2021 Western States 100 Results

Drymax - Official Sock WS100After a year’s hiatus, the big dance, the 2021 Western States 100, was back for its 100-mile journey on the historic Western States Trail in California.

For many runners, it was the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to line up with a deep and competitive field, and relative fitness levels were unknown. Some racers had made a point of trying to run a spring tune-up race, while others used the break from racing as an opportunity to focus on long training blocks with only Strava runs as indicators of their form. Based on the competitive and exciting racing by both the women and the men, neither form nor racing memory suffered from the pandemic.

The lack of snow in the high country set the course up for a fast run this year, but the heat played certain spoiler. What began as a mild day in the higher reaches of the Sierra Nevada turned into a broiler afternoon with the official high temperature on the course soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the end, it was the U.K.’s Beth Pascall (pre-race and post-race interviews) and Jim Walmsley (pre-race and post-race interviews) who weathered the elements better than everyone else, taking home respective victories.

In the women’s race, third-place Ragna Debats (pre-race and post-race interviews) set an incredible new masters course record by over half an hour, breaking Ann Trason’s record which had stood for 19 years.

But this year’s race was a story for the ages in so many more ways, so let’s dig in.

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

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

For a bit more before we get to iRunFar’s post-race interviews, we’ve published finishing and finish-line race-organization interview videos with the women’s podium and men’s podium finishers.

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2021 Western States 100 Women’s Race

With three women inside the top-10 overall, some of the fastest times ever run on the course despite high heat, and tight competition wire to wire, the top-10 women changed Western States 100 history—and women’s ultrarunning history—this weekend.

Numerous international women chose to make the trip to the States for States. Among them were Beth Pascall (pre-race and post-race interviews) from the U.K., who’d spent the past 10 weeks in the U.S. after running the Canyons 100k. Ragna Debats (pre-race and post-race interviews), who is from the Netherlands but who lives in Spain, was present, running her first Western States, as was Ruth Croft (pre-race and post-race interviews), all the way from New Zealand, lining up for her first attempt at 100 miles. On the domestic side, defending champion Clare Gallagher (pre-race interview), Brittany Peterson (pre-race interview), Addie Bracy, Camille Herron, and so many more women all hoped to have a good run. What ensued was tight racing from start to end with impressive performances all around.

Beth Pascall - 2021 Western States 100 - Robinson Flat

Beth Pascall leading the women at Robinson Flat (mile 30). All photos: iRunFar

The race started under clear skies, a setting moon, and a comfortable 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Fast out of the gate, France’s Audrey Tanguy was the first over the Escarpment, mile 3.5, followed a minute back by Herron. Gallagher, Pascall, and Bracy filled out the top five just two minutes back from Tanguy. All the women received enthusiastic encouragement from the resident Yeti of Olympic Valley who’d come out to spectate.

By Red Star Ridge at mile 15, Pascall had moved to the front. After finishing just off the podium in fourth in 2019, she was eager to move up in the final standings and wasted no time making her intentions known. Tanguy, Bracy, and Gallagher gave chase, all within 90 seconds, and a long string of women trailed just as closely behind.

By Robinson Flat at mile 30, we understood that Pascall meant business. Looking relaxed, she’d moved to just three minutes off of course-record pace. Bracy and Debats continued to chase, holding the gap to within five minutes. In the next eight miles, Pascall went from three minutes over record pace to nine minutes under it. She flew in and out of the Dusty Corners aid station at mile 38 in a minute.

Keely Henninger - Ruth Croft - Brittany Peterson running through Robinson Flat

Keely Henninger, Ruth Croft, and Brittany Peterson running through Robinson Flat.

Halfway through, many of the top women were looking comfortable. Pascall even claimed that it didn’t feel too hot. Still, the heat must have been affecting her as she slowly lost some time on course-record pace. Debats continued a steady march forward, keeping the gap at a manageable size. Katie Asmuth (post-race interview), now running in third, received the award for the happiest runner through midway, and the one with the sun hat with the most flair.

By mile 61, Pascall had worked herself into 10th overall, but the full group of top-10 women were running within about 45 minutes of each other. And at 10.5 hours in, there were 19 women in the overall top 40, a testament to the depth and talent in the field.

