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Greenwood leads loaded women's field

Defending champion back, but will face the most talented group of contenders in race history
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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For the first time since 2009, the Western States Endurance Run will take place on its traditional course, meaning the runners will get the full mountain experience Saturday morning before heading into the blazing canyons in the afternoon. That?s just fine with Ellie Greenwood. The ultrarunning phenom who lives in Banff, Alberta, rallied in the second half of last year?s Western States for an epic victory in her race debut. She is back to defend her title and possibly improve on her impressive time of 17 hours, 55 minutes. There are at least a dozen women who could pose serious threats to Greenwood, who placed second at the Comrades Marathon (89 kilometers) in South Africa on June 3. But Greenwood is the clear favorite. Back in April she cruised to victory at the American River 50 for the second straight year. Veterans Kami Semick and Nikki Kimball were not far behind Greenwood last year when they encountered a bear on the trail just past No Hands Bridge. The bear eventually climbed a tree and Semick eventually out-sprinted Kimball around the Placer High track to finish second. Semick relocated to Hong Kong from Bend, Ore. and hasn?t done much racing in 2012. Kimball is always a threat at Western States. The 41-year-old from Montana is a three-time champion, though she has not won since 2007. Youngster Rory Bosio, 27, has finished in the top five the past two years at Western States. A resident of Soda Springs, Bosio was fifth at Way Too Cool in March and fifth at the Lake Sonoma 50-miler in April. Meghan Arbogast is a model of consistency, even at age 51. The Corvallis, Ore. runner has finished eighth or better at Western States every year since 2006. Portland, Ore.?s Amy Sproston could be a serious threat for the Cougar trophy. She won the World 100-kilometer Championship in Italy earlier this spring. Sproston also has four other wins at various races around the country since last year?s eighth place showing at Western States. Aliza Lapierre is also one to watch. The Vermont native has three straight victories, including an impressive run at the Waldo 100K in Oregon last summer. Looking to follow in the footsteps of 2011 overall champion Kilian Jornet, Lizzy Hawkins is making the journey from Europe to California for her first Western States this weekend. Hawkins is the two-time defending Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc champion and holds the women?s world record for most road miles covered in a 24-hour period (153.5 miles). The English runner is also a former 100K world champion. Look out for former professional triathlete Tyler Stewart. A recent convert to ultrarunning, Stewart came out of nowhere to beat out a bunch of talented women to win the Way Too Cool 50K in March.