Ahead of the race, we’ll publish interviews with some of the women’s favorites and, of course, we’ll be covering the race live starting at 5 a.m. PDT on Saturday, June 24th.
Most Likely Contenders for the Win
I’m going to start off this preview with the past three Western States women’s champs from the most recent and move backward.
From 2014 to 2016, Kaci Lickteig (pre-race interview) improved from sixth to second to first at the Western States 100. Kaci’s 17:57:59 from last year is the fourth-fastest women’s time ever run at the race. This year, Kaci’s been running well in her tune-up races, tying for second with Magda Boulet at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April (Kaci was also second there in 2016) and placing second at the hotly contested Quad Rock 50 Mile in May. In between those two 50 milers, she also won the Lincoln Marathon in 2:45. Let there be no doubt that Kaci has the base, the experience, and the confidence to repeat as women’s champ.
Magdalena Boulet (pre-race interview), who we recently profiled, beat Lickteig by 15 minutes to win the 2015 Western States 100, her 100-mile debut. Following that win, she went on to DNF a pair of high-profile races at the 2015 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships and last year’s Western States 100. It appears that Magda has her mojo back, as she was fifth at last year’s UTMB before being runner up at last December’s TNF EC 50 Mile as well as February’s Tarawera 100k (behind Camille Herron) and April’s Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (behind YiOu Wang and aside Kaci Lickteig).
Just three years ago, Stephanie Violett (née Howe) (pre-race interview), was the Western States women’s champ. A year later, she finished third at the race behind Boulet and Lickteig. An injury kept Violett from racing much of last year, including keeping her out of Western States, but she did come back in time to take ninth at last December’s TNF EC 50 Mile. In January, Stephanie won the Bandera 100k in Texas. [June 13 added Bandera result.]
Camille Herron’s (pre-race interview) go-big-or-go-home approach should add a bit of excitement at the front of the women’s race. Since jumping into ultras less than two years ago, she’s had some spectacular results. The most impressive of which have come on the road with her 2015 IAU 100k World Championships victory and win of the Comrades Marathon just a few weeks ago on June 4th. She has some strong trail results–including a win at Tarawera in February, a fourth at last year’s Lake Sonoma, and fourth at Chuckanut in March, but they don’t equal her success on the road. If the trails already slow Camille down a bit, it’s yet to be determined how she’ll fair with so much climbing and descending as she lives and trains in Oklahoma (living in Nebraska hasn’t stopped Kaci from success at States) and, I believe, last year’s Lake Sonoma 50 and UROC 100k are the hilliest trail ultras she’s raced to date.
Although YiOu Wang (pre-race interview) finished 13th in her 100-mile debut at Western States last year, I’d still consider her as someone who could win Western States. Undoubtedly, she’s fast enough to do so as she’s shown in winning the past two Lake Sonoma 50 Miles (2016 and 2017). She’s also fit as heck right now, having also won the USATF Trail 50k National Championships at the Fourmidable 50k in February, placing second at the Chuckanut 50k in March, and winning the Quicksilver 50k in May where she lowered her course record from last year by more than four minutes.
How Is This A Second List?!
Switzerland’s Andrea Huser arguably had the best trail ultramarathon season of any woman in the world not named Caroline Chaverot last year… and, yet, here she is. In 2016 alone, Andrea won Diagonale des Fous, Lavaredo Ultra Trail, Eiger Ultra-Trail, the MaXi-Race in Annecy, the Swiss Irontrail 201k, and the Ultra-Trail Tai Mo Shan 100 Mile… just to name some of her wins. Last year, she also took second to Chaverot at Transgrancanaria, Madeira Island Ultra-Trail, and UTMB (by a scant seven minutes) as well as second to Jasmin Nunige at the Swiss Alpine Marathon. Pause. Now, try to wrap your head around that season. So far this year, ‘all’ Huser has done is win the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail as well as take second at Transgrancanaria and the MaXi-Race. I expect Andrea to make a run at the top five and have no reason to think that she couldn’t even make it on the podium, but past performances by similarly strong European women suggest that a win would be a stretch.
