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Talented WS women everywhere you look

Four former champions, many more big names vying for top female honor in ultrarunning
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Many of the top women are feeling fit, injury-free and stronger than ever as they pursue the top prize in ultrarunning on Saturday. The scary thing for the contenders is there are at least a dozen females at the Western States Endurance Run with similar pedigrees and sentiments going into the race. “It’s unbelievable,” said 2010 winner Tracy Garneau, who was driving toward Squaw Valley on Wednesday. “It’s very cool the caliber of athletes that are going to be there. Everybody’s worked so hard to get to this day. It’s 100 miles and anything can happen.” The women’s race is shaping up to be extremely compelling, with every Western States champion since 2004 lining up at Squaw Valley for the 100-mile adventure. Three-time champion Nikki Kimball returns after finishing third last year, 22 minutes off of Garneau’s winning time of 19 hours, 1 minute. Anita Ortiz, the 2009 champion, is coming back strong after a knee injury kept her out of the 2010 race. Annette Bednorsky, who was a surprise winner in her WS debut in 2005, is also returning to the race. “It’s the deepest field I’ve seen,” said Kimball, a physical therapist from Bozeman, Mont. “The top racers have always been in this race, but usually it’s just three or four. Now it’s probably 15 and the top people aren’t any faster or more talented than the rest. It’s pretty cool. It’s exciting to see.” Even with the formidable former champions in the field, many experts are tabbing American River 50 champion Ellie Greenwood as the favorite. Originally from Scotland and now living in Alberta, Greenwood has never run a 100-miler, but she won the 100-kilometer world championship last year and of 23 career races, she’s won 21. Kami Semick of Bend, Ore., was just behind Greenwood at the AR 50. She’s finished fourth and eighth in her previous WS attempts and has been a force on the ultra circuit over the past four years. Even at age 50, Meghan Arbogast is very much a contender. She finished just behind Garneau last year and the Corvallis, Ore. resident has finished in the top three at her three races in 2011, including a runner-up finish at the Miwok 100K last month. Youngster Rory Bosio is plenty familiar with the Western States course and had an impressive fourth place finish in her debut last year. The 26-year-old from Soda Springs placed seventh at the American River 50 in April. Davis resident Caren Spore could also be a factor in the race. She’s finished in the top five at WS each of the past three races and has won five other ultras in the past year. While Garneau said she is feeling strong and confident, she is also dealing with some nerves as the pressure of defending her title grows. “Absolutely, there’s extra pressure,” said Garneau, who recently moved from British Columbia to Alberta to train in the mountains. “I just have to run my race. I’m healthy and that’s a big thing. I’m happy about that.” Garneau is thankful for her health after a back injury forced her to drop out of the H.U.R.T. 100 in Hawaii earlier this year. Kimball said she is finally feeling close to 100 percent after lingering knee issues held her back the past couple of years. Kimball dominated at Western States, winning three of four races after legend Ann Trason retired following her 14th straight victory in 2003. “My training has gone well and I feel like I’m as strong as I could be,” Kimball said. “I didn’t think I could get back to where I was because I couldn’t run without pain in my knee. This year I’ve just been stronger and I’m starting to be able to run the volume and intensity that I used to.”