2018 Western States 100 Women’s Preview

Drymax - 2017 Western States 100One hundred (point two) miles, 18,000 feet of climb, 22,000 feet of descent, high-country altitude and technical terrain, oppressive canyons heat, 44 years of history, the original 100-mile trail foot race, interesting storylines from the front of the race to the back of the pack, and always some unexpected variables mixed in: the 2018 Western States 100 is almost here.

We expect that both the women’s and men’s front-of-the-pack races will have fascinating dynamics, with runners of all kinds on the starting line in California’s Olympic Valley. In the women’s field, we have four three past champions, a couple women who’ve knocked closely on the door of the podium before, several women who know how to finish in the top 10 like it’s their job, a goodly number of gals who don’t flinch in the toughest of conditions, and some up-and-comers among whom someone is sure to break into the highest echelon of trail ultrarunning. All of this will certainly add up to one very interesting day as these women travel the historic Western States Trail across California’s Sierra Nevada to its finish line in the city of Auburn.

Ahead of the race, we’ll publish interviews with a number of the women’s favorites. And, of course, we’ll cover the race live beginning at 5 a.m. PDT on Saturday, June 23. Stay tuned!

A special thanks to Drymax for once again making our coverage of the Western States 100 possible!

Thanks also to Jaybird and BUFF® for their support of our Western States coverage.

Be sure to check out our in-depth men’s preview to learn about the men’s race, too. For a bit more fun, you can entry our Western States prediction contest until Wednesday, June 20th.

Most Likely Contenders for the Win

Cat Bradley

Cat Bradley has withdrawn from Western States, citing health issues. [Updated June 12] Cat Bradley returns as the women’s defending champion. Last year, Cat kept her cool in both the field’s fast early pace as well as in the climactic heat of the day to smoothly move into the lead when things got their toughest. Her just-under-the-radar status of last year has most certainly dissolved and all eyes are now on her. Modern race history, however, does not favor the repeat champion, though Cat is backed by plenty of strong training and racing in the last year, including setting an FKT of the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim route at the Grand Canyon at the end of 2017 and three wins at regional 50k to 100k events since the start of the new year. According to social media, Cat has been plagued with back pain which caused her to DNF early in the 2018 Canyons 100k and has hampered some of her training. But we all know there’s something magical about being fresh at a race like Western States.

Courtney Dauwalter

If paper stats were the deciding factor, I’d give the nod to Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race interview) as 2018’s most likely champion. The woman has simply been on fire at all kinds of distances and terrains of late. And by “of late,” I mean pretty much nonstop for the last two years. Where does one even start, as in the last nine months, Courtney has over 550 miles of racing under her belt. Among those 550-plus miles, she won the 2018 Sean O’Brien 100k to earn her Western States Golden Ticket and won the 2018 Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji 100 miler. Another fascination factor with Courtney racing WS 100 is how she’ll strategically race. We’ve almost exclusively seen her race in less-competitive events where she’s off the front alone. I am curious about her racing style in a large group of her female peers.

2016 Western States 100 - Kaci Lickteig

Kaci Lickteig

The 2016 race championKaci Lickteig (pre-race interview) is going for her fifth finish of Western States in 2018. Last year saw her walk and jog through the last 20 miles to a rough finish, in 16th place. She did about the same thing at UTMB, too, taking 18th. And then last fall, Kaci succumbed to a major injury which sidelined her for several months. In the new year, she’s been steadily and methodically returning to running and fitness, running shorter races first, then a marathon, and then an ultra. Last month, she won the Silver State 50 Mile, a race she also won ahead of her 2016 WS 100 win. Given the year of ups and downs which have preceded Kaci’s arrival to this starting line, it’s hard to estimate her maximum potential in 2018.

Camille Herron

Camille Herron has withdrawn from this year’s Western States due to a leg injury. [Updated June 15Camille Herron has all the talent in the world to win Western States and, this year, it looks like she might even have nature on her side. The nontechnical-terrain ultrarunning specialist gave this race a shot last year, but dropped early while struggling in the high country, which had a lot of remnant snow and mud. Snow is probably going to be nearly nonexistent and the mud perhaps all dried up, too, leaving only the rocky and rooty stuff she’ll need to get through early to get onto the terrain which suits her better later. Camille was the 2017 Comrades Marathon champ and she set a 100-mile world’s best last fall at the 2017 Tunnel Hill 100 Mile. She earned her entrance into WS 100 with a win of the 2018 Bandera 100k. She recently pulled out of the 2018 Comrades Marathon with a quadriceps injury, and said on social media she thought she’d recover in time for a good go at this race.

Stephanie Violett - 2015 Western States 100

Stephanie Violett

Here we are at our third previous Western States women’s champion in this year’s race, Stephanie Violett (pre-race interview).  The 2014 champ has three total WS 100 finishes to her name, which include a third place in 2015 and 12th place last year. From a distance, Stephanie and Kaci Lickteig’s 2017s shared some similarities, as both of them had WS 100 and UTMB finishes off their abilities. Late last fall, Stephanie was on the up and up again with an eighth place at the 2017 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships. Even more, she ran a 4:10 course record at the FOURmidable 50k earlier this spring. Something just tells me that Stephanie could be arriving back into the super-fit version of herself at just the right time.

Other Top Women’s Contenders

There is also something that tells me that the women’s field better watch out for Kaytlyn Gerbin (pre-race interview). Last year, she played it conservative, running in the mid-teens place-wise until the second half of the infamous Cal Street, between about miles 70 and 78, where she flew into the top 10 and just kept picking women off. When she crossed the finish line in fourth place, she looked like she could still run many more miles. Her performance was really something else, and I think it shows her max potential at this race is still way out there. Since last year, her top performances have been a win at the 2017 Cascade Crest 100 Mile and a 10th place at the 2018 Trail World Championships. Her run at the Trail World Champs was another textbook steady-all-day effort. I think I’d be surprised if she doesn’t better her performance from last year, at least time-wise if not in placing, too.

Aliza Lapierre

Let us move onto another woman who has previously finished fourth at the WS 100, and that’s Aliza Lapierre. Aliza is looking for her fifth WS 100 finish, and her highest-end run so far has been a third back in 2012. She’s additionally finished fourth in 2015, and she’s also finished sixth twice. Aliza has had some incredibly strong performances in the last sixth months, including wins at both the Mount Mitchell Challenge and the Georgia Death Race, where she earned a Golden Ticket back into WS 100. On her best day and in decent conditions, I think Aliza could finish with a time that starts with 17, and that would put her in contention for the win.

I can still remember Amanda Basham hauling ass around the track and across the 2016 WS 100 finish line to take fourth. And reports from the course before that were that she was motoring hard in the race’s final 20 miles. She’s had some highs and lows in her life and running since then, but it seems like the trajectory is back to steeply up. In February, she took a super strong second at the Tarawera Ultramarathon and, last month, she won the UROC 100k by something like an hour and a quarter over any other woman. I’d be pretty uncomfortable being any woman in front of her in the race’s final quarter, that’s for sure.

Camelia Mayfield

Like a few others in this women’s field, Camelia Mayfield (pre-race interview) is in ascendent territory right now with her trail ultrarunning. Just in the last seven months, Camelia’s been 12th at the 2017 TNF 50 Mile, eighth at the 2018 Chuckanut 50k, and third at the 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. It was at Lake Sonoma where she earned her Golden Ticket into Western States. Also like a few other women in the field, I believe this is Camelia’s debut 100 miler.

Canada’s Ailsa MacDonald entered onto the ultra scene last year, finishing third and just out of Golden Ticket territory at the 2017 Black Canyon 100k. Her ultra year was just getting started there, though, because later on she outright won the Sinister 7 100 Mile before returning to earn her Golden Ticket with a win at the 2018 Black Canyon 100k. With that Black Canyon win, she also beat a certain Courtney Dauwalter by 25 minutes. Ailsa has a background in long-distance triathlon and road running. It looks like she competed at the 2016 Ironman World Championships with a 10:40 finish and she has a 2:44 marathon PR dating to 2016, as well.