The past two times Amy Sproston (pre-race interview) has run Western States, she’s finished second (2016) and third (2013). She also finished eighth in both 2011 and 2012. Through those years, her times have been steadily improving with the exception of little blip up in the blazing hot 2013 race: 19:36, 19:11, 19:25, and 18:54. Let’s not forget that Amy was the IAU 100k World Champion on the roads back in 2012. She won what may have been her only tune-up race at the Silver State 50 Mile in May.
If I had to pick someone from this second list who could break out and win the race, it’d be Clare Gallagher. Her 19-flat win at the Leadville Trail 100 Mile last year, just 15 months into her ultrarunning career–in her 100-mile debut–was quite impressive. Since then, she’s run fifth at the TNF EC 50 Mile in December, second at the Black Canyon 100k to grab an entry into Western States in February, and fourth at the hotly contested Quad Rock 50 Mile last month. Watch out!
Amanda Basham finished fourth at last year’s Western States, although there was an hour gap between her and third-place Devon Yanko. Later last year, Basham survived to finish sixth that the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile. Since then, she’s won a bunch of lower-key races, the most notable of which was the UROC 100k in mid-May. Going back a bit further, Amanda won the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile and was third at the Squamish 50 Mile in 2015 and second at the Gorge Waterfalls 100k in 2016.
Last year, Canada’s Alissa St Laurent took fifth at Western States after taking 13th at the race in 2014. She tends to stand out in longer ultras as she won the Sinister 7 Ultra, Canadian Death Race, and Cascade Crest 100 Mile all in 2015, and was second at the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile last September. Alissa DNFed late in the race at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April after DNFing at Tarawera 100k in February, the only races other than Run Rabbit Run that I can see she’s raced since last year’s Western States.
I sincerely think that Meghan Laws (formerly Arbogast) is an ageless wonder. Since she turned 50, at Western States alone, she’s taken seventh, 10th, fourth (!! at 52), eighth, 12th, and sixth in that order. (She was second back in 2010 when she was 49.) Since late November last year, she’s also finished 13th at the 2016 IAU 100k World Championships (in 7:58), fourth at the 2017 USATF 50k Trail National Championships at the Fourmidable 50k, and eighth at the 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.
If this were a couple years ago, I’d be including Emily Harrison Torrence as a dark horse to possibly win the race. She had quite the stretch from her ultra debut at the JFK 50 Mile in November 2012 where she was second to winning the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April 2014. During that stretch, she also won the 2013 JFK 50 Mile in 6:35 and won the 2014 USATF 50k Road National Championships in 3:15. Around that time, she made two attempts at Western States, taking seventh in 2013 and DNFing in 2014. Later in 2014, she won the IAU 50k World Championships not long before winning the 2015 USATF 50k Road National Championships. We’ve not seen that same level of results of late from Emily, but she did win this February’s Sean O’Brien 100k to earn her Western States spot.
Nicole Kalogeropoulos (formerly Studer) sandwiched a sixth place at the 2015 Western States 100 between a pair of DNFs at the race. Over the past year, Nicole has been third at the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile, 18th at the TNF EC 50 Mile, and third at the Bandera 100k, before winning the Black Canyon 100k to earn her spot into Western States. She might be best known for running a 14:22 to win the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile in January 2015.
With no Aliza Lapierre or Bethany Patterson in this year’s race, could Pennsylvania’s Maggie Guterl be the East Coast’s best chance for a top finish? Well, she’s got experience on her side as she finished eighth at the race last year. She also previously fared well in 100 milers, winning the 2015 Oil Creek 100 Mile and the 2015 Brazos Bend 100 Mile. She returned to the Brazos Bend 100 last year to win in a blazing 14:47. Maggie ran her way into last year’s Western States with a runner-up finish at the Georgia Death Race.
It looks like Washington’s Kaytlyn Gerbin is rapidly improving as an ultrarunner. Unquestionably, her best performance was her win at April’s Gorge Waterfalls 100k that punched her ticket to Western States. That said, in a three-week span last summer, she was third at both the Squamish 50 Mile and 50k (on back-to-back days) and, then, won the Pine to Palm 100 Mile in her 100-mile debut.
