After a hiatus in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Western States returned in 2021!
The 47th running of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run was held this past weekend, June 26-27, 2021. Western States is one of the most historic and competitive ultramarathon events in the country and attracts the top U.S. and international ultra-trail athletes each year. Participants traverse through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California on a point-to-point course from Olympic Valley to Auburn in California, encountering high alpine climbs, rugged canyon hills, and river crossings.
This year’s event marked one of the most competitive trail races in the world since the start of the pandemic, and attracted many of the country’s top ultra trail runners and a handful of international athletes among the 315 participants in the event.
The women’s elite field included Kaci Lickteig (Omaha, NE), Camille Herron (Alamosa, CO), Brittany Peterson (Pocatello, ID), Addie Bracy (Boulder, CO), Clare Gallagher (Boulder, CO), Keely Henninger (Portland, OR), Beth Pascall (Belper, Great Britain), Ragna Debats (Matadepera, Spain), Camelia Mayfield (Bend, OR), ATRA advisory board member Sarah Keyes (Saranac Lake, NY, and Katie Asmuth (Mammoth Lakes, CA).
Some notable names in the elite men’s field included two-time champion Jim Walmsley (Flagstaff, AZ), Jared Hazen (Flagstaff, AZ), Mark Hammond (Millcreek, UT), Tyler Green (Portland, OR), Matt Daniels (Boulder, CO), Alex Nichols (Colorado Springs, CO), Max King (Bend, OR), Marc Hammond (Cottonwood Heights, CA), Drew Holmen (Boulder, CO) and Tim Tollefson (Mammoth Lakes, CA).
An Unstoppable Women’s Field
Audrey Tanguy of France took the women’s race out hot. She moved her way up the field on the first climb to “The Escarpment” and into the top three overall, before dropping back just past the first checkpoint, Lyon Ridge (mile 10.3). Great Britain’s Beth Pascall took the lead and was the first woman to arrive at Duncan Canyon aid station (mile 24.4), followed closely by Nike Trail Athlete Addie Bracy just seconds behind.
The infamous “Canyons” section, known for its steep punchy hills and 100-plus Fahrenheit degree weather, didn’t fail to shake up the field in the middle of the race. By mile 62, Pascall had gapped the field, with Spain’s Ragna Debats moving into second, Katie Asmuth in third, Ruth Croft in fourth and Audrey Tanguy in fifth. The international women ran strong for the entire race, with Asmuth as the only American in the top five for much of the mid to later sections of the race.
Closing in on the finish, it was Pascall’s race to lose. Pascall finished with the second fastest time ever run (17:10:42), and even more impressively did so on one of the hottest race days ever recorded with 101 degree Fahrenheit high in Auburn. Rounding out the top five were Ruth Croft, Debats, 2019 runner-up Brittany Peterson and Asmuth. Overall, the 2021 women’s race will go down as one of the strongest women’s fields ever assembled at Western States, with three women in the top ten overall (places 7, 9, and 10) and nine women in the top twenty. It was also the first year that the podium was swept by international women.
Heat Caused Carnage Among The Men’s Favorites
Hayden Hawks and Jim Walmsely quickly separated themselves from the rest of the field, reaching mile 24.4 Duncan Canyon Aid Station over seven minutes ahead of record pace. Several other athletes were not far behind. Tim Tollefson, Jared Hazen and Matt Daniels all arrived at Duncan Canyon under record pace as well, only five minutes behind Hawks and Walmsley.
As the race progressed into the “Canyons,” Walmsely pulled away from the field, establishing a 30-minute lead over Hawks by Michigan Bluff Aid Station (mile 55.7). Alex Nichols and Tollefson arrived together in third and fourth, with Hazen and Max King not far behind. Besides the strong lead of Walmsley, it was clear that for the second half of the race, the remaining podium spots would be tightly contested for.
By Green Gate Aid Station (Mile 79.8), Tyler Green, Drew Holmen, and Cody Lind made strong surges to edge Nichols, King, and Tollefson out of the top five. Hawks fought hard to hold onto second place and by mile 90, Hawks, Holmen, Green and Lind were running within four minutes of each other. Unfortunately for Hawks, at mile 92 he experienced extreme dehydration and couldn’t walk (let alone run) in a straight line. Hawks eventually rallied to finish in the top ten but this would not be his year on the podium as many expected.
At the finish, Walmsely arrived first, earning his third consecutive win and running the fourth fastest time ever recorded (14:46:01). Walmsley now owns three of the four fastest times ever run on the Western States course. Second to the line was Green followed by Holmen, Tollefson, and Kyle Pietari, who had a strong kick in the last miles of the race. The men’s race was marked by DNFs and many of the favorites experienced rough patches due to the high temperatures. Alex Nichols, profiled by ATRA prior the race, finished 10th in the men’s field.
Of the 314 starters, 107 dropped prior to the finish line in Auburn. The tough conditions lead to a high rate of attrition, with the lowest finisher rate since 2009.
You can seen even more ATRA video coverage from this year’s Western States 100 Mile over on this YouTube playlist. Additional race day photos & videos can be found on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages.