Western States 100: Stephanie Howe tops the women's field

By: Trevor Horn / Auburn Journal Correspondent
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Stephanie Howe has been an accomplished ultrarunner for the past few years, but running in the Western State 100-Mile Endurance Run was a new venture for the Bend, Ore., native.
Despite never running more than 65 miles before Saturday, Howe took the lead around the 38th mile at Dusty Corners and was the first woman to cross the finish line at 18 hours, 1 minute and 42 seconds, marking the fourth fastest time for a woman in race history.
“Honestly, no one was more surprised than me to cross the finish line first,” Howe said. “I’m so excited.”
Howe, an exercise physiologist who earned her spot in the race via the lottery pick in December, said her knowledge of maintaining a proper diet was a huge advantage for her Saturday with the great unknown of being “nervous to see how my body was going to respond.”
“I just kept taking good care of myself,” she added.
Emily Harrison of Arizona was leading the women early on. Harrison reached Robinson Flat at 10:08 a.m. 
Howe then rallied, reaching Devil’s Thumb at 1:03 p.m. after 8:03 had passed. 
With the last two hours of the race in darkness, Howe’s face lit up with a “big grin” once she saw the stadium lights of LeFebvre Stadium at Placer High. 
“I couldn’t wait to go around the track,” Howe said. 
Running with her pacer and fiance, Zach Violet, Howe said they were just trying to savor the moment as the end was finally coming to a close just after 11 p.m.
The heat of what was a 90-degree day in Auburn became less of a factor as the day progressed.
“It was a concern coming into the race,” said Howe, who finished second at the Sonoma 50 in April. “But it wasn’t too hot (on Saturday) and I felt great. I actually felt better (during the race) than on any of the training runs I did here.”
Asked after the race if she would return next year to defend her title, Howe gave a playful smile as she responded with “I don’t know” before walking off.
Larisa Dannis of New Hampshire finished second in 18:29 and Nathalie Mauclair of France came in third at 18:43.
Pam Smith, last year's women's champion from Oregon, finished fourth in 19:10, 10 minutes after midnight.
Nikki Kimball of Montana finished fifth in 19:51. 
Cool's Meghan Arbogast came in eighth, clocking in at 21:14.