Fiona Hayvice

New Zealand’s Fiona Hayvice is back to Western States again after finishing fifth last year in another one of those performances that was conservative and yet steady from start to finish. Fiona has raced now and then since last year, but none of her performances look to be on the same level as her go at WS 100. Of note, she took fourth at the inaugural 2018 Tarawera 100 Mile.

Nicole Kalogeropoulos has two Western States finishes on her resume, both times in sixth place, in 2015 and last year. Since WS 100 last year, she moved to Arizona and has been tearing up the trail running scene there. She also took 10th at the 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k. I see no reason to believe she won’t finish in the top 10 again, and potentially higher than sixth given that she now has real mountains on which she can train, unlike her prior home in the flatlands of Texas.

Cecilia Flori

Ceclia Flori, an Italian who resides in New Zealand, has been making waves in Australasia in the last few years. We first learned about her when she took third at the 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon in a competitive field. She took her running international last year in winning the Mozart 100k in Austria. I believe this is her first attempt at 100 miles, and I think it should also be the most competitive trail ultramarathon she’s seen.

Apparently we’re in the international part of our preview now. Australia’s Lucy Bartholomew (pre-race interview) will debut at the 100-mile distance with Western States. Though she just turned 22, she’s been running trail races and trail ultras since at least 2012. She’s always been a strong runner in Australasia, but 2017 and, now, the beginning of 2018 have been especially ascendent for her. Among her strong performances have been a course record at the Ultra-Trail Australia, a second at the Mont Blanc 80k, and a win at the Ultra-Trail Cape Town, all in 2017. Look, I’m just saying, women have won and podiumed at WS 100 as their first 100 miler.

2016 Western States 100 - Meghan Arbogast

Meghan Laws

If my stats keeping is correct, Meghan Laws is our fourth woman in the field who has finished fourth place before–but I need to just say that she was 52 years old the year she took fourth! Beat that, any woman, ever. Now, at the age of 57, Meghan is on the hunt for her 12th WS 100 finish. Last year, Meghan took ninth. Earlier this year, she was 10th at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. We should see her running in about 15th place for much of the middle portion of the race before moving up in the race’s final third. How far inside the top 10 can she get this year?

And here we are with our fourth previous Western States champion in Pam Smith. I think Pam is going for her seventh WS 100 finish this year, do I have that right? Her win came in 2013, and the last time she was at this race was in 2015 when she took 13th. In the last couple years, Pam’s top runs have been her second place at the 2016 Spartathlon and her fifth place at the 2017 IAU 24-Hour World Championships where she aided Team USA to a gold medal. Unfortunately, she said on social media recently that she’s been suffering a hamstring injury, but still plans to race.

Corrine Malcolm has the potential to run herself into the women’s top 10. In the last year or so, Corrine’s top performances have been a fourth at the 2017 Leadville Trail 100 Mile, a seventh at the 2018 Way Too Cool 50k, and a win of the 2018 Canyons 100k.

Now here’s a fascinating entrant, France’s Emilie Lecomte. Emilie has excelled at some of the most difficult and long trail ultras around the world. She’s twice won and another two times come second at the Diagonale des Fous, she’s won the Tor des Géants, and she’s twice been on the podium at the Ronda del Cims—all mountainous runs at least 100 miles long. She’s also finished fourth at the Marathon des Sables, showing that she runs well on the flatter terrain and in the heat of MdS. Emilie is an aggressive runner, so I can see her going up over the Escarpment and into the high country pretty hard. What happens to her the rest of the race is hard for me to guess.

More Fast Women to Watch

  • Amie Blackham — 2nd 2017 Bear 100 Mile; 4th 2016 Wasatch Front 100 Mile
  • Jasmine Chiaramonte — 2nd 2018 Georgia Death Race
  • Kate Elliott — 2nd 2018 Sean O’Brien 100k; 13th 2017 TNF 50 Mile
  • Traci Falbo — 1st 2018 Jackpot 100 Mile
  • Anna Hailey — 3rd 2018 Bandera 100k
  • Mandie Holmes — 14th 2017 Western States
  • Rachel Kelley — 1st 2017 Cruel Jewel 50 Mile
  • Mari Mauland (Norway) — 1st 2017 North Downs Way 100 Mile; 1st 2017 Thames Path 100 Mile
  • Paige Pattillo — 3rd 2018 Black Canyon 100k; 2nd 2017 Gorge Waterfalls 100k
  • Annie Rutledge — 4th and 3rd at 2018 and 2017 Canyons 100k
  • Roxanne Woodhouse — 1st 2017 Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile

Notable Earlier Entrants not Running

  • Cat Bradley
  • Camille Herron
  • Andrea Huser 
  • Jackie Merritt
  • Sabrina Stanley 

Call for Comments

  • Who do you see winning this year’s race and why? Who can you see filling the rest of the women’s podium?
  • Who do you think 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. We’ll be updating this preview until the starting gun goes off.

Last updated June 15

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 58 comments

  1. Greg

    I think the outcome of this race along with the manner in which it is raced is directly linked to Camille Herron’s injury. If it is a legit injury that has set her back, she won’t be a factor and really shouldn’t start. In this case the race will go out slower and play out in a more typical manner for the women’s race—smart, slow, controlled, with the contenders emerging after Michigan Bluff. I think it goes 1) Courtney 2) Alisa Macdonald 3)Cat/Stephanie in a close run for the podium.

    If, and I hope this is the case, the injury reflects Camille’s realization that Comrade’s is too close to Western to run well at both—and the “quad strain” isn’t a significant issue—-then it goes 1) Camille 2) Courtney closing on Camille in the final 10 miles 3) A surprise contender who passes Cat, Stephanie, Alisa and anybody else who tries to go with the hot pace established by Camille before Duncan Canyon. #carnage

    I see this as a year where the women further close the gap on the men in terms of competitiveness of the field. Last year the 10th man was 2 hours behind the winner; the 10th woman was three hours behind the female winner. This is already a big step in the toward competitive parity, but I believe this year the women will be as close as the men in the top 10-15.

    My Western States soapbox is and will continue to be that 20 qualification/lottery spots should be reserved for male and female elites and legends who want to run. What if Killian or Zach Miller wanted to enter the event? How about Caroline Chaverot, Andrea Huser, and Mimi Kotka? They’d be disallowed to particpate. For fans and the competitive evolution of the sport, that’s too bad—–in my estimation. I know not everybody agrees.

    1. Peter

      I don’t think Camille can handle the technical running and high country. She seems to struggle there even when healthy. Think if she wins it would be come from behind.

      1. Quigley

        I agree that if Camille is healthy (and makes sure to drink a beer along the way) she will win and likely be in the mix with the top men. I believe that one of Camille’s biggest problems last year was that she did not have appropriate shoes for the snow (maybe she was in the VaporFly 4%?,) but I noticed on her twitter feed that she has been checking out at least one of Nike’s rugged trail shoes. Western states does not really have any technical running, but traction in the snow is definitely critical. Although there are lots of fast and strong women running. It will be a great race!

        1. CB

          Nike doesn’t really have rugged technical trail shoes. There is the Kiger and the Wildhorse. I have a pair of Kigers…they are great, fast, light, feel like road shoes but handle moderately technical terrain well. But they are awful in muddy/sloppy conditions. Kaci Lickteig wore them when she won WS, so I imagine they are fine as long as the trails aren’t to sloppy. I haven’t tried the Wildhorse, but they are a little more shoe than the Kigers. It still has the same lug pattern, though, so I can’t imagine it’s a great sloppy condition shoe either.

          1. Reed B

            I think the amount of time you just spent typing about shoes is about equal to the amount of time difference it would make at Western States on an average year. And the Kigers/WHs are fine in the mud in my experience, and I run on the WS course.

            Regarding Camille, I don’t think she wins WS (this year) in any scenario, healthy or not. It’s even crazier to suggest she’d be closer to the top men than the top women.

            I think it’s Courtney D’s race to lose.

          2. Bobby

            Bro, I run the most technical shit the US has to offer and I rock the Wildhorse’s like they are going out of style. The Wildhorse is as bombproof as you can get, IMHO.

        2. Peter

          I personally think it is more Camille’s stride. I could be wrong who knows. I just don’t think it adapts well to technical running.We will find out in about 10.5 days though.

          1. Stephanie

            Agreed, I think Camille just generally has problems with technical running and will likely tweak something in the high country before she has the opportunity to open up later on.

          2. CB

            It could also be living in Oklahoma and not having a lot of practice with technical running. Kaci Lickteig is able to figure out how to train for the technical stuff while living in the Midwest flatlands, but some people need more practice with the details of like, how to handle footing and changing gears than others.

      2. stefanie

        Camille has had a tough year with injuries and still learning how to run on trails. Her gait is wicked fast and dangerous cause she runs so light. She had a stout win over Magda and the CR at Tarawera, UROC win and CR (when it was on the Western States trails), and just missed the CR at White River 50 in only her second trail race ever. She is a freak at 100 miles and could legitimately race with the top males. It took Ann a few years to get it right. I say she wins Western States many many times and is the first woman under 16 hours. She’s the future of trailrunning when she gets healthy and keeps getting more experience. Would love to see her keep going with her niche of breaking records.

      1. Reed B

        Yup. Plus, Andrea Huser placed 10th at Western States last year, so had a free ticket if she wanted it. She passed and I believe she is running Lavaredo instead.

    2. Alfredo

      No disagreements with Courtney going 1st. She is unbelievable and maybe the toughest ultrarunner I’ve seen. I don’t think either Cat or Stephanie will be in the hunt though. Cat looks to be struggling with back issues and maybe some metabolic stuff, who knows. Stephanie is super talented but she may have maxed out her best racing, but then again recovery is an amazing thing for strong performances, so who knows.

  2. Jamie

    Tough one to predict. So many great runners, and so many of them have some question marks. Should be fun to see how it plays out.

  3. Brian B

    I see Camille going out hot with Courtney on her heels, but surely there will be a wildcard or two! Will be watching with bated breath on the irunfar twitter feed.

  4. Andy

    Doing a search of the lesser known (to me) women in this preview and I came across a video of Celia Flori. From the video description…

    “In this talk I will describe a topos formulation of consistent histories obtained using the topos reformulation of standard quantum mechanics put forward by Doering and Isham. Such a reformulation leads to a novel type of logic with which to represent propositions. In the first part of the talk I will introduce the topos reformulation of quantum mechanics. I will then explain how such a reformulation can be extended so as to include temporally-ordered collections of propositions as opposed to single time propositions. Finally I will show how such an extension will lead to the possibility of assigning truth values to temporal propositions.”

    I think she may have a history of excelling at difficult things.

  5. Pete Broomhall

    I think I got two thoughts. First this field is WAY STACKED. Secondly Oh my what a race this will be. Can’t to watch it unfold

  6. Matt

    I met Cecilia at the Taupo 100k in 2016, after she had the third fastest time overall. I knew then that she would be a force internationally – keep an on her. :)

  7. Daniel

    For me Dauwalter is the winer.
    She is probably the best female ultrarunner in the world.
    And it´s going to be fun to see how Lucy is doing. Shes the big young gun.

    1. Xavier

      Ida Nilsson probably tops the list and has more competitive wins recently? Although I’m not sure of how she would cope with the heat. But it would be interesting to see them compete together.

      Lucy Bartholomew has been on fire but I’m wondering if she will be overcooked by race day? It’s a tough race to start the 100 miler journey on! Props to her!

    2. stefan

      “She is probably the best female ultrarunner in the world.”

      No she’s not, not even close. She was over 2 hrs behind Caroline Chaverot at the Maxi Race last year, flopped at the 24 hr World Championship, and lost to Ailsa MacDonald this Spring. She struggles with competitive pressure and chooses less competitive races she can win or win outright to make her look good. I don’t get the hype and don’t see her as a lock to win.

      1. Ling

        “chooses less competitive races she can win or win outright to make her look good.”

        Wow. You must know her pretty well. Next time you see her, tell her good luck at Western States.

      2. b

        It’s easy to paint a bad picture of someone if you cherry pick their failures. And to conclude that she runs less competitive races to “make her look good” seems like just one possible explanation (and a pretty crappy one too) for her choice of races. That said “best female ultrarunner in the world” isn’t likely a real thing. Best at what distance, what terrain etc.

