Webster and Killian Take Top Honors at Spartan NA Champs
The competition was fierce at the first North American Championship on both the men’s and women’s side. Lindsay Webster would take the inaugural championship for the women and Robert Killian, Jr. would defend his previous year’s win in Glen Jean, WV.
Picking up where Spartan left off in Utah, the women’s field had the opportunity to attack the course first. This was easily the most contested women’s races to date. For over half of the race, a pack of women consisting of Webster, Nicole Mericle, Faye Stenning and relative newcomer Rebecca Hammond held a substantial lead on the rest of the competition. The four were within seconds of each other through the spear throw, of which all four women were successful in their attempts, and continued to trade placement until reaching the Darn Tough Slip Wall.
This wouldn’t be your ordinary “photo-op” slip wall, as Spartan would again use short ropes the athletes saw in Big Bear to make an easy obstacle much more formidable for this championship race. This obstacle would knock a revitalized and surging Faye Stenning out of contention for a podium spot, as she opted for burpees. Rea Kolbl would also fall victim to the slip wall, completing her burpees as Alyssa Hawley passed her.
“I’ve been training with some exceptional marathoners and my engine is where it needs to be. I was getting ready to make a push for the later portions of the race and unfortunately the slip wall changed that plan.” Stenning conveyed she felt fit during the race and the desire to compete after a DNF in Utah the previous month and is confident in her fitness with the World Championship a month away.
Mericle, Hammond, and Webster would continue to push each other until Webster utilized her downhill running strength to gap her competitors. Webster would cross the finish line with a two-and-a-half minute lead over second place (Hammond) and a four-minute lead over third place (Mericle). Stenning and Kolbl would recover from their struggle on the Darn Tough Slip Wall and round out the rest of the top five.
The defending World Champion Webster has won three consecutive major Spartan Races in a row headed into the World Championship (Chicago, Utah, and now West Virginia). Nevertheless, an emerging dark horse, Rebecca Hammond, surprised many in the Spartan World with her strong race and second place finish.
At times Hammond showed her novice on course by leading with her feet on the Tyrolean Traverse. However, this rookie did something few Spartans can attest to doing; she made her spear and she looked like a seasoned veteran while doing it. With only seven total Spartan Races to her name, could this rookie play spoiler to Webster’s chance to repeat as World Champion at the end of September?
On the men’s side, Robert Killian, Jr. would continue on his hot streak and win his fourth consecutive Spartan Race (Palmerton, Utah, Breckenridge, West Virginia). It would seem as if the injuries that plagued him to start the year, have ultimately benefited him late in the season. With his training dialed in and Lake Tahoe around the corner, is it possible for Killian to claim his second World Championship and dethrone defending World Champion Cody Moat?
At the start of the race, Killian and Ryan Woods would set the pace for the men’s field and gap the competition, with Ryan Atkins trailing just behind but within striking distance. Woods would capitalize on every inch of flat and nontechnical downhill running, whereas Killian would use the hills and the swim to his advantage. Killian’s background as a triathlete proved valuable as he emerged from the water fresh and poised to increase the narrow lead he held against Woods.
Both Killian and Woods would make their spear throws, but a failed attempt from Atkins would let the two leaders create a little separation from the Canadian. A missed spear throw did not deter Atkins. After finishing his burpees, he would set a blistering pace for the remainder of the course to catch back up to Woods and Killian, eventually overtaking Woods for second place. Considering that a total of 90 seconds separated first from third place, this race was highly contested and is a testament to the hard work these three competitors have put in this year.
Defending World Champion Cody Moat would finish the race in fourth place and Canadian dark horse Mikhail Gerylo would snag a fifth place finish that day. Gerylo credited the hard work demonstrated by the top finishers as being truly next level. “Coming from where I live and how little I train in comparison, I’m very happy with [my] result. Given the day, the top 5-10 positions could have been switched around and I just made some key moves at the right times in the race and pushed near the end to get ahead.”