At mile 71, along the infamous Cal Street, the race was on. Pascall came through at 11:51, moving up to ninth overall with a fast transition. At just 14:15 back, Debats barely stopped at the aid station. Two minutes later, Asmuth ran through, only grabbing ice. Croft followed less than four minutes in arrears, and Peterson came through flying two minutes later. Tanguy left a mere four minutes after that. Count them! That’s six women within 27 minutes of each other almost three quarters of the way through a 100 miler. What, what?

In the next 14 miles, Croft made her move, coming through Auburn Lake Trails, mile 85, in second, just 18 minutes down on Pascall, but only a mere two minutes up on determined Dabats. A charging Peterson moved by Asmuth. With the top-six women still within 45 minutes of each other at mile 85, there was plenty of racing to be done in the final miles.

But no one could stop Pascall. Consistent from Olympic Valley to Auburn, she finished in 17:10:41, the second-fastest time in women’s history. She was also seventh overall, continually moving up through the field as the day wore on.

Croft finished a strong second in the women’s field and ninth overall with a time of 17:33:48. Debats would hold on to finish third with a time of 17:41:13, putting three women into the top-10 overall. At 42 years of age, Debats’s incredible finish time marks a new women’s masters record, breaking the previous record of of 18:16:26, set by Ann Trason in 2002.

Ragna Debats - 2021 Western States 100 - finish

Ragna Debats with her daughter after finishing third at the 2021 Western States 100.

This trio was followed by Peterson and Asmuth rounding out the top-five women. For the balance of the women’s top 10, sixth place was ultimately Tanguy, her first Western States finish. This year, seventh place belongs to Emily Hawgood, the Zimbabwean who lives in the U.S., and who has a charmer of a story. Hawgood ran three Golden Ticket races to gain Western States entry this year, achieving it on that third try. In eighth was Camelia Mayfield, who follows up on her fifth-place finish in 2019 with another smartly run race in this gnarly year. Keely Henninger gains the F9 bib in her debut 100 miler, and 10th place belongs to none other than Kaci Lickteig (pre-race interview), whose finish marks her seventh at this event.

Together these 10 women finished within the top-21 overall. Let’s just pause a moment to let that significance soak in.

And to bring this full circle, Gallagher and Herron crossed the line outside of the top 10, in 17th and and 26th respectively, having what had to have been individual vision quests of sorts. And Bracy threw in the towel at mile 62.

2021 Western States 100 Women’s Results

  1. Beth Pascall (Salomon) – 17:10:42 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  2. Ruth Croft (adidas) – 17:33:48 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  3. Ragna Debats (Merrell) – 17:41:13 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  4. Brittany Peterson (Nike) – 18:07:42 (pre-race interview)
  5. Katie Asmuth (Saucony) – 18:23:24 (post-race interview)
  6. Audrey Tanguy (Hoka One One) – 18:37:45
  7. Emily Hawgood (adidas) – 19:13:55
  8. Camelia Mayfield (Brooks) – 19:17:20
  9. Keely Henninger (Nike) – 19:42:37
  10. Kaci Lickteig (Hoka One One) – 19:47:56 (pre-race interview)

Full results.

2021 Western States 100 Men’s Race

It would have taken a lot to convince most everyone to bet against Jim Walmsley (pre-race and post-race interviews) this year. And yet some of us still somehow did, because Walmsley took an unconventional path to 2021 success. But we all should have known better.

With many of the international men choosing not to make the trip over the various ponds, it was going to be a showdown of domestic talent. Listening to Walmsley talk before the race, it was clear he was in a good place mentally and physically. An IT band injury in the spring may have cut down on his training volume, but in the end, it may have ended up being a blessing in disguise. He went into the race with the experience of two previous well-executed States performances, and he surely drew on that knowledge to put together a smart and measured race from start to finish.

Jim Walmsley - 2021 Western States 100 - Michigan Bluff

Jim Walmsley leading the race at Michigan Bluff (mile 55).

