This is the battle we’ve all been waiting for: Emma versus Lindsay for the North American Regional Championship title. Kelowna is a brand-new Spartan venue, so it will be interesting to see which tactics the racers will use without having previous experience on the course. Several top obstacle course racing names won’t be racing, including Alex Walker, Rose Wetzel, and Rea Kolbl, so the field is wide open. Let’s take a look at the main contenders.
The 2022 Spartan North American Championship Contenders: Who Will Win the Title?
Amanda has been one of Canada’s top female racers for several years, with a 6th-place finish at the 2019 Spartan World Championship as her top achievement. The firefighter from British Columbia is very familiar with the terrain, as she lives only a couple hours from the venue. Although her lead-up hasn’t been ideal due to work requirements, Amanda could easily find herself in the top five.
With her ankle injury finally behind her, Annie looks to reclaim her place on the podium at nearly every major race. (Don’t forget that she finished 2nd at last year’s North American Regional Championship, only about a minute behind Emma Cook-Clarke.) The altitude at Big White Mountain won’t affect Annie, as she recently moved to Colorado. My guess is that she’ll end up in a tight battle for 3rd with fellow Colorado resident Kris Rugloski.
Emma finally got the better of Lindsay in a 5-hour trail race in Canada last month, which marked the first time she defeated Lindsay in an obstacle or trail race. Utah marked the first time in over 1,500 days that someone not named Lindsay Webster or Nicole Mericle won a National/Elite Series race, as Lindsay sat that race out. Will Emma win her second consecutive North American Regional Championship, or will her Lindsay retake the crown? Most obstacle failures will send athletes on a penalty loop rather than 30 burpees, so this could play to Emma’s advantage if she doesn’t run a clean race.
Had Jamie been a few inches taller, the results in Utah may have been completely different. Jamie was forced to do burpees after she was unable to get over the 8-foot wall, which was devastating, considering she reached the top of the first climb in a three-way tie for 2nd with Rose and Rea. On paper, Jamie’s running fitness is among the best in the sport, and she should end up in the top five if she runs a clean race.
At this point, I’m pretty sure Kris is an alien. She just finished 7th at the Leadville 100 trail race, which has nearly 16,000 feet of elevation gain and descent over its 99-mile course, all of which is at over 9,200 feet above sea level. She continues to defy logic with her ability to quickly recover from 24-hour efforts. Will Kris repeat her 2nd-place finish in Mexico, which she achieved a week after a different 100-mile run. Or, will her body finally catch up to her in Kelowna?
I expect Emma to have a multi-minute gap on the field at the top of the first climb, before Lindsay claws her way back to the front on the technical descents. The side-by-side battle in the final gauntlet between Lindsay and Emma in Big Bear was one of the most exciting finishes in Spartan history, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that scenario once again in Kelowna. Lindsay hasn’t lost a Spartan race since September 2019, so until that happens, you’d be foolish not to expect another win from her this weekend.
Probably the least-known name on this list, Margaret has put herself in the conversation for the top Canadian woman (who's not named Lindsay or Emma). Just because you may not have heard of her doesn’t mean she isn’t a real top-five threat, though. Margaret has finished multiple local races in Toronto within 10% of Lindsay’s winning time, which is about the same gap that Kris, Alex, Rose, and Rea typically finish behind Lindsay. She loves steep climbs and descents, so this could be the perfect storm for Margaret to make a name for herself.
Predicting the Top 5 Female Finishers in Kelowna
It’s time to make some predictions! Here’s who I think will finish in the top five, in order: