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!
Most Likely Contenders for the Win
Cat Bradley has withdrawn from Western States, citing health issues.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.
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.
The 2016 race champion, Kaci 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 has withdrawn from this year’s Western States due to a leg injury. [Updated June 15]
Camille 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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