        Courtney has indeed been very fast in the last few races when she had to. Blew 13 min off Magada’s CR at SOB100k when she needed her golden ticket and got the second fastest time ever at Run Rabbit Run.

        From her interviews it’s clear that she’s competitive as all get out, but it isn’t all about the win and sometimes it’s about interesting races/challenges. Why she ran BC100k I don’t know, but she didn’t have much riding on the win, as Ailsa did.

        Is she going to win WSER100 this year… ?

        1. stefan

          That’s not cherry picking her failures. Who has she beaten? You can’t claim someone is the best in the world, when they’ve gone up against the best in the world and failed repeatedly. She’s like Jim- when she goes up against legit competition she doesn’t have it.

      3. Daniel

        Come on man!
        Not even close? Got to sleep.
        And lost to Ailsa MacDonald. Yeah but that race took place only 2 weeks after Dauwalter won Sean O´brien 50M and beat Boulets old CR with 13 minutes.
        In April she won Ultra Trail Mt Fuji in a pretty good time.

        Dauwalter is a type of runner that make me believe that she could be the first female Barkley Marathon finisher. Mark my words on that. And I think she is going for it in 2019.

        Hope you can find some happines in your soul man!

  8. Alfredo

    For me, Courtney Dauwalter would be the favorite. She seems to be in the zone for the time being and doesn’t appear to have any injuries and seems to be made of stuff other than human material. Truly unreal. Cat Bradley seems to have overcooked herself this past year and looks to be injured and maybe even metabolically overtrained. Some of the others like Kaci are coming back from injury, so maybe their time off and recovery from overtraining will propel them into a huge performance. And maybe there’s a dark horse out there who hasn’t overtrained herself into oblivion and will come out of nowhere and make a splash. It’ll be fun to watch.

  9. Mattias

    I was hoping that Ida Nilsson would race this year. After her win in last years TNF 50 she was talking about wanting to do western states. She would be a strong contender for the podium. Hoppfully she’ll give it a try next year!

  10. Philip Murphy

    Watch out for Lucy Bartholomew, she is on fire at he moment and has been training on the course over the past few weeks. Dark horse, we’ll be cheering her on from Oz.

  11. PaulG

    Agree Spud. Lucy is relatively unknown in the US but if she runs to her potential she could podium here.

    So young, so much potential.

  12. Mallory

    Great preview – I’m so excited to follow this race. I can’t even begin to guess how it will play out (except to say Meghan Laws will do well!). I feel like a lot of these women ha en’t raced each other before, and some of the ones who have are recovering from injuries.

  13. ajslk's doppelganger

    G@d, I love this site so much, but then Meghan has the audacity and arrogance to suggest that Pam Smith’s hamstring is being mean. Please keep it to yourself, Meghan, and let us know when you do anything relevant in the sport that has the whole trail world talking about you. I will say it here. Pam Smith’s hamstring will crush it and you will apologize, along with all the other haters that do not understand high level ultra trail racing.

    (P.S. ;) )

        1. Will

          Haha, my comment was tongue and cheek as well. I followed ajslk’s nonsense from the men’s thread. Dumbo came after Meghan and she cooly responded with a reasoned counter while pointing out that he violated the comment policy (like a boss). I was playing on that. All in good fun.

  14. Jason

    Lucy Bartholomew must be the most talented young ultrarunner in the world right now but this will be tough against lots of hardened athletes, having said that I think if she gets the distance she will podium. Good luck to NZ competitors Fiona Hayvice and Ceclia Fiori! We are all cheering you on to big things!

  15. Jeff

    Great preview! Too bad that Camille and Cat are not racing due to injury, but plenty of awesome women in the mix to make this another WS to remember. Can’t wait!

  16. Bobby O

    I concede. Bikes are the worst thing I’ve ever run in. Cody B.B. ladies. I hope none of u run in Nike’s. Especially the Wildhorses or the Terra Kieger, the Pegasus Zoom (which rob Krar destroyed states in) or any of that nonsense. Listen to Robkrar after he won States and they ask him what he wore. He could t state it because he didn’t have a contract with Nike. North Fave copies Nike like 9:10 on shoe soul if not 10/10.

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