Hayden Hawks (pre-race interview), on the other hand, was making just his second attempt at the 100-mile distance. But after setting a course record at the JFK 50 Mile last fall and a solid block of training leading up to Western States, he was out to race and win. Jared Hazen (pre-race interview) was hoping that fourth time would be the charm for Western. After a third and a second in previous years, he hoped that a training block that started in February would deliver wining results.

It didn’t take Walmsley long to make it the 3.5 miles up to the Escarpment. He was accompanied by Hawks and followed closely by Hazen. This order was entirely unsurprising given that all three men had the confidence to try to win the race.

Early on at Red Star Ridge at mile 15, Hawks and Walmsley were already running three minutes under record pace, the lack of snow clearly saving them time. Hazen followed in third two minutes back with other race favorites Tim Tollefson (pre-race interview), Matt Daniels (pre-race interview), and Mark Hammond close on his heels. Just under an hour later at Duncan Canyon, Walmsley and Hawks had pushed the pace another four minutes under record pace, both running smooth at 24 miles in.

By Robinson Flat at mile 30, Walmsley’s pace had become too much for Hawks. He passed through five minutes under course record pace and 45 seconds in front of Hawks. By this time, Tollefson, running toward his childhood home in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, had moved into third, just over 12 minutes back, looking very relaxed. Thirty seconds later, Hazen came through, unfortunately already looking decidedly rough.

Sometime before mile 38, Walmsley had donned a bucket hat and continued to cruise at six minutes under record pace, slowly pulling away from the rest of the field. Hawks held the gap to just six minutes while Hazen and Tollefson joined forces nearly 17 minutes back. The likes of Alex Nichols (pre-race interview), Drew Holmen (post-race interview), and Max King stayed close, just another seven minutes back.

Drew Holmen - 2021 Western States 100 - Michigan Bluff

Drew Holmen working his way up at Michigan Bluff.

By mile 50, Walmsley had put eight minutes into the course record. Maybe it was the bucket hat, but the only word to describe his appearance was relaxed. It was a full 26 minutes later before second place Hawks rolled through, still seemingly running within himself. Nichols led Tollefson through, both looking strong. Hazen continued to suffer, dropping back to fifth.

By the time the leaders rolled through Foresthill at mile 62, it was 93 Fahrenheit in the shade, 97 in the sun, and time for the heat-management strategies to come into play. “It’s not the heat, it’s the hills,” said Hawks. And after that, he’d lose 10 minutes to Walmsley in the following five miles. He was now 48 minutes back and had Nichols to contend with who was slowly closing the gap.

That ever-infamous Cal Street, stretching between Foresthill at mile 62 and the Rucky Chucky river crossing at mile 78, is where the day started to catch up to Walmsley—but only a little bit. At the Cal 2 aid station, he’d given back his advantage on the course record. From there on out, he moved faster than everyone else behind him, but slower than a 2019 Walmsley.

By Green Gate at mile 80, Walmsley was now five minutes over course-record pace. But Hawks came through a full 77 minutes back. A surging Holmen was just 11 minutes behind and didn’t even stop. This was his first attempt at 100 miles, and he’d clearly done his homework on pacing and patience. Tyler Green (post-race interview) was also close behind. With a 14th-place finish at Western States in 2019, Green was on a mission to do better.

Tyler Green - 2021 Western States 100 - Rucky Chucky

Tyler Green cooling off in the American River (mile 78).

By the time Walmsley made it to Robie Point, just a mile to go, and with the course record now well off the table, he stopped for a Coke and walked the climb. He would continue to cruise the final mile in his bucket hat to win his third Western States in a row with a time of 14:46:01, still an incredible time for an excessively hot day.

Behind him, the race for the podium stayed intense. Somewhere between Green Gate and Pointed Rocks at mile 94, Hawks disappeared from the front of the race, leaving Green in second place with Holmen chasing just six minutes back. Cody Lind followed in fourth and just 17 minutes back.

At the end, Green would hold off Holmen with a time of 16:11:00 to take second, a massive jump up from his 2019 finish. Holmen completed the podium with a time of 16:23. Both had started off conservatively and had it pay off in the end.

