The 2023 Western States 100 is just around the corner and we’re here to take a look at the pointy end of this year’s women’s field. Before we get started, in case anyone needs a reminder of this unique, point-to-point, net downhill course, here are the stats for the standard course: 100.2 miles, 18,000 feet of climbing, and 22,000 feet of descending.
At the time of writing this, we don’t know if the huge snows of this winter or last year’s wildfire on the course will necessitate any significant course modifications for this year’s running. However, we know the race organization is doing everything they can to host the race on the normal course. We also know that those conditions will likely play into the competition, with snow present on the first 25 miles of the course for a spicy warm-up, as well as miles of wildfire-exposed course that’s likely to make the middle miles feel more severe than normal. And, also, we are expecting the normal race-day heat.
Last year’s race further showed how much faster the Western States women’s field has gotten in recent years. While Ellie Greenwood’s 2012 course record of 16:47 has remained untouched, 15 of the 24 fastest women’s times at the race have been logged in just its three recent races — 2019, 2021, and 2022 — with those 15 times logged by 13 different women. Ruth Croft’s 2022 winning time of 17:21 was the third-fastest women’s time ever while fifth-place Emily Hawgood’s (pre-race interview) 18:16 would have won the women’s race in all but 10 other years.
We’re in for one heck of an exciting women’s race at this year’s Western States 100. None of last year’s top-four women are returning while everyone who finished between fifth and ninth will be returning. Lining up aside those five will be another half dozen women, each of whom could make a push for the podium, including a couple of the world’s best 100-mile racers at the moment. Another dozen strong women will add to the excitement in running for the top 10.
As you’d guess, iRunFar will be there to report firsthand on all the action as it unfolds starting at 5 a.m. U.S. PDT on Saturday, June 24. Stay tuned!
A special thanks to HOKA for making our coverage of the Western States 100 possible!
Be sure to check out our in-depth men’s preview to learn about the men’s race, and, then, follow our live race coverage on race day!
Returning Top 10
Only five of last year’s top-10 women of Western States are returning to race again this year, with the omission of first-place Ruth Croft, second-place Ailsa MacDonald, third-place Marianne Hogan, fourth-place Luzia Buehler, and 10th-place Camille Bruyas. That means we’ll have an entirely new women’s podium.
Well, look at that, Zimbabwe’s Emily Hawgood comes into the 2023 Western States 100 as the top returning women’s runner after her fifth-place finish last year. That fifth place is no fluke as over the past two years, Hawgood has been seventh at the 2021 Western States 100 as well as taking 10th and sixth at the past two UTMBs. Living over here in the U.S., she ran and won the same local 50k both last year and this February.
After many years of quieter success, Leah Yingling made herself known with a great 2022 season. In addition to taking sixth at Western States in 2022, she was third at the Bandera 100k, third at the Transgrancanaria Advanced 60k, second at the Canyons 100k, and 19th at the Trail World Championships 80k. She’s started her 2023 just as strong with a second place at the Way Too Cool 50k in March and a win at the Bull Run Run 50 Mile in April.
Taylor Nowlin – 7th, 18:46:42
Although she’s run ultras since at least 2016, I’d have to say that 2022 was Taylor Nowlin’s best season to date. Not only did she take seventh in her 100-mile debut at Western States, she also took fourth at the Black Canyon 100k and ninth at CCC. We can’t find any race results for Taylor so far this year, so we’ll have to wait until race day to find out what kind shape she’s in.
What a journey it’s been for Camille Herron at Western States! She DNFed in both 2017 and 2019 before finishing in 27:28 in 2021. She kept at it last year, finishing eighth in 18:51. I’d hypothesize that what’s sure to be a snowy course in 2023 could challenge that inspiring progression, but she’ll surely come into the race fit if her recent racing is any indication. In December she clocked 13:02 for 100 miles at the Desert Solstice races before setting the 48-hour world record of 270.5 miles this March.
Katie Asmuth – 9th, 19:30:26
Since she ran her way into the 2021 Western States 100 with a win at the 2021 Bandera 100k, Katie Asmuth’s been on a tear. She went on to take fifth at the 2021 Western States 100 and ninth here last year. Last year, she also won the Black Canyon 60k and this year has been third at both the Way Too Cool 50k and Gorge Waterfalls 50k.
More Podium Potentials
It’d be harder to find a bigger favorite at a given ultra distance right now than Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race interview) in trail 100 milers. To put things in perspective, looking at ITRA 100 miler rankings, she’s in the top 50 overall where she’s tied with Drew Holmen, who was third and fifth in the men’s race the past two Western States. Over the past two years, Dauwalter’s won the 2021 UTMB, 2021 Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100k, 2022 Madeira Island Ultra Trail (MIUT) 115k, 2022 Hardrock 100 Mile, 2022 Diagonale des Fous, 2023 Bandera 100k, and 2023 Transgrancanaria. Now, anything can happen on race day, and Dauwalter did drop from Western States in 2019 and Hardrock in 2021, but she’s got to be the odds-on favorite. When she last finished Western States in 2018, she did so in 17:27, which was the second-fastest women’s time at the race to that point.
