Last Friday, I considered three interesting storylines on the men’s side of this year’s Western States 100. In this week’s column, I introduce four intriguing storylines on the women’s side. Here they are, from youngest to oldest, my women to watch:
At 22 years old, Katie is one of the youngest competitors in this year’s event. In addition, she is running her first ever 100 miler after being chosen in the lottery where she had two tickets. Her qualifier, for two years in a row, has been the Miwok 100k. If Katie’s last name seems familiar that is because she is the daughter of Western States Board President and 10-time Western States finisher John Trent. If she finishes, John and Katie would become only the second father/daughter duo to complete the run. Twenty-time finisher Dan Williams and his daughter Christina became the first to do so back in 2013.
Few runners have had as much success as 44-year-old Nikki Kimball over the last 12 years at the WS100. Running the race as her first ever 100 miler back in 2004, Nikki finished 10th overall and first for the women. After sitting out the 2005 race, Nikki came back in the infamous ‘hot year’ of 2006 to win the women’s race again and finish third overall! She notched her third women’s win in 2007 with an eighth-place overall finish and since then has finished in the women’s top 10 every year. When she rounds the track and crosses the line this year, assuming she is in the women’s top 10 (which is a very safe assumption in my view), she will have 10 consecutive top-10 finishes. A truly remarkable feat!
A 51-year-old mother of five, Anita has proven to be a versatile and talented runner throughout her career. Surprisingly, Anita has exactly two 100-mile finishes, her first was at Western States in 2009 when she came out of nowhere to win the women’s race and finish ninth overall and her second, two years later, when she battled a knee injury to finish in 25:20. Earlier this spring, at the Sean O’Brien 100k, Anita once again rose to finish second and punch her ticket to the Big Dance via the Montrail Ultra Cup. While a win may not be in the cards for Anita this year, she will certainly be an interesting runner to watch.
She ran her first ultra at the Le Grizz 50 Mile way back in 1987 when she was 43 years old. Now, at 70, Gunhild Swanson is attempting to become the first 70-year-old woman to complete Western States. Coming off a 10:53:59 at the Sun Mountain 50 Mile on May 16th, I’d say she not only has a legitimate chance of finishing but she could also make a run for the 70-and-older men’s record of 28:09 when she toes the line in Squaw. Gunhild has two previous WS100 finishes, 27:57 in 2002 and 25:40 in 2005, as well as three finishes at the Javelina Jundred and a 23:13 at the Lean Horse 100 Mile at the age of 63 in 2007. By all accounts she is focused and healthy and, along with Gary Knipling, could make serious noise in the septuagenarian division.
Once again, Western States is shaping up to be a remarkable race not just in the front of the pack but at all points behind.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This Saturday in Southern California, the San Diego 100 Mile will be run. Directed impeccably by ultra veteran Scotty Mills, the SD100 has quickly become one of the top boutique ultras on the circuit today. In celebration of the race, this week’s beer comes from the highly touted Green Flash Brewing Company in San Diego, California. Their recently released Soul Style IPA is more sessionable than some of their bigger IPAs like Palate Wrecker but still carries a nice floral finish and a refreshing kick.
- Have you seen Katie, Nikki, Anitz, or Gunhild training for this year’s race? If so, tell us what you know about their preparations.
- What other women’s storylines will you be following at this year’s race?