Lind would finish fourth in 16:49:40, an impressive run for his first 100 miler and first attempt at Western States. He clearly had insider’s knowledge as the son of two-time Western States finisher Paul Lind and the grandson of the event’s original medical director Dr. Bob Lind. (Read more on the Lind family legacy at the race.)

Cody Lind - 2021 Western States 100 - Finish

Cody Lind finishing fourth in his debut at Western States.

Tollefson rounded out the top-five men with a time of 16:55:49. He’d put off running Western until he felt ready to do the race justice, and clearly, he was ready. The fact that he’d grown up in the area and run the last miles of the course hundreds of times certainly paid off in the race’s most difficult miles.

In the back half of the men’s top 10, we had sixth-place Kyle Pietari, who executed yet another well-played top-10 performance, Stephen Kersh (post-race interview) who finished seventh for the second time in a row after curiously bouncing around most of the top-10 positions over the course of the day, and Hawks who ultimately crossed the line in eighth place after experiencing physical struggles and a long stay at the mile 94 aid station to regroup.

Among the day’s breakout runs was ninth place Kyle Curtin, who moved up into the top 10 late. And Nichols rounded out the top 10 in what looked like a difficult finish after an even more difficult day.

To clear the air for those wondering, Daniels DNFed at mile 55. Hazen and Jeff Browning left the race at mile 62. And Hammond and King tapped out at mile 80.

2021 Western States 100 Men’s Results

  1. Jim Walmsley (Hoka One One) –  14:46:01 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  2. Tyler Green (Nike) – 16:11:02 (post-race interview)
  3. Drew Holmen (Nike) – 16:23:09 (post-race interview)
  4. Cody Lind (Scott) – 16:49:40
  5. Tim Tollefson (Hoka One One) – 16:55:49 (pre-race interview)
  6. Kyle Pietari (Altra) – 17:00:34
  7. Stephen Kersh (adidas) – 17:29:24 (post-race interview)
  8. Hayden Hawks (Hoka One One) – 17:48:47 (pre-race interview)
  9. Kyle Curtin (Altra) – 18:18:31
  10. Alex Nichols (Scott) – 18:33:14 (pre-race interview)

Full results.

Coverage Thanks

Thank you to our coverage team who ran, hiked, and drove all over the Western States course, including Alex Potter, Sam Spinrad, Thomas Carr, Chris Bogon, Devon Yanko, Makiko Yamashita, Paige Brokaw, Ashley French, Theo Wirth, Steven Waldon, Martin Nash, Alison Nash, Julie Sachs, Dani Hochfellner, and Kirk Edgerton. And another round of thanks to Ellie Greenwood, Marissa Harris, and Olivia Rissland who provided invaluable office support from afar. This article was co-created with Eszter Horanyi.

Meghan Hicks

is the Managing Editor of iRunFar 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 42 comments

    1. Montgomery Glover

      Thee women killed it. There are no other elite Men to run with Jim. Killian ran an hour plus slower when he won, Francis was more than an hour slower, When Jurek won his times were more than an hour slower than Jim, Noone else is even close Krar, Olson, Hazen, Hawks, Anton, Jeff, Hal, Ian idk what other elite runners you could be referring to who could compete, maybe Pau, Xavier idk.

  1. cgnod

    Incredible performance by the women’s elite field, no doubt, but I don’t understand the excitement about 20 women in top 40 or 10 women in top 20. Isn’t that just due to how race participants are selected? There were very few elite men to beat in the race this year, once you account for deferrals by international men and usual higher dnf rate for elite men (eg Browning saving his legs for HR, Hazen going out too hard).
    You would expect elite professional and semi-professional women (top 10 last year, golden ticket winners) to beat amateur men who had their lucky year in the lottery, no?
    Cracking the top 10 is of course a different story and hats off to Beth Pascal and co.
    Anyway, just a thought. Tell me I’m wrong :-)

    1. Mark

      I look at it another way: Most of the elite women were able to survive the heat and fast early pace to run very strong races. A significant proportion of the elite men DNF’d or struggled.

