The Age Of The Ladies: Western States 100 Women’s Race Preview

Joelle Vaght finished 7th at Wester States last year, but has been on an ultramarathoning tear since. Photo:

Oregon’s Kami Semick and elite ultramarathoning have gone hand-in-hand for about eight years. Kami’s list of outstanding race results is long and winding, and recently includes winning the 2009 World 100k, second at the 2011 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run (behind Ellie Greenwood), and third at the 2011 Comrades Marathon (ahead of Ellie Greenwood). She’s raced 100 miles before, including two top-10 finishes at the WS100.

Idaho’s Joelle Vaught finished seventh at the 2010 WS100, her first time racing 100 miles. She’s had a rocking year since then, including wins at four major ultramarathons in 2011. Perhaps her previous experience at this distance as well as her recent success will be her winning combination.

Anita Ortiz, a master’s runner out of Colorado, won the 2009 WS100 by an hour. Prior to becoming an ultramarathoner, she experienced elite-level success at shorter trail races. Since her WS100 win, she suffered a couple nasty foot and knee injuries. She’s now healthy and has won a couple ultramarathons this year. Plus, the lady is tough as nails, which will be useful in this weekend’s multi-faceted battle.

Pam Smith, of Oregon, ran to tenth place at the 2010 WS100. Earlier this year, she proved her leg speed as well as her ability to both climb and descend through a respective second place at the Mad City 100k and a win at Miwok 100k (ahead of Meghan Arbogast). With recent success and last year’s taste of the race, she’s probably better ready to compete this year.

The list of other potential top-10 finishers in the women’s race goes on. These ladies bring some studly credentials, so watch out for their A-games at Saturday’s race:

  • Vermont’s Aliza Lapierre won the 2011 Leona Divide 50 Mile and holds a number of course records in East Coast ultramarathons.
  • Rory Bosio, of Califorinia, finished fourth at the 2010 WS100.
  • Amy Sproston, who hails from Oregon, is no stranger to ultramarathons. She has wins at many distances, including 100 miles.
  • California’s Caren Spore, a strong master’s runner, has finished inside top-5 at WS100 three previous times.

The women’s entrant list has a couple strong runners who will not toe the line. Annette Bednosky, who is from North Carolina and who won the 2005 WS100, is out due to an early-season injury that precluded WS100 training. Texas’ Liza Howard won’t run because of a foot injury.

It’s interesting to note that, unlike the men race, the elite women’s field has little representation beyond North America. Even so, with the 2011 WS100, women’s ultramarathon racing has arrived. Running 100 miles always produces the demons of one’s self and the course, but now women have the added competition of each other.


Meghan M. Hicks is a Park City, Utah-based writer and trail runner. She’s covering the 2011 Western States Endurance Run as a journalist.

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