Canada’s Webster repeats as Spartan World Champion | SierraSun.com

Canada’s Webster repeats as Spartan World Champion

Thousands of athletes from across the globe came to Squaw last weekend to compete in the seventh annual Spartan World Championship.

The Elite World Championship race and its first-place prize of $20,000 highlighted the two days of competition at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, bringing in more than 150 athletes from 50 countries to take on 13.5 miles of course and its 34 obstacles.

Canadian Lindsay Webster returned to defend last year's first-place finish, and put down a time more than four minutes faster than any other woman to make it two straight Spartan World Championships.

"Last year it was sort of unexpected, and this year I put a little bit more pressure on myself because I didn't know if I could do it again," said Webster. "It means the world to me to be able to repeat it."

Webster got through the course with a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes, 27 seconds, topping second place, Rebecca Hammond, who finished with a time of 2:29:40. Czech cross-country skier and Olympian, Zuzana Kocumova, was third with a time of 2:31:18. Kocumova won the championship in 2015.

The most difficult obstacles of the race, according to Webster, came as a result of the alpine swim near the resort's High Camp area.

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"It was a fairly warm morning, but once you climb to the top, you do the swim first, and once you're wet and the wind's whipping through you, it was absolutely freezing," said Webster. "I couldn't feel my hands at all for the twister or the sandbag carry."

Webster, who finished more than 30 minutes ahead of her winning time from last year, said the layout and obstacles were less difficult than in past years.

"It was fast," she said. "I remember thinking about halfway through my race, that I was almost sad it was halfway over. You spend so long preparing for this race, and then it's just over in the blink of an eye. You've got to enjoy it."

Albon captures elusive title at Squaw

Before the Spartan World Championship was held at Squaw Valley, the race was contested in Vermont.

The last championship to be held in the eastern United States was won by Great Britain's Jonathan Albon, but since then the champion skyrunner, who lives and trains at sea level in Norway, has settled for a pair of fourth places, and a second at last year's championship.

This year, Albon returned to the top of the podium, claiming the 2018 title by 25 seconds with a time of 2:07:04.

"It means quite a lot," said Albon. "I won back in 2014, and then they moved it to (Squaw), and I've never been able to win since. It's such a beautiful place to run. It's an honor just to come and race here."

Albon, who won the 2017 Skyrunner World Series overall championship in 2017, said the toughest part about competing at Squaw is the elevation.

"Normally running uphill I get a bit of an advantage on the other athletes," he said on the most difficult aspects of this year's race. "Apart from that, the swim — a little bit warmer than before — but still a bit of a shock, and then the carries were pretty heavy. So it's just trying not to write myself off at anytime, and hold in there."

Ryan Atkins was second place with a time of 2:07:29, and Robert Killian was third for the second straight year, finishing with a time of 2:10:05.

"The best of the best from across the globe came out and dominated this extremely challenging course at North Lake Tahoe," said Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena in a statement. "Congratulations, not just to the World Championship winners, but to everyone who pushed their bodies to the limit at the race which challenged the minds and bodies of all who entered."

$1 million challenge

New this year, Spartan is offering $1 million if this weekend's men and women's winners can replicate their performance with first-place finishes later this year at the Spartan Trifecta World Championship in Sparta, Greece, and at the 24-hour Ultra World Championship in Iceland.

Both Webster and Albon were hesitant on the idea of chasing after the prize.

"That would involve me having to run for 24 hours," said Webster. "That's not really my cup of tea. I'm not really a distance runner."

Albon didn't rule it out, and said he will next compete at the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in London, on Oct. 19-21.

"I'm trying not to think about it today," said Albon. "Just trying to recover after this, make a plan, and then see."

Canada sweeps team championship

Following Saturday's individual championship, the Spartan Team World Championships were held at the resort last Sunday morning.

Propelled by performances by Webster and Ryan Atkins, the Canadian men and women's teams swept the championship over a trio of teams from the US as well as squads from more than 20 other countries.

Team Canada dominated the women's race, winning by more than four minutes with a time of 2:03:33; while the Canadian men topped Team USA by 30 seconds with a time of 1:40:27.

"The best endurance athletes from around the world joined forces to take on the mountainous course in North Lake Tahoe for their country's pride and it was incredible to watch the action unfold," said De Sena. "The display of pure athleticism, grit, and most importantly, teamwork – showed the world exactly what it means to be a Spartan, and propelled the sport forward as it continues to grow across the globe."

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