Spartan athletes set to battle for world titles at Squaw Valley | SierraSun.com

Spartan athletes set to battle for world titles at Squaw Valley

The battle cry of thousands of anxious athletes will echo throughout Squaw Valley this weekend as the Spartan World Championship returns to the resort for a fifth consecutive year.

Roughly 8,500 athletes from around the world will compete in one of three Spartan Race distances on Saturday and Sunday, navigating dozens of obstacles while traversing up and down the trails at Squaw.

This year the world championship event for men and women has been moved to Sunday, and will take place on a 13-mile course with 30 obstacles.

Two-time defending champion Lindsay Webster is set to defend her crown. The Canadian won the women’s race last year by more than four minutes, and is back in search of a third consecutive title. On the men’s side, Great Britain’s Jonathan Albon will return as well to defend his title. Albon also won the Spartan event in Sparta, Greece last year, setting up a chance to win a million dollar prize at the final race in Iceland.

“At about mile 50 he realized he wasn’t on pace to hit,” said Spartan Vice President of production Mike Morris. “And so he dropped out.”

The $1 million challenge is back again this year, but the finale has been moved to Sweden.

This year’s Spartan Championship at Squaw Valley begins Saturday morning with ultra races, which take athletes across 30 miles and 60 obstacles. There will also be shorter races on the Beast course that takes athletes across 13 miles of terrain and 30 obstacles.

Sunday will feature the world championship races, which get underway at 9 a.m.

This year’s Spartan World Championship will challenge runners and organizers alike as a cold front moves into the region. Cold temperatures, according to Morris, could force course changes, specifically in terms of the swimming obstacle.

“It’s still to be determined. We’re pretty good about dealing with these adverse weather conditions just from doing this 10 years all over the globe. It’s a balancing act. We’re balancing the safety of everybody, that’s the most important thing,” said Morris, who added changes to the course may be made during Saturday’s race, but Sunday’s event will be set before athletes leave the start line. Sunday’s competition will also feature races for children.

“We try to balance safety, the sport’s side of it, and the racer experience,” said Morris. “It’s funny, for every person that’s grateful that we closed the swim, there’s someone else that’s like, ‘I can’t believe you did that. I signed a death waiver, and I wanted to be challenged.’ You can’t win on that side, but the intent is to try to provide the best experience for everybody.”

During the weekend of competition, roughly 15,000 people are expected to visit the area, according Morris, either as athletes or spectators.

“Everyone’s been great to work with and super accommodating,” said Morris on returning to Squaw Valley for a fifth year. “We really appreciate everything that the town and the venue have to offer and are able to work with us on.”

For more information or to register for competitions, visit Spartan.com.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.