vaught Montrail

    Joelle Vaught

    Joelle Vaught (1st, Lake Sonoma 50) – One of these days, Joelle will figure out the 100 mile distance. When that happens, watch out ladies! Since the start of 2006, Joelle has finished off the podium at three ultras as compared to 22 Top 3 finishes, including 14 wins. In the past six months or so, she’s won the Lake Sonoma (interview) and Pocatello 50 Milers, while she was third at the TNF EC 50 Mile Championships and the Chuckanut 50k.

  • Tyler Stewart (2nd, Lake Sonoma 50) – A former professional triathlete and cyclist who has the fastest ever woman’s Ironman bike split, Tyler has won three of her five ultras over the past two and a half years. She’s really made a splash the past six months, as she was fifth at the TNF EC 50 Mile (her first 50), won the Way Too Cool 50k in a stacked field, and finish second at the Lake Sonoma 50 mile (interview) so she could “explore a new challenge” by running the Western States 100.
  • Ashley Nordell (2nd, Leona Divide 50) – Ashley has won a ton of smaller ultras as well as the Bighorn 100 twice. She’s twice been runner up at the Angeles Crest 100. Despite a lengthy ultra resume, she’s run very few races against top women’s fields with this year’s Leona Divide (2nd), the Waldo 100k ’10 (4th), and Miwok 100k ’07 (8th) being her biggest tests to date.
  • Melanie Peters (2nd, Ice Age 50) – Melanie ran her first ultra in early March and has run two since. Her latest was the Ice Age 50 Mile where she took second (7:34). It was her first 50 miler.

Amy Steffen (2nd, Vermont 50), Heather Fuhr (1st, Leona Divide), and Sandi Nypaver (3rd, Ice Age 50) all declined their Montrail Ultra Cup entries into Western States.

International Entries

As far as I know, Lizzy Hawker was the only international woman to gain entry via the post-lottery, international selection process. If there’s a person who’s earned such an entry, it’s Lizzy.

  • Lizzy Hawker 2010 TNF 50

    Lizzy Hawker

    Lizzy Hawker (UK/Switzerland) – It’s hard to keep a resume of Lizzy short and sweet, but I’ll try. Multiple time TNF UTMB champ (2010 and 2011 interviews). Women’s 24 hour road world record (interview). IAU 100k World Champ.

Hold on. Lizzy makes four former women’s IAU 100k World Champs on this year’s Western States entry list. If that concentration of talent doesn’t blow you away, nothing will. There’s also plenty of racing history between Lizzy and two of the other three – Kami Semick and Ellie Greenwood – on the roads at various IAU 100k championships as well as at Comrades. Amy Sproston is the fourth member of this prestigious group. While men’s road ultra standouts have a mixed history in mountain ultras, Ellie and Kami’s 1-2 finish at last year’s Western States is just one of many examples of women excelling at both road and trail ultras.

Other Top Entries

If you’re not already dizzy from all the talent listed above, here are another 10 women who’ll be in the thick of it at Western States 2012.

  • Jennifer Benna – After a decade of ultrarunning, Jennifer keeps improving. She was second at last year’s Tahoe Rim 100 (23:23) and 10th at the TNF EC 50 Miler. This year, she won the Ray Miller 50k and was fourth at the Miwok 100k.
  • Jenny Capel – In the past decade, Jenny has two Top 10 finishes at States, sixth in 2003 and ninth in 2009, along with a multitude of ultra wins. However, she doesn’t have a win since the Helen Klein 50k (3:59) in October 2009. Her second at last year’s San Diego 100 (20:20) may have been her best race in the past year (or so).
  • Jamie Frink – Jamie is not among the “fastest” women in the field, but she knows how to run States. In 2009, she was the 37th woman at Way Too Cool and 12th woman at American River before finishing eighth at Western States. This year, she was 19th at Way Too Cool.
  • Carilyn Johnson – A multiple-time member of Team USA at the World 24-Hour Championships, which she’ll also be racing again in 2012. As far as I know, her resume is mountain-race free.
  • Suzie Lister – A good while ago, Suzie would have been racing for a podium spot at States. Among her seven WS100 finishes, she has a third, fourth, and sixth, but all of those were before the turn of the millennium. Then, after quite the hiatus, she surprised many with her seventh place finish in 2007. Who knows, she might just surprise us again!
  • Krissy Moehl

    Krissy Moehl

    Krissy Moehl – How is it that I’m just mentioning Krissy? (Answer: It’s just an organization fluke.) Krissy is one of those ultrarunners who doesn’t need an introduction. In addition to race results like multiple TNF UTMB wins (and the course record), a Hardrock 100 victory, and a fourth (’05) and second (’09) at Western States, she’s one of the premier ambassadors for the sport. She won the San Diego 100 (19:41) last year and was fourth at TNF EC 50 in December.

  • Jennifer Pfeifer – I can barely count high enough to tally all of Jennifer’s American River 50 wins let alone her career ultra wins. She hasn’t finished a 100 miler since 2004, but has a ninth (’04) and fifth (’01) at Western States among her three finishes there.
  • Claire Price – From Hong Kong, Claire was fourth at last year’s TNF 100 – Australia and second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in January. Last August, she was second woman in the CCC.
  • Lori Wetzel – While Lori’s resume won’t jump out at you aside from being consistently strong at the Vermont 100, she does have a pair of 13th place finishes at Western States (’06 and ’09).
  • Roxanne Woodhouse – At 49, Roxanne shows no signs of slowing down. In 2010, she won the Tahoe Rim 100 (22:46). More recently, she was fourth at the American River 50 and Waldo 100k last year, won the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 last October (8:00), and the Last Chance 50k (3:55) last November. Last month, she won the Silver State 50k after a 15th place finish in April’s Lake Sonoma 50.

Call for Comments

  • Is there anyone else that needs to be considered for a top 10 finish?
  • Know of anyone listed above who’s definitely not racing?
  • How many women can go sub-19 hours on the standard Western States course (i.e., not a snow or fire course) this year? Can any break 18 hours?
  • Can Ellie Greenwood break Ann Trason’s record this year?
  • Who’ll be the top US resident in the race? Aside from Amy Sproston, that’s not much different than asking who’ll be the top runner who isn’t a past or reigning IAU 100k champ?
  • How many masters runners will be in the top 10? How many women under 30?
  • Other thoughts?
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.