You know there’s a good race teed up when the reigning UTMB champ isn’t listed first in the discretionary section of the preview, and so it’s here that we note Katie Schide (pre-race interview) with no disservice intended! So, yeah, Schide won UTMB last year after taking eighth at that race in 2021 and sixth in 2019. In 2021, she won Trail du Ventoux and took second at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, while she won the Val d’Aran 105k last year. While she’s made a name for herself excelling at mountainous races like UTMB, Lavaredo, and MIUT, she showed she’s got wheels in running a 6:23 80k (50 miles) at the EcoTrail Paris this March.
While we’ve been watching her win top-level international ultras since 2016, I do believe this will be Swedish runner Ida Nilsson’s (pre-race interview) 100-mile debut. Although we saw her race fewer international ultras from roughly 2019 through 2021, she announced her return to the world stage with her second place at the Trail World Championships 80k last November. So far this year, she was fifth at the Black Canyon 100k before winning the Canyons 100k in late April. Word is that she’s quite focused on her Western States preparations.
I know I’m waiting to see Keely Henninger (pre-race interview) run the Western States she’s capable of. In two starts, she’s finished ninth in 2021 and DNFed in 2022, but she’s clearly capable of a podium at the race. Henninger won this year’s Black Canyon 100k and has previously won the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in 2018 and 2021. She’s also converted her impressive speed to the mountains in the past, taking fourth at CCC in 2017 and fifth at Lavaredo in 2018.
While she’s likely less well known in the U.S., Hungary’s Eszter Csillag, who lives in Hong Kong, showed that she’s capable in running with the best women in the world during her standout 2022 campaign. Last year, she was fifth at UTMB, fourth at the Trail World Championships 80k, and fifth at Transgrancanaria. Csillag gave a hint of what was to come when she took fourth at CCC in 2021.
Devon Yanko is ill and won’t be running Western States. [Updated: June 19]
It’s been a good while since we’ve seen Devon Yanko run Western States. However, as a reminder, she was third back in 2016. Since then she’s continued to mix things up, moving from road marathon to mountain 100 miler and back. On the ultra side in recent years, her standout results include a course record in winning last year’s Umstead 100 Mile, a win at last year’s Javelina 100 Mile, and a third place at the JFK 50 Mile in 2021.
Still More Fast Women to Watch
- Stephanie Auston (Australia) – 2nd 2023 & 2nd 2019 Tarawera 100k; 1st 2022 Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko 100k; 3rd 2020 Black Canyon 100k
- Nicole Bitter – 2nd 2023 Bandera 100k; 1st 2020 Javelina 100 Mile; 7th 2019, 17th 2018, 6th 2017, 6th 2015 Western States 100
- Riley Brady – 2nd 2022 Javelina 100 Mile; 6th 2022 Bandera 100k (They are entered in the nonbinary gender category, and will be competing in the female awards category per the entrants’ list and the race’s nonbinary entrant policy.)
- Priscilla Forgie (Canada) – 2nd 2023 Canyons 100k; 1st 2022 Ultra-Trail Harricana; 1st 2022 Squamish 50 Mile
- Mandie Holmes – 5th 2022 Desert Solstice 100 Mile; 4th 2020 Javelina 100 Mile; 14th 2017 Western States 100
- Heather Jackson – 1st 2023 Canyons 50k; 2nd 2023 Black Canyon 100k; 5th 2022 Javelina 100 Mile
- Nancy Jiang (New Zealand) – 1st 2023 Tarawera 100k; 1st 2018 & 2020 Kepler Challenge; 8th 2019 & 5th 2018 OCC
- Kaci Lickteig – 4th 2022 Javelina 100 Mile; 11th 2023 Black Canyon 100k; 6th 2014, 2nd 2015, 1st 2016, 3rd 2019, 10th 2021, & 18th 2022 Western States 100
- Meghan Morgan – 3rd 2023 Black Canyon 100k; 8th 2022 Canyons 100k; 4th 2022 Bandera 100k
- Jenny Quilty (Canada) – 1st 2022 Doi Inthanon 100 Mile; 9th 2022 Chuckanut 50k; 11th 2022 Canyons 100k; 1st 2021 Ultra-Trail Harricana
- Wen-Fei Xie (China) – 7th 2022 TDS; 2nd 2022 Doi Inthanon 100 Mile
Call for Comments
- Who do you think will come out on top in this year’s Western States 100 women’s race?
- What do you think will be the winning time?
- Are there any other fast women we’ve overlooked who’ll be running?