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They say the Western States 100 is to ultra marathons what The Boston Marathon is to road marathons, in the US anyway. There’s history. There’s prestige. And it’s a hard race to get into!


Elite ultra runners at the top end of the sport can race their way into an automatic, coveted entry into Western States by placing in the top 2 of a “Golden Ticket Race.” It’s considered the “hard way in,” and it keeps the field at Western States ultra-competitive. 

Well, it just so happens that The HOKA ONE ONE Canyons 100km is the very last Golden Ticket race of 2021 before the “Big Dance” in June… and two women’s as well as two men’s tickets are up for grabs! 

Our race preview features some of the top runners we think will be racing hard for one of these last remaining, precious tickets. For many, this is a lifelong goal…a bucket list race… and dreams are on the line! 

The HOKA ONE ONE Canyons 100km Women’s Elite Field Preview

[Disclaimer: All opinions are our own. We try to thoroughly research previous race results, personal bests, and provide our readers with an accurate analysis with the best stats/information about each runner profiled – however we realize at times we could make some mistakes and typos so please forgive us! This is not meant to be all inclusive necessarily and we realize some runners may deserve to be on this list that we overlooked!  If you have any corrections, updated insider info, and/or concerns please comment on our MessageBoard under this thread and/or reach out to our contact form. Thanks for your support!]

In our minds, the women’s field consists of several experienced mountain-ultra-trail runners who also happen to have some very fast leg speed!

Top Contenders:

At the top end of this group is YiOu Wang (Under Armour). YiOu has won countless California trail-ultras in the 50km to 100km range (most notably, the now extinct but formerly super competitive North Face 50-mile Endurance Challenge in 2019). But, she has also won races such as The Lake Sonoma 50-mile and the FOURmidable 50km (to name a few). However, she seems to have had a bit of a sub-par day at the 2016 Western States (13th place). Perhaps she is still figuring out her longer-range potential in 100km and longer ultra distance races?

Taylor Nowlin (Adidas TERREX) is no stranger to being on the podium or winning some of the most competitive mountain-ultra-trail races in the country. Fresh off a win at the Badger Mountain 50km in the state of Washington at the end of March, she has shown excellent recent fitness this year. She’s also won the Flagstaff Sky Peaks 50km, The Imogene Pass Run, and the classic Nine Trails (to name a few highlights over the years). Perhaps most notably, she’s shown her strength and range in the Grand Canyon — she still holds the hotly contested R2R2R FKT with an amazing time of 7 hours 25 min!

Abby Hall (Adidas TERREX) recently got 2nd at Crown King Scramble at the end of March, which shows great recent fitness. Abby has also won The Moab Red Hot 55km in 2020, placed 4th at North Face 50-miler in San Francisco, and got 8th place at CCC. She also has been setting numerous FKTs over the past year.

Emily Hawgood:
Emily placed 3rd at Bandera 100km in January this year (just missed!), then followed up with a 7th place at Black Canyon 100km a month later! Before that, she’d been 2nd at the Ultratrail Cape Town 100km in South Africa and has also won the American River 50-miler. We’d guess she really, really would like to earn a Golden Ticket!

Kristina Trygstad-Saari:
Kristina placed 2nd at Speedgoat 50km last year (6:44), 2nd at the RUT 50km, and won the Dead Horse Ultra 50-miler in Moab last Fall (7:22). 

In the next “category” of runners (as we see it so far with our bias!), we have runners who have done a wide variety of racing events over the years:

Let’s start off with Nicole Monette (HOKA ONE ONE):
Nicole is fresh off a speedy 7:43 for 100km at her main sponsor’s “Carbon X2” road 100km event in January of this year. She comes into the MUT Running realm from an extensive road running background, where she has run a 2:35 marathon. It appears she has also done some more “flat and runnable” ultras (she won the Tunnel Hill 50-miler in 6:37 as well as The Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run in 16:19). It will be interesting to see how she responds to the steep pitches of the Canyons course!

Leah Yingling: 
An experienced MUT Runner who has shown range from half marathon to 100-mile distance events, Leah has already made the podium twice this year with a 2nd place at the Black Canyon Ultras 60km in February, followed up by a win at the Bel Monte Endurance 50km in Virginia.

Other Top Runners:

Beth Pascal:
Beth placed 4th at Western States in 2019. We’d traditionally rank her higher in this article, however, she already has a spot for this year’s Western States… so, we’re not sure if she would make the international trip over now for Canyons?

Audrey Tanguy:
Like we did with Beth, we could be making the false assumption that Audrey is not toeing the line at Canyons with a Golden Ticket in mind (she already has a spot at Western States this year and is an international runner)?

Pam Smith:
Pam is a true legend in the sport and may have the most ultra-long experience of any top runner in the field. She won Western States in 2013 and has won countless events ranging from 50km to 24 hours.

Lindsey Hagen:
Lindsey was 4th at the Black Canyon 100km in 2019 and has won both 50-mile and 100-mile ultra marathon races. She was also 7th at Leadville in 2017. 

Emkay Sullivan:
Emkay was an Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifier in 2020. She has a speedy track background (sub 10:00 for a 3000m Steeplechase) and was also 4th place at Way Too Cool 50km in 2019. 

Rebecca Windell:
Rebecca was 5th at the Speedgoat 50km last year, had a DNF at the Black Canyon 100km this year in February, but also won the “Run The Rock” 50km in Oregon this past fall. 

Carla Molinaro:
Carla recently ran a 8:01 for 100km on the roads at the HOKA ONE ONE Project Carbon X2 earlier this year.