One hundred (point two) miles, 18,000 feet of climb, 22,000 feet of descent, high-country snow and mud, oppressive canyons heat, 45 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: this is the 2019 Western States 100.
In the women’s race, eight of last year’s top-10 women return, all with improved resumes to boot. In that group is 2018 champ Courtney Dauwalter, who returns after debuting last year at Western States with the second-fastest time in race history. Then, we have a collection of women with excellent past experience at this race, including 2016 champ Kaci Lickteig. Mix in some fast women from abroad, including Italy’s Francesca Canepa who won last year’s UTMB, and some women who step up in distance to try 100 miles. All of this is a recipe for one very interesting day as these women travel the historic Western States Trail from Olympic Valley, across California’s Sierra Nevada, and to its finish 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 29. Stay tuned!
A special thanks to Drymax for once again making our coverage of the Western States 100 possible!
Thanks also to Hoka One One 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.
Returning Top 10
Eight of last year’s top-10 women are back for more:
Courtney Dauwalter – 1st, 17:27 (2019 pre-race interview)
In her first turnout at Western States, Courtney won in the second-fastest time ever recorded on the course and 73 minutes faster than anyone else in the women’s field. It’s impossible for me to not think about Ellie Greenwood in 2011 and 2012 when it comes to Courtney last year and this year. In 2011, Ellie won in 17:55, which was then the second-fastest time ever on the course. The next year she came back, ran over an hour faster than the previous year, and set the current course record of 16:47. Honestly, even if it’s a hot day, I could see Courtney running an hour faster than last year. So far in 2019, Courtney’s run and won three races, the Tarawera Ultramarathon 100k, the Behind the Rock 50 Mile, and the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail.
Kaytlyn Gerbin – 2nd, 18:40 (2019 pre-race interview)
Between her first and second WS 100 finishes in 2017 and 2018, Kaytlyn improved by two positions and, more significantly, by two hours! Since her second place last year, Kaytlyn’s best performances have been in setting a course record at the 2018 Bear 100 Mile and taking second at the 2019 Transgrancanaria. She did have an off-par run in taking sixth at the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail in there, too.
Lucy Bartholomew – 3rd, 18:59 (2019 pre-race interview)
Last year, in her debut 100 miler and, of course, her debut WS 100, the Australian ran aggressively off the front, leading the race for quite some time until slowing later. She held things together to finish third and squeak under the 19-hour barrier. Lucy’s 2018 was a huge year, racing and traveling-wise, and she was very honest on her social media about how much it wore her out and the down time she needed to recover. This year, she’s still been out and about traveling, but racing fewer long races. She’s been on site in Auburn for a few weeks now, training on the course and acclimating to the heat. I am so curious about what Lucy can do in her second go at the WS 100.
Amanda Basham – 4th, 19:17
Amanda has twice finished fourth at Western States, last year and in 2016. Her fourth place last year was almost a full hour better than her 2016 run. Since last year’s WS 100, her top outings have been a third place at the 2019 Tarawera Ultramarathon 50k and a win of the 2019 SciaccheTrail 47k. While there are a lot of women I wouldn’t want right behind me late in a race because they are so good at closing hard, Amanda’s near the top of my list. I still have a memory of watching her hammer across the 2016 WS 100 finish line like a steam train.
Cecilia Flori – 5th, 19:42
Cecilia, the Italian living in New Zealand, had a successful first WS 100 last year when she took fifth. Also last year, she was 10th at the CCC. Cecilia is a quiet machine who generally performs best on runnable courses, so it’s hard to estimate just how high her potential is here–but I think it’s real high.
Camelia Mayfield – 7th, 19:46
Camelia also notched her first WS 100 finish with last year’s seventh place. It was her first 100 miler, too! What’s up with how well so many of last year’s top-10 women debuted at this difficult-to-get-right 100 miler? So far this year, she’s finished fifth at the Way Too Cool 50k and 10th at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.
Aliza Lapierre – 8th, 19:58
Aliza now has five WS 100 finishes to her name–with all of them in the top 10. You’ve got to wonder if she’s working on 10 top-10 finishes? Aliza’s fastest run was an 18:18 for third place back in 2012 and her slowest time was a 20:04 in 2013, when she took sixth. While she has had one DNF in 2016, it’s honestly hard to imagine Aliza not going top 10 again.
Corrine Malcolm – 9th, 20:01
When she took ninth, Corrine became the fifth woman of six total in last year’s top 10 to have done so in their debut WS 100. How incredible is that statistic!? Here’s another stat: you have to go back to the ‘cold’ year of 2012 to find any other year in WS 100 history where the top-10 women all crossed the line in under 20 hours (and one minute). Okay, but we’re here to talk about Corrine. In the last year, her other top runs have been finishing fourth at the 2018 TDS and 12th at the 2019 Lake Sonoma 50.
More Top Women
Kaci Lickteig (pre-race interview) has run the WS 100 every year since 2014, thereby compiling five previous finishes. Her finishes have been all over the board, with her best performances a win in 2016 in 17:57 and her toughest a 24-hour finish just a year later. Last year, she took 12th in 20:48. Her ups and downs at this race mark her years of great fitness and her journeys through injury and recovery. In the last year, Kaci’s been healthy, training consistently, and now seems as strong as she’s ever been. Her best runs in the last year have been a 10th place at the 2018 UTMB and a win of the 2019 Black Canyon 100k, at which she earned a Golden Ticket entry into the WS 100. I think we should expect a top finish from Kaci this year and I’d not be surprised if her finish time starts with 17 hours.
Canada’s Alissa St Laurent fits into the silent-assassin category. She just quietly goes about kicking butt. Alissa has two previous finishes at the WS 100, including one inside the top 10 in 2015. In the years since then, her top performances have been sixth place at the 2017 UTMB and fifth place at the 2018 TDS. Back in 2015 at the WS 100, she ran 20:27, and if she can put together another of those races, she’ll be knocking on the door of top 10 once again.
Nicole Bitter has had an up-and-down relationship with the WS 100 over the years–and she keeps coming back for more. I believe she’s started the race five times and finished it three, with her fastest run in 2015 when she ran 20:19 to take sixth. Last year, she finished in just under 22 hours. Since the 2018 WS 100, Nicole’s best run has perhaps been her win of the 2019 Zane Grey 50 Mile.
Clare Gallagher (pre-race interview) is back at the WS 100! She raced for the first time in 2017, and was running in the mix for the podium until she dropped extremely late race with an injury. Over the years, she’s proven that she can run at the upper echelon of the sport, with examples including a 2017 win of the CCC, a second place at the 2017 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships, and eighth place at the 2018 Trail World Championships. Earlier this year, she won the 2019 Way Too Cool 50k. She should challenge for the podium once again.
Addie Bracy comes to trail ultrarunning via a circuitous path through other kinds of running. First she ran USA Division I collegiate track and cross country, then she launched into competitive track and road running which involved competing in both the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials on the track and road, then mountain running which has included a win of the 2016 U.S. Mountain Running Championships and representing the U.S. at the WMRA World Championships, and, now, here she is a couple years into trail ultrarunning. Addie stepped up to the 100-mile distance last year, taking second at the Leadville Trail 100 Mile after running strong early before fading a bit later with stomach issues. This year, she set her sights on getting into the WS 100, trying first but missing the mark with a fifth place at the Bandera 100k before circling back to nab a Golden Ticket with a third place at the Lake Sonoma 50.
Italy’s Francesca Canepa is running the WS 100! Francesca has proven to be a mountain beast over the years, with wins and podium finishes at seemingly most of the big European mountain ultras. This includes two UTMB podium finishes, with a win last year. Francesca has raced ultras in the USA at least twice before, back in 2013 when she took 10th at the Speedgoat 50k and fourth at the UROC 100k, the latter of which was the heyday year of UROC’s competitiveness. Though Francesca runs big mountains a lot more than flat terrain, back in 2015 she ran 8:15 for 22nd place at the IAU 100k World Championships. She was an hour off the win, but it shows she has wheels on the flats, too. One more thing, it’s a net downhill race and Francesca is one of the best downhill runners out there.
Camille Herron will try to race the WS 100 for the third time. She’s been at the race twice, but DNFed early in 2017 with physical issues after the challenging snow-and-mud conditions in the high country and DNSed in 2018 due to injury. In the last year, her best run was at the 2018 Desert Solstice, where she set a 24-hour world record as well as 100-mile and 200-kilometer American records. The 2019 calendar year has been up and down for her, as she opened with a win of the Tarawera Ultramarathons 100 Mile, but then she DNFed both Lake Sonoma and the Comrades Marathon–the latter just three weeks before WS 100–with a hamstring injury. That said, she’s trying to heal her hamstring to get to the WS 100 start line.
