Spartan World Championships Preview: The Women
This Saturday, the world’s top athletes will arrive in Squaw Valley for the Spartan Race World Championship Beast. The competition has been the best the sport has ever seen, with a handful of athletes on both the men’s and women’s side being able to win highly contested races. Long gone are the days of one or two athletes gapping the competition on the way to an easy victory. As the sport has progressed, so has the talent for both genders.
The 2017 reigning Spartan Race World Champion Lindsay Webster looks likely to retain her title in Lake Tahoe this year. Webster has had a strong 2018, winning the US National Series (including three of the four national series races she attended) as well as the North American Championship in Glen Jean, West Virginia, in late August. Her finish there was a full two minutes ahead of the next competitor, something she’ll look to replicate this Saturday.
As you may remember from last year, Webster approached the final obstacle with a slight lead on then-defending world champion Zuzana Kocumova. Webster would fail to make a final transition to ring the bell on the multi-rig, leaving the door open for Kocumova to three-peat as world champion by building on her 2015 and 2016 wins. Kocumova failed to capitalize on the opportunity, and thus Webster won her first Spartan Race World Championship.
Speaking of the two-time world champion, Kocumova is a late confirmation, but she will attend this year. The 38-year-old from the Czech Republic will again be a favorite to win the championship, and if she does, she would surpass all other athletes (Claude Godbout, Hobie Call, and Cody Moat) for most career Spartan Race World Championship victories.
You can’t talk about contenders for the world championship without mentioning Faye Stenning and Nicole Mericle.
Stenning is a proficient runner but encountered trouble with the Darn Tough slip wall at the North American Championship last month. Her struggle at this obstacle ultimately knocked her out of contention for a podium spot that day. If you were paying attention to the broadcast, she started off slowly, but closed the gap on the competition. Had it not been for the short ropes on the slip wall, we could have seen Stenning grab her first major victory of 2018. For Stenning to capitalize and win the World Championship this year, she will need to overcome the slip wall, as Spartan had used a similar obstacle at the top of Squaw Valley in 2017.
Nicole Mericle has yet to capture that first big win of 2018. Her highest placings thus far were two second-place finishes in the last two legs of the US National Series as well as a third-place finish in the North American Championship. Her placing in the world championship improved from 2016 to 2017 (12th place to seventh place). Mericle likes to take the competition out fast and hard in every race she competes in. The real question becomes if she’s healthy enough to sustain that pace for the 13.5 miles we’re expecting Saturday.
Last, but not least, is Rebecca Hammond. The dark horse of the women’s field has excelled in the two major Spartan races of her short career; taking sixth in the final leg of the US National Series and taking second at the North American Championship a month later. The improvement she demonstrated in just a month shows that this Harvard medical student has a fast learning curve for the sport. Could Hammond continue the trend and claim Spartan’s highest achievement?
Tune in to Spartan Race LIVE! September 29 at 7 a.m. PST to watch the action unfold!