  2. TB

    3 women in the top ten and 10 in the top 20 at Western States 2021 is incredible. What cgnod fails to acknowledge is that these incredible athletes outlasted all the people who dnf’d to secure hero status as athletes on a very difficult day. They did not drop or save their legs for another race. (Many of these women likely have other goals this summer too) This weekend’s showing was huge; incredible athletes who amid a pandemic put stellar races together and survived a brutal day out here. The number of women sub 20 hours is beyond inspiring. Thank you irunfar, for your coverage and the due respect for the women who dominated WSER 2021!

    1. Andrew

      During the live coverage, they spoke about why elites such as Browning might drop during WSER in order to finish HR later. They mentioned that Browning’s sponsors might place a higher monetary value on a HR finish.

      I wonder if the women’s side had sponsors placing a high value on any WSER finish? As a non-elite, I do wonder what kind of unseen sponsor incentives drive things like the fast pace and drop decisions on both the men and women’s side. For the men’s big drops, what kind of incentive did they have to go out so big they blew up? Or was it totally outside monetary/sponsor considerations?

      For the women with big objectives later this summer, do those objective have more sponsor/monetary value than WSER? Did the men drop because they know they can get a payday for a well-known FKT, but the women can’t do that? Maybe the women are just smarter at racing :) If anyone has more insight, on this topic it would be very interesting to hear more.

      1. SageCanaday

        Andrew,
        I’d say the sponsorship really wouldn’t influence DNF rates all that much. Top Runners are more likely to drop out if they are having a “bad day” for sure though. This is rampant in road marathon running at the elite level.

        Sure, one can get a big bonus for winning or being top 3 (podium) or for setting a CR time. But otherwise, a DNF isn’t going to hurt you all that much (besides the possible embarrassment and people being mad at you for “taking a spot in the race”). It might depend on the reason why you DNF though.

        The only big thing in consideration might be if you had another race lined up very soon (i.e. Browning heading into Hardrock) and realized that the recovery and injury risk would set you back for the rest of the summer…or your career… or hurt a future performance in a key race.

        For Browning, he probably figures that he’s got a much better chance at a HR podium and his sponsors honestly might value that a lot more (I don’t know?), but usually podium finishes are where the bonuses start on a lot of contracts. Some give top Masters bonuses as well.

        FKT objectives generally would have less pull and bonus money…but it really depends on what the sponsor values (some can be a lot different from what I’ve seen) and what the expectation is for the individual athletes (ie. what is their “niche” speciality and what are they most known for to create buzz and drive ROI etc)?

        I’d say the Women’s race just had more competitive depth this year (relative to the top Men’s field)….a lot more top international runners etc. I think Men are also more likely to drop out and run higher “positive split” races in general as well. I definitely did… with a massive slow down when I ran WS100 in ’16!

  3. weloveuirunfar

    HOW IS THIS ARTICLE OUT ALREADY? Brilliant stuff, as always, but I hope you brilliant journalists can get some sleep now <3

    1. Bryon Powell

      Ha! Thanks! We published this before we went to bed on Sunday morning. I managed to share it on Facebook with success, but it turns out my overnight tweet of it didn’t go out. Now, no sleep until recording, processing, and uploading all of our post-race interviews!

  4. Kristian

    I’m not even sure there is a runner in the sport who can beat Jim at WS at the moment other than Jim himself. He isnt making mistakes with his race management, he isnt getting lost, he isnt risking blowing up.

    Tom Evans and Jared Hazen have gotten close but I think he has the speed and experience to keep them at arms length.

    1. Sebas B

      If Pau Capell decided to commit to a similar preparation than Beth Pascall did this year, I think he might have a shot at it. But yes, beating Jim at WS is definitely one of the biggest challenges in ultrarunning today.

  5. Bill M.

    I don’t race and know almost nothing about this sport. I found the live coverage by accident on YouTube.
    It was incredible!
    Thank you to Dylan and Corrine for getting me hooked on this.
    Will other ultra races be covered like this?

    1. Jamie

      Few other ultramarathons generate as much coverage, or include live video coverage, but one that does is UTMB which takes place in the last week of August. They have had excellent live video coverage for years. … I would also expect good coverage, at least in the form of photos and twitter updates, of Hardrock 100 in mid -July.

