Every month, the Spartan Power Rankings lists the top 10 male and female racers in the world right now. The rankings are predominantly based on recent accomplishments and results, with some consideration given to overall athlete resumes and future predictors of success. They are based on some data analysis, but more so the eye test, which of course is subjective.
Making each month's picks is none other than Spartan pro Kevin Donoghue. A Spartan Pro Team member since 2015, he has amassed more than 150 podium appearances during his illustrious career and captured 106 Age Group victories. In addition to his brilliance on the course, he's also a veteran Spartan broadcaster, having called three Spartan World Championships.
The 2021 Spartan season is officially in the books, and what a tremendous comeback campaign it was following a largely-cancelled 2020. There was no shortage of memorable races and finishes, from the first United States National Series race in Jacksonville to the first Spartan World Championship held outside of the United States.
Championship season, from North Lake Tahoe to Telluride to Abu Dhabi, paved the way for the final Power Rankings of 2021. Check out which racers finished No. 1 to end the season, and who rounded out the Top 10 in the final installment of the year.
Let the debate begin!
The Top 10 Women's Racers of 2021
1. Lindsay Webster
What does one do after becoming the first person to win three Spartan World Championships? In Lindsay's case, she started playing with my curly hair at the finish line as I asked her questions. The next day, after the hardest World Championship in history and another night spent sleeping in a tent, she went out and helped lead Team Canada to a third-place finish in the Teams World Championship. Simply amazing.
2. Annie Dube
A few years ago, Dube won the Tahoe Age Group World Championship after volunteering as a course marker in the days leading up to the Elite World Championship. Fast forward to Abu Dhabi, and she was trailing a podium position until kicking it into high gear when it mattered the most. The result? A tremendously impressive second-place finish at the 2021 World Championship, and she couldn't have been happier upon reaching the finish line. It's remarkable how far she's come.
3. Emma Cook-Clarke
What a finish! After winning the North American Championship in North Lake Tahoe, she followed it up with a massive effort to take fourth in Abu Dhabi.
4. Myriam Guillot-Boisset
Due to travel restrictions, we only saw Myriam twice this year. But both efforts were impressive, to say the least. She finished second, behind only Nicole Mericle, in the first USNS race of the year in Jacksonville, and finished fifth in Abu Dhabi after leading for significant stretches.
5. Faye Stenning
Only Faye can roll into Abu Dhabi, live it up at the pool, stay in a posh hotel for a few days, and then race like a desert fox in one of the world's most challenging environments. She finished seventh at the World Championship after a strong finish to the season.
6. Rea Kolbl
Winning the Ultra World Championship will keep anyone in the Top 10. She's currently intensifying her skimo (ski mountaineering) training, with the hopes of representing her native Slovenia in a future Olympics.
7. Kaci Monroe
Her 11th-place finish in Abu Dhabi was the icing on the cake. (Her Abu Dhabi experience was made all the more meaningful because she met, and bonded with, a baby camel.) Her magnificent 2021 season — she finished fifth in the final USNS standings — was the best of her career. It's even more noteworthy when you remember that she gave birth to her second child just a few months before the season started.
8. Alex Walker
Alex finished 15th in Abu Dhabi, which wasn't the finish she'd hoped for. (Though meeting the baby camel with Kaci did help ease the pain.) Overall, though, her season was extremely solid.
9. Ashley Heller
Heller's top 20 performance in Abu Dhabi was a microcosm of her 2021 season, which was a grind. It was never perfect, and it wasn't always pretty, but Ashley never quits on herself and always stays in the fight. I'd go to war with her any day of the week.
10. Every Single Woman Who Participated in Abu Dhabi
With the combined efforts of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the global Spartan community, a spark was ignited for future generations of Spartan women.
The Top 10 Men's Racers of 2021
1. Ryan Atkins
Moments after he won the Spartan World Championship in Abu Dhabi, I asked him if the six times he didn't win — he'd finished in second five times, and in fourth once — made this victory that much more meaningful. With tears still in his eyes, he responded, "F*** yeah!" With this latest — and, in my opinion, greatest — accomplishment, Ryan has become the first person to win a National Series, Regional Championship, Ultra World Championship, and World Championship. Move over, Hobie Call. Ryan Atkins is the new GOAT.
2. Veejay Jones
It took Atkins winning the World Championship to bump Veejay down to No. 2. That's how special Jones' season was.
3. Mark Gaudet
Other than Atkins, Gaudet had the best finish of any North American athlete in Abu Dhabi (14th), and that's after getting stranded at the airport when he arrived. Combine that with his Ultra World Championship title and eighth-place finish (tied) in the U.S. National Series, and he certainly deserves high praise for the season he had.
4. Tyler Veerman
After his breakout season in 2019, Tyler had an even better 2021 campaign. High placements in the USNS and his fantastic performance in the Ultra World Championship, where he finished second, will catapult him into 2022.
5. Ryan Woods
He wasn't in Abu Dhabi, but he had an incredibly solid season. Terrific, consistent performances all season long earned him a third-place USNS finish.
6. Logan Broadbent
Logan brought his boomerangs to Abu Dhabi. There is a metaphor in there somewhere, but I'm too tired from the trip to Abu Dhabi to figure out what it is. What I can say is that from the start of the season until the very end, his journey had a beautiful arc of successful performances.
7. Ian Hosek
In Abu Dhabi I found him in the dark, sitting with his wife on a sand dune, in as bad of a condition as I've ever seen him. Concerned, I asked him if he needed any help. All he asked for was a cold Sprite. After the season he had, finishing 10th in the USNS and putting together a competitive effort in the most savage World Championship ever, I'd say he deserves one.
8. Ryan Kempson
In a season where he navigated many off-the-course obstacles, Kempson still managed to finish fifth in the USNS. Everybody would have loved to have seen him in the Liwa Oasis, but his absence gave him extra time, and extra rest, to prep for a fantastic 2022 season.
9. Mark Batres
I'm breaking protocol here, but who cares? Tough Mudder wasn't supposed to factor into these rankings, but I'm going to disregard that this month. This dude covered 115 miles to win World's Toughest Mudder, and he had his fair share of excellent Spartan performances all year long.
10. The Spartan Staff in Abu Dhabi
I'm going off base yet again with this pick, and this has absolutely nothing to do with Spartan racers. But I need to acknowledge it. And if you were in the United Arab Emirates for this spectacular championship weekend, you understand why I'm shoehorning this in here. The Spartan staff had to deal with logistical and political obstacles at every turn, not to mention having their sleep constantly interrupted by locals riding dune buggies! But they were true Spartans. They got the job done and created an incredibly memorable experience for everybody, an experience that nobody who witnessed it will ever forget.