Intriguing Storylines and Predictions for the 2024 Western States 100

AJW gives us his top picks for things to watch for at this years race, plus his predictions for the men’s and women’s race.

By on May 31, 2024 | Comments

AJW's TaproomWith Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. behind us, the calendar flips to June. And with that, the eyes of the ultrarunning world — and those of this columnist! — are directed to the 2024 Western States 100.

Taking place on June 29, this year’s event, like every year, is filled with intriguing stories. I’d like to highlight five of the most compelling stories in this year’s race and also present the 12 runners — let’s call them AJW’s Dirty Dozen — who I think are likely to be at the front of the pack come sundown at the finish line at Placer High School in Auburn, California, on race day.

Western States Starting Line 2021

The start of the 2021 Western States 100. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Eric Spector

California’s Eric Spector is attempting to become the oldest finisher of Western States 100. The 77-year-old from Marin County has had an impressive build-up to the race this year, with strong finishes at the Big Alta 50k, Napa Valley Endurance Run 50k, and Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile. In recent weeks, Spector has also logged over 200 miles on the course in preparation for the big day.

1,000-Mile Bucklers

Due largely to the increasing difficulty of getting into the race, it has been five years since we have seen a 10-time finisher circle the track at Placer High School. This year, however, three runners are attempting to collect their 1,000-mile buckles. Philip Sanderson of California, Ken Ward of Oregon, and Kaci Lickteig of Nebraska are all attempting to achieve the feat this year.

Kaci Lickteig winning the 2016 Western States 100. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

No Defending Champions

While Jim Walmsley and Kaci Lickteig, two previous Western States winners, are in the field this year, neither winner from the 2023 edition of the race is returning. Tom Evans and Courtney Dauwalter, the 2023 winners, have chosen to focus on other races this year, leaving the field open for a new or returning champion.

Women’s Race

In 2023, we saw an incredible women’s race, with Courtney Dauwalter winning in a course record time of 15:29, and the 10th place woman, Colorado’s Meghan Morgan, finishing in 18:11, a time that would have won the race outright several times over the years. With this year’s women’s field even more stacked than last year, I am anticipating even more density at the front of the pack this time around.

Environmental Factors

Mother Nature has not been kind to Western States over the past few years. Between wildfires, snow, and road closures, the challenges facing the race organization have been immense. This year, however, it looks like things are returning to normal.

While the damage from the 2022 Mosquito Fire remains, the forest is slowly returning. Mosquito Ridge Road, the major road accessing the Duncan Canyon and Dusty Corners aid stations, has recently been reopened after being closed for over 18 months due to the fire. And unless there are significant late spring storms, it looks like the snowpack in the high country will be minimal.

Overall, it is shaping up to be a fine year!

Jim Walmsley first place finish

Jim Walmsley winning the 2021 Western States 100. Photo: iRunFar/Alex Potter

AJW’s 2024 Western States 100 Race Predictions

There are clear favorites in both the women’s and men’s fields this year: Jim Walmsley, the men’s course record holder, and Katie Schide, the woman with the second-fastest time ever on the course. Behind them, a slew of other runners will be chasing. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will ultimately challenge for the top spot. But here are my picks for the top six women and men:


  1. Katie Schide
  2. Rachel Drake
  3. Leah Yingling
  4. Heather Jackson
  5. Emily Hawgood
  6. Devon Yanko


  1. Jim Walmsley
  2. Hayden Hawks
  3. Tyler Green
  4. Jia-Sheng Shen
  5. Jonathan Albon
  6. Dakota Jones

Bottoms up!

Katie Schide - 2023 Western States 100 second place

Katie Schide after taking second at the 2023 Western States 100 and running the second-fastest time in race history. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Pigeon Head Brewery logoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Pigeon Head Brewery in Reno, Nevada. Silver Sage Pale Ale is a classic American-style pale ale that is light and crispy, with a hint of sage added to the brewing process. A deliciously drinkable beer, Silver Sage is a perfect summer ale.

Call for Comments

  • Who do you think will win the men’s and women’s races?
  • Which racer or story are you most excited to follow?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.