Now that the U.S. National Series has ended in dramatic fashion in Utah, all eyes turn towards West Virginia for the North American Championship. The breathtaking Summit Bechtel Reserve Summit in Glen Jean, WV will have a buffet-style of various terrains athletes who competed in the U.S. National Series are familiar with; flat trail running like Utah, technical sections like Big Bear, ascents like San Jose, and if the elements are just right, some slippery obstacles like Chicago and Seattle.
This venue first made its appearance in the Spartan National Series last year as the last leg of the U.S. Championship Series. This year, this venue will serve as a stand-alone championship for all of North America and serve as a litmus test for who the fittest athlete will be as we head into the World Championships in Lake Tahoe, CA.
When all the women line up at the start line on Saturday in West Virginia, Director of Sport Joe DiStefano draws distinction between Lindsay Webster and the rest of the field. “Rea [Kolbl] is questionable for West Virginia, Faye [Stenning] took a DNF in Utah, and Nicole [Mericle] battled a hamstring injury at the beginning of the season. Lindsay has been consistent all season and has won each of the previous U.S. race series.” Webster’s win in Utah sealed her third consecutive win in the U.S. National Series since it debuted in 2015. Webster also took first place in the Chicago Super in the prior race, so it seems as if Webster is peaking at the right time.
For most of her racing career, Webster has been the racer to beat, especially after winning the Spartan World Championship last year. Webster will be treating this race as a tune-up to repeat as World Champion in Lake Tahoe the following month. “[The North American Championship] adds an element of pressure, but I’ve learned that I race my best when I’m not racing to win, but to do the best I can do.”
Nicole Mericle was sidelined with a hamstring injury for the first two races of the U.S. National Series, but came storming back to play spoiler in Chicago and Utah. Mericle admits her injury set her back at the beginning of the season and she, “Wasn’t able to put in normal weeks of running until well into May and was even still feeling the hamstring injury into June.”
While Mericle was not able to log many training miles, she did improve her overall strength and added some muscle. Now as we enter Spartan championship season, Mericle says she is still trying to find the ideal amount of muscle and weight while ramping up her running training.
A now-healthy Mericle feels that although she is not in peak physical shape headed into the North American Championships, she believes she will still give Lindsay Webster a run for her money. Last year, Mericle turned in a strong performance at the Summit at Bechtel Reserve, finishing seconds behind winner Rea Kolbl.
Alyssa Hawley, much like Lindsay Webster, has performed consistently this season in the U.S. National Series. Hawley finished either on the podium or just off the podium in all five of the series races and traveled to Morzine to compete in the European National Championship (taking 4th place there). This taste of international competition could benefit Hawley come race time in West Virginia, if not on Spartan’s greatest stage in Lake Tahoe. The heavy carries in championship races are notoriously longer and heavier, something that plays to Hawley’s strengths.
Two other women who will be in contention for podium spots in West Virginia are Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning, who both DNF’d the final race in the U.S. National Series. Faye Stenning had strong performances in each of the first four races of the series, turning in three consecutive second place placements, which helped her take second, place overall in the series. Rea Kolbl started the U.S. National Series with a win in San Jose and after missing the podium in Seattle, won the Beast in Big Bear, CA. Kolbl has been battling a foot injury since the Chicago Super, which pulled her out of the Utah Super. However, she still took third overall in the U.S. National Series on the heels of her performance at the beginning of the season.
Tune in to Spartan Race LIVE August 25th at 7:00 AM EST to watch the action unfold.