Few races in our sport are as eagerly anticipated or widely followed as Western States 100. Maybe that’s because it’s the first 100, or the deep and elite field. Or that it’s the culmination of the Montrail Ultra Cup. Or maybe it’s because of the incredible tradition and history of the trail itself, coupled with the amazing volunteers and best-in-class race organization. Most likely, it’s all of the above.
The 41st running of WS100 begins on June 28th, we asked two former Champions of the race how they see the field sorting itself out this year, and following are their keen, if not entertaining, insights. Ladies first…
Ellie Greenwood’s Predictions for Western States 100: Women’s top 10
1 – Pam Smith. Pam showed in 2013 that she is one of the most well prepared and meticulously trained runners, and likely one who won’t be phased by either possible heat or wearing the F1 bib. She raced a lot post-WS in 2013 but seems to have been a little more low-key since Rocky Raccoon in January – likely saving herself for the big dance, a smart move.
2 – Stephanie Howe. WS will be Stephanie’s first 100 miler but she has proved herself time and again with many first and second place finishes in highly competitive 50 milers and 100km races. She was a pacer at WS last year and has already done some training out on the WS course this season, so will be running on some familiar ground.
3 – Kaci Lickteig. Kaci seems to have exploded onto the competitive scene in 2014 with a second at Rocky Raccoon, third at Sonoma and first place at Ice Age. So long as she doesn’t race too much more before June 28 she could well place ahead of many more experienced States runners in the field.
4 – Nikki Kimball. Nikki knows exactly how to run Western States and last years second place finish shows she still knows how to run it fast. With the most experience on the course, she’ll be the most reliable for a high placing finish, and the hotter it gets, likely the higher up the podium she will climb.
5 – Emily Harrison. Emily was relatively new to the ultra scene when she placed seventh at WS in 2013. Since then she has gained significantly more racing experience including an impressive first place and CR at the highly competitive Sonoma; if she can carry over her speed and experience to the 100 miler then she may well place higher than fifth.
6 – Amy Sproston. Amy has two eighth place finishes at WS and one third place finish (from 2103), and although the third place is more indicative of her talents could an injury-impacted Comrades four weeks prior, and numerous other international races in the early months of 2014, reduce her position in this competitive ladies line up?
7 through 10. Further down the top 10 it gets harder to predict! Likely names to feature, and all 40+, are the very tough Nathalie Mauclair (France), Liza Howard, Megan Arboghast and Denise Bourassa. Sally McRae, competing in her first 100 miler, could well place in these positions and 10th place finisher from 2013, Abby McQueeney Penamonte, may surely do better this year, given she was completing the Grand Slam last year. Australia’s Beth Cardelli could rival Nathalie for the position of highest placing non-US female.
Hal Koerner’s Predictions for Western Sates 100: Men’s top 10
1 – Rob Krar. Ultrarunner of the year, Rob picks the toughest races and performs at his best on the large stage. Last year WS was his first 100 ever and he almost won it. He’ll probably race a little earlier than last year and it will make all the difference.
2 – Miguel Heras. We’ve seen him dismantle the competition a couple of times in the US. Everywhere else it’s routine and the distance doesn’t make a difference. Word has it that he’s healthy and peaking for WS.
3 – Ryan Sandes. He’s having an extremely solid year, but maybe a little too much quality volume coming into the big dance this year. He’s had a second at WS that would have won most any other race, but there just might not be enough in the tank this year.
4 – Max King. King Max has made us wait a long time for this 100 mile debut, and he earned his ticket in a wild throw down at Ice Age recently. I would pick him to win it if that wasn’t the case.
5 – David Laney. David has shown a lot of range this year and will carry some momentum into his first hundred. He prepares with the best and the heat won’t effect this rookie’s leg speed later in the race.
6 – Ian Sharman. Ian is now a veteran with the wheels and knowledge to be higher on the list. He’s not holding anything back for the Slam this year, and I hope he proves me wrong. Flying on the downhills is pivotal for Sharman.
7 – Nick Clark. Nick has performed consistently in the top 10 here, but I think this year has possibly been a little off for him after a huge 2013. But he’ll probably find his stride on Cal Street and bust through the field like he always does.
8 – Dylan Bowman. Highly accomplished and experienced as a youngster still, he’s a climbing monster. I think he’ll race with the big boys early and end up in the top three. Or here.
9 – Chris Price. It’s been a great year for Chris and I think he can find a place in the top ten. Chris will be this year’s breakthrough surprise – who’s that guy?
10 – Karl Meltzer. Its only a hundred miles, but this won’t be his first of the year so I think he paces himself just outside the speedsters but does what it takes to keep his spot in the dance for next year.
There are so many incredibly strong runners not on this list – many will prove me wrong for sure! Go get it fellas!