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WESTERN STATES ENDURANCE RUN READIES FOR 2022 RACE: ‘CHANGING OF THE GUARD’
Women’s contenders poised to make history again while men’s field looks to crown first champion in post-Jim Walmsley era
The 2021 edition of the Western States Endurance Run featured one of the most competitive and historic women’s races ever held, while Jim Walmsley cemented his Western States men’s competition legend with a third commanding win. The 2022 edition of Western States, which will be held on June 25-26, promises to be just as notable. Deep women’s and men’s elite fields are vying to earn the top crowns at the 49th annual event. Presenting sponsor HOKA will again play an important role in this year’s event, including its support of Western States’ second annual Live Broadcast, which will begin just before the Saturday, June 25 start at 5 a.m. and will continue until race weekend activities conclude around noon on Sunday, June 26. The Live Broadcast can be accessed via Western States’ YouTube channel, with veteran elite runners Dylan Bowman and Corrine Malcolm providing commentary.
“We have incredible depth in both the men’s and women’s fields this year,” Race Director Craig Thornley said. “In 2021, on a brutally hot day, our women’s race made history with the high percentage of female finishers who finished in our top 30 – 15 of them were women, which speaks to what a pitched and exciting competition we had last year.
“We are expecting our women’s elite field, which features several notable international standouts as well as some of the most well-known figures in American trail running, to be highly competitive again this year.
“Our men’s race should be fascinating as well, as we look to crown a new race champion following a succession of memorable runs by three-time champion Jim Walmsley. The storyline for our men’s race will be ‘a changing of the guard.’ It is anybody’s guess who among a field of proven veterans and exciting newcomers will be our 2022 men’s champion.”
Seven of the top 10 women’s finishers are back for this year’s race, including second-place finisher Ruth Croft of New Zealand. Croft’s time of 17:33 was just behind 2021 women’s champion Beth Pascall of England, whose time of 17:10 run on a day where temperatures reached 101 degrees was the second-fastest in race history. Pascall is not running this year due to a long road back from injury during the winter and early spring. She will be at the Laverado Ultra Trail by UTMB the same weekend as Western States.
Top American entrants include Brittany Peterson of Pocatello, Idaho, who finished fourth in 2021 and was second in 2019, Katie Asmuth, of Mammoth Lakes, California, 2021’s fifth-place finisher, Keely Henninger, of Portland, Oregon, ninth in 2021, Kaci Lickteig of Omaha, Nebraska, 10th in 2021 and the 2016 Western States women’s champion, as well as Zimbabwe’s Emily Hawgood, who finished seventh last year.
Perhaps the most intriguing women’s entrant is Camille Herron. The 40-year-old from Warr Acres, Oklahoma, is the 100-mile world record holder, having broken her own record in February 2022 with a 12:41 run at the Jackpot 100-Miler in Las Vegas, Nevada. Herron, who also set the 100-mile American track record with her 13:21 at December’s Desert Solstice timed track event, fought through an off day and finished Western States in 2021 in 27:28.
Walmsley, as Thornley indicated, has cast a significant competitive shadow over the men’s race over the past five years. He set the Western States course record in winning the 2019 race in 14:09, and all three of his victories (2018, 2019 and 2021) represent three of the four fastest races ever run at Western States. Walmsley is living and training in France this summer as he prepares for August’s UTMB Mont-Blanc event.
Last year’s top men’s finishers will be well represented in 2022, with second-place Tyler Green of Portland, Oregon, third-place Drew Holmen, of Boulder, Colorado, fourth-place Cody Lind of Challis, Idaho, and fifth-place Tim Tollefson, of Mammoth Lakes, California, all returning. Jared Hazen, who ran the second-fastest time (14:26) in Western States history in finishing second to Walmsley in 2019, is also in this year’s field.
An added wrinkle to this year’s event will be Western States’ inclusion in the UTMB World Series. The UTMB World Series is considered the world’s ultimate trail running circuit that unites the sport’s biggest stars and runners of all abilities across 25 events held worldwide in 2022.
All runners who successfully complete Western States will be awarded four “Running Stones,” which can be used as entries into the lottery for the iconic UTMB Mont-Blanc and the UTMB World Series Finals in 2023. The top three finishers at Western States gain entry into UTMB in either 2022 or 2023. The top two finishers at UTMB Chamonix in August earn “Golden Tickets,” or automatic entry, for the 2023 Western States.
“The UTMB World Series has already proven to be a groundbreaking and important step forward for our sport,” Thornley said. “Western States has always made a concerted effort to make our sport more inclusive, internationalized and united. Our race is very proud to be part of the UTMB World Series, which at its core is an effort to give more runners more opportunities to compete at many of the most challenging and iconic events in the world.”
Now in its 49th year, the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run has a 385-runner field from throughout the United States and more than 30 countries. Runners start at 5 a.m. on Saturday, June 25, 2022 in Olympic Valley, Calif., and travel 100.2 miles, through the Sierra high country and the canyons of the American River on the ancestral lands of the Washoe and Nisenan tribes, before finishing at Placer High School in Auburn, Calif.