  6. armchair analyst

    Note that seems to have escaped some analysts, the women field was largely floated to the top by the presence of international athletes that vastly outperformed the US athletes in what is considered the bastion of US ultrarunning.

    1. Beth Pascall (UK)
    2. Ruth Croft (New Zealand)
    3. Ragna Debats (Netherlands)
    6. Audrey Tanguy (France)
    7. Emily Hagwood (Zimbabwe)

  7. Paul

    Ragna Debats was not only first female master but first overall master. I just looked over the entire history of WS results, and could not find another time the first person over 40 was a woman. Well done Ragna.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Great catch. I jut quickly looked back at 2009, as I knew Anita Ortiz was a master and in the top ten overall (ninth), but that year Tsuyoshi Kaburaki was second. (Anita was the second master overall.)

  8. David

    A record by Ann Trason, the GOAT of GOATs, was broken. That to me was the most incredible part of a historic and memorable race. If you don’t know about Ann and her records, you should look them up.

  9. Ellie G

    Bravo iRunFar on your top notch coverage – best in the business! Hope you are now getting some well earned sleep and your own fishing/ running adventures of choice. Ellie G

  10. Paul A Chapman

    Super coverage from all, Thanks.

    Great race, great women! Congrats to all who started. Shame for Jared H… he did great prep, frustrating to not have something to show. Shows how the sport is still a bit of mystery, anything can happen. Life!

    What was with Tim T’s last mile?! He was screaming in! Nothing like dropping something like a 6 minute mile at the end of 99!

  11. Paul

    I was most impressed by this year’s golden hour finishers. Gutting out those brutal conditions for 29-plus hours takes a level of fortitude that few people possess. It was very inspiring to watch so many people round the track in Sunday morning’s blazing sunshine.

    Some of the runners who finished during the last 30 minutes looked to be in rough condition. I hope everyone is doing well today.

    1. Michael

      Yes, I googled Sean Mullet – the runner who came walking in with the strong lean, and ran into the arch at the very end – to see how he was. All I saw was a note that he’d been taken to a hospital; hope he’s okay. He didn’t make the award ceremony to get his buckle. Watching him stagger around the track with only minutes to spare was as dramatic and exciting as anything else in the race.

      Tangentially, I really liked how excited the crowd and commentators got about the last finishers, and the way they were covered and celebrated. Imagine what it must be like to be a 29-hour amateur, running for nothing but glory, who comes onto the track to find Jamil Coury filming her, Kaci Lickteig cheering her on, and Billy Yang shouting her out. That’s one of the great things about this sport – the sense of community that would make a professional runner with a top-ten finish go out to cheer home a 53 year-old amateur runner from Tennessee, who finished nearly ten hours behind her.

      1. TB

        That is the most beautiful thing about this sport and this event. Having been a part in one way or another for many years, so many of us are brought back each year because of the intensity of suffering and support. This year, after Covid, I think the ultra community needed this — the atmosphere of human interaction was incredible. WSER isn’t epic by accident; it is a gift to athletes like no other. Irunfar has become an integral part of the race; bringing it beyond Olympic Valley and Auburn. Thanks to all.

  12. Etan Levavi

    Great race on the women’s side. Ultra and trail running, all around, has a lot of work to do in terms of improving accessibility to the sport and representation. Hopefully we’ll see the sport move in that direction in the next half decade.

  13. Matt

    How many consecutive top 10s is that for Kyle Pietari now? Is he approaching Ian Sharman levels?

    As always, thank you for the amazing coverage!

      1. Delia

        Is this the first puke-free finish for Kyle Pietari?

        Thanks again for the fantastic coverage – the one day a year when I enjoy using Twitter.

        1. Bryon Powell

          Oh, Delia, Kyle most definitely puked… it just took a bit more time than normal. I’m not sure if I posted it to Twitter, but I did share a photo of it on Kyle’s Facebook page. :-)

          Glad to hear you enjoyed our Western States coverage!

  14. John Holt

    Thanks for the great coverage, as always! Exciting race to follow this year. I miss the old days when these superstars of the sport would write race reports.

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