Ildikó Wermescher, a Hungarian living in Germany, is no stranger to big races and she’s in her element in long, mountainous races. She was sixth at UTMB in 2014 and seventh at the race last year. Last year, she was also second at the Swiss Iron Trail 121k, fourth at both the Eiger and Grossglockner Ultra-Trails, and ninth at Ultra-Trail Australia. Already this year, she was fifth at Transgrancanaria and fourth at the 116km Penyagolosa CSP.
Georgia’s Jackie Merritt (née Palmer) gives the East Coast another chance at a top-10 finish. Merritt got into States by way of finishing second at the Georgia Death Race in April, so she’s had less time than most others to train knowing she’s in Western States. Already this year, she’s won the Mountain Mist 50k, Mount Mitchell Challenge, Ice Age 50k, and Quest for the Crest 50k. Previously, she’s raced well in taking third and, then, second at the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile in 2014 and 2016 as well as winning the Pinhoti 100 Mile last year.
Another East Coast runner to watch is Sarah Keyes, who might have even-higher potential in the race. She’s run well at roughly marathon-to-50k distance skyrunning-styled races over the past few years with a win at the Breakneck Point Marathon in April, a win at last year’s Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k, a second at last year’s 54k Flagstaff Skyrace, and third at Crystal Mountain Sky Marathon and Whiteface Skyrun (31k) in 2015. In December, she ran to a strong 12th-place finish at the TNF EC 50 Mile. Her only 100 miler to date was a fourth place at last year’s Cascade Crest 100 Mile.
I’d expect New Zealand’s Fiona Hayvice to avoid early race out-too-fast shenanigans, and I fully expect her to make a good run at a top-10 spot by race’s end. The past three years, she’s gone fourth, first, and sixth at the Tarawera 100k and she was second at last year’s Ultra-Trail Australia. On hillier terrain, she was eighth at last summer’s 100k Eiger Ultra-Trail.
The Western States 100 may be a bit speedier than what she excels at, but that won’t stop Stephanie Case, a Canadian living in Switzerland, from giving it her all. After years of working her racing around living in war zones while working for the United Nations, she’s currently indulging on racing after a recent move to Switzerland. Among some of her recent results are a second at least year’s Tor des Géants and fifth-place finishes at the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail and MaXi-Race Annecy in the past two months.
Sabrina Stanley of Steamboat Springs, Colorado ran her way into States by placing second at the Sean O’Brien 100k in SoCal in February. Her only 100-mile experience comes from last year’s Leadville Trail 100 Mile, where she placed fourth in 22:30.
Comparing some of Cat Bradley’s results to those of Erika Hoagland, who was 9th and 10th woman at the past two Western States, suggests Cat could run herself into the back half of the top 10. Over the past year, this young Coloradan was fifth at the Speedgoat 50k and won the Rio del Lago 100 Mile last year before taking seventh at the Way Too Cool 50k and winning the Canyons 100k earlier this year. [Editor’s Note: Cat is registered with the race under the name Cat Hartley. She appears on UltraSignup as registered as Cat Bradley.]
Others to Watch
- Dana Anderson — 1st 2016 Javelina Jundred Mile; 1st 2015 Bryce 50 Mile; 3rd 2015 & 2016 Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 Mile
- Mandie Holmes — 1st 2017 Quicksilver 100k
- Bree Lambert — 14th 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile; 15th 2013 Western States 100; 2nd 2015 & 2016 Miwok 100k
- Kristy McBride — 1st 2016 Kettle Moraine 100 Mile
- Maddy McCarthy — 7th 2014 Ice Age 50 Mile; 8th 2013 Leadville Trail 100 Mile; 1st 2014 Pineland Farms 50 Mile
- Alondra Moody — 3rd 2017 Georgia Death Race; 1st 2016 Georgia Sky to Summit; 1st 2017 Cloudland Canyon 50k
- Mallory Richard — 1st 2017 Ice Age 50 mile; 1st 2014 & 2015 Superior Sawtooth 100 Mile; 1st 2015 Black Hills 100 Mile; 3rd 2015 Canadian Death Race
Previously Entered, But Not Racing
- Paige Pattillo
Call for Comments
- Who do you think will win this year’s women’s race and who will fill out the podium?
- Who has the biggest potential for an upside surprise?
- Let us know if you know of someone we’ve listed who won’t be racing or if there’s someone else we should have our eyes on during the race?