The United Kingdom’s Beth Pascall is another fascinating women’s entrant. She has some stellar results on her resume, including in the last year an 11th place at the 2018 Trail World Championships and fourth place at the 2018 UTMB. Like Francesca Canepa, I tend to think Beth excels on mountainous terrain, but given her history with the sport, it’s exciting to see what she can do at the WS 100.
In two previous tries, in 2016 and 2017, YiOu Wang has yet to find her potential at the WS 100. YiOu has shown tremendous ability at shorter-distance ultramarathons, which goes to show how tricky this race is. In 2016, YiOu debuted with a 13th place in 22:16, fading in the second half of the race after running strong early. And in 2017, she DNFed. But when you want something, you want something, and she ran her way back onto the entrants list with a second place at the 2019 Black Canyon 100k and earning a Golden Ticket there. Two months later she backed that up with a second place at the Lake Sonoma 50.
Ladia Albertson-Junkans (pre-race interview) is another woman on the WS 100 entrants list who arrived to trail ultrarunning via the collegiate-Division-I-competitions-to-roads-to-mountain-running-to-ultras-with-some-other-stuff-mixed-in path. She came onto my personal radar in 2016 when she earned her first spot to compete for Team USA at an off-road global champs, running to 15th place at that year’s WMRA World Championships. The next year, she ran her first ultra at the Chuckanut 50k, won, and qualified to represent the U.S. again at the 2017 Trail World Championships, where she took 13th and was the first American home. This year, she’s set her sights on running Western States, earning a Golden Ticket via second place at the Bandera 100k.
While I think of Brittany Peterson as specializing at shorter-distance trail running, she’s run 100 miles before, having what looked like a rough race at the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 Mile–she finished, though. Brittany is definitely on a steep upward trajectory in the sport, and her top performances in the last year or so have been a fourth place at the 2018 Transvulcania Ultramarathon and a win of the 2019 Bandera 100k, the latter of which earned her a Golden Ticket.
It looks like Canada’s Kathryn Drew really wanted to race the WS 100 this year. In January, she took third at the 2019 Bandera 100k, missing a Golden Ticket entry there. In April, she was back at it at the Canyons 100k, at which she won and earned the Golden Ticket. Also this year, she was the Chuckanut 50k winner.
Canada’s Kim Magnus also gained a Golden Ticket at the Canyons 100k, taking second to countrywoman Kathryn Drew. Kim finished second to Kathryn at the 2019 Chuckanut 50k, too. Her top 2018 runs include winning the White River 50 Mile and taking second at the Pine to Palm 100 Mile.
Still More Fast Women to Watch
- Moriah Buckley – 4th 2018 Miwok 100k; 12th 2017 Lake Sonoma 50
- Rachel Bucklin – 1st 2018 Bigfoot 200 Mile; 1st 2018 Bryce Canyon 100 Mile
- Luzia Buehler (Switzerland) – 1st 2019 Georgia Death Race (and a Golden Ticket); 1st 2017 Wasatch Front 100 Mile
- Liz Canty – 2nd 2019 Georgia Death Race (and a Golden Ticket); 3rd 2018 Bear 100 Mile
- Grace Fisher – 1st 2018 Yeti 100 Mile; 2nd 2018 Cruel Jewel 100 Mile
- Mandie Holmes – 25th 2018 WS 100; 6th 2018 Quicksilver 50k
- Rachel Kelley – 1st 2019 Mountain Masochist 50 Mile; 21st 2018 Western States 100
- Marie McNaughton (New Zealand, lives in Hong Kong) – 9th 2019 Ultra-Trail Australia; 4th 2018 Kong Kong 100k
- Annabelle Stearns (United Kingdom) – 2nd 2018 South Downs Way 50 Mile; 2nd 2017 South Downs Way 100 Mile
- Amber Weibel – 1st 2019 Silver State 50 Mile; two previous WS 100 back in 2012 and 2013
Call for Comments
- Who do you see winning this year’s race and why? Do you think Courtney Dauwalter will repeat, and do you think the course record is in play?
- 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 someone we’ve listed isn’t 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.