The Spartan Games Athlete Bios

Here are all of the athletes competing in The 2020 Spartan Games. You can find out about the events and results on this post.


Ryan Atkins (33)

  • Finished 2nd at Spartan WC 5 times
  • 17 USNS podiums (most all-time for men)
  • 2016 and 2019 USNS points series champion
  • 40 total Spartan Race podiums (13th all-time for men)
  • Podium at all 5 Spartan distances + 24-Hour
  • Never lost an obstacle race over 8 hours
  • 2 Spartan Ultra 24-Hour Championship wins
  • Iceland (2018), Sweden (2019)
  • 6 World’s Toughest Mudder wins (3 solo – 2013, 2014, 2017 and 3 team – 2015, 2016, 2018)
  • 6 Toughest Mudder (8-Hour) wins
  • Most miles in WTM history (110 miles in 2017)
  • 13 OCRWC podiums (including 3k win in 2016)
  • 21 BattleFrog podiums
  • 2nd place at Eco Challenge: Fiji last year on team with Rea Kolbl.

Hunter McIntyre (31)

  • Finished top-7 at Spartan Race WC 6 times
  • 36 total Spartan Race podiums (16th all-time for men)
  • Best avg finish place ever (2.3) at USNS races
  • Never finished worse than 7th at a Spartan Race (best all-time for North American-based racers with 10+ career races)
  • 3rd at 2013 Spartan WC in Vermont and 1st in Vermont Short Course WC after
  • 2017 and 2018 TMX champion
  • 2019 CrossFit Games competitor
  • Hyrox WR holder
  • Murph WR holder
  • Undefeated on Broken Skull Challenge

Ryan Kent (34)

  • 40 career Spartan wins (3rd all-time)
  • 64 career Spartan podiums (4th all-time)
  • 4 finishes between 6th-12th at Tahoe
  • 6 podiums at USNS races (tied-4th all-time)
  • Podiumed in 21 different states (1st all-time)
  • 1 of 3 men with a USNS podium in 4 different years (with Atkins + Killian)
  • Won last 4 Stadium Series races in 2019 (somehow didn’t win Stadium Series title, though)
  • Former ocean lifeguard (good at swimming)
  • Won The Selection TV show

Aaron Newell (27)

  • 4th at 2019 Spartan Race WC
  • 3rd at 2019 Spartan Ultra 24-Hour WC in Sweden (75 miles)
  • 11 Spartan podiums in 2019 (tied-4th most in US)
  • Only started racing Spartan in 2018
  • 2019 Broken Arrow Triple Crown winner
  • 7th overall in 2019 USNS standings
  • 2nd at 2019 NorAm OCR Championship 15k
  • Fantastic rock climber
  • Beat Ryan Atkins by 25:06 at 2012 North Face Endurance 50-Miler when he was only 16
  • Huge injury history (torn labrum, broke both feet, broke left ankle, giardia, mono, surgeries)

Josiah Middaugh (42)

  • 2015 World Xterra Triathlon world champion
  • 3 other podiums at Xterra Triathlon WC (2004, 2012, and 2014)
  • 12 US National Xterra titles
  • 6 USSSA National Snowshoe titles
  • 2nd at first-ever Spartan Race WC in Texas in 2011
  • Raced in over 15 Xterra WC events despite 5 knee surgeries through the years
  • Competed on Eco Challenge: Fiji last year
  • Highly considering racing the 2021 USNS

Grant McCartney (31)

  • 2-time American Ninja Warrior national finalist
  • Competed on 5 American Ninja Warrior seasons
  • Competed on both seasons of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge
  • Competed in both TMX Championship events (eliminated after round 1 both times)
  • Former semi-pro skateboarder and surfer
  • Former flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines
  • His dad (Ron) played in the NFL on the Atlanta Falcons

Michael Wardian (46)

  • Qualified for 3 straight US Olympic Trials for marathon (2004, 2008, and 2012)
  • 2:17:49 marathon PR
  • USATF Ultra Runner of Year from 2008-2011
  • USATF National Championship wins:
    • 50k – 2008, 2009, 2010
    • 50 mile trail – 2008
    • 100k – 2008
  • WR for 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days (2:45 avg)
  • Started running after college, where he played NCAA D1 lacrosse at Michigan St

Jarrod Shoemaker (38)

  • Pro triathlete
  • 2009 ITU Duathlon World Champion (run-bike-run)
  • 18th at 2008 Olympicsin triathlon
  • On cover of Wheaties Box in 2008
  • NCAA runner at Dartmouth College
  • 22nd at 1999 Footlocker XC National Championship (high school)

Max Fennell (33)

  • First African-American pro triathlete in history
  • Competed on Million Dollar Mile as a Defender
  • Quit his college soccer team to try out for MLS team (cut during tryouts)
  • Owns a small-batch coffee company (Fenn Coffee)

Herman Demmink (37)

  • One of the best 35-39 age group CrossFit athletes worldwide
  • CrossFit Open finishes:o 2012 – 284th worldwide
  • Fitness stats (according to
  • Former minor league baseball player with Philadelphia Phillies
  • Former strength and conditioning baseball coach with University of Tennessee

Curtis Maggitt (27)

Rock Lifting Event Video from Saturday

  • Former NFL LB with Indianapolis Colts(2016)
  • Started 3+ years as LB at University of Tennessee (SEC)
  • Overcome multiple major injuries (torn ACL and broken hip)
  • Rated #3 OLB in the country coming out of high school
  • Passionate about photography

Matt Stevens (31)

  • SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) specialist in the United States Air Force
  • Wife is on Spartan Pro Team (Emilee (Smith) Stevens)
  • Competed in a couple Spartan Races before (Open only)

Spartan Games Women


Lindsay Webster (31)

  • 2 Spartan Race world championships (2017 and 2018)
  • 3 runner-up finishes at Spartan Race WC (2015, 2016, and 2019)
  • Never missed a podium in 22 career USNS races (most all-time both genders)
  • 13 career USNS wins (most all-time both genders)
  • Won USNS points series title 4 straight years 2016-2019
  • Finished 2nd at Tahoe last year despite a broken foot
  • 4th at 2014 Spartan WC at Killington in her Spartan debut
  • Finished 4th in first 2 Spartan Races, but has never missed podium in 34 Spartan Races since
  • 5 career Toughest 8-hour podiums
  • Tied for most miles by a woman at Toughest 8-hour race (45 miles)
  • 2018 Tougher 10-mile champion in Seattle
  • 1st at 2018 WTM (co-ed team), 6th at 2017 WTM solo (75 miles)
  • 11 career OCRWC podiums (never lost at 15k in 4 attempts)
  • 5 NorAm OCR Championship podiums (4 wins and one 2nd place)
  • 16 BattleFrog podiums (tied for most all-time for women)
  • Tied for win in Yancy Camp OCR G.O.A.T. bracket earlier this year (200+ votes cast)

Nicole Mericle (32)

  • Reigning Spartan Race world champion
  • Won Spartan Trifecta WC in Greece last year
  • Tahoe improvement since 2016 debut – 12th > 7th > 6th > 1st
  • 2nd in 2019 USNS overall points series standings behind Lindsay
  • Set single-season podium record with 19 Spartan podiums in 2019 (including 13 wins)
  • Has not missed Spartan podium in past 23 races dating back to 2018 Tahoe (6th)
  • 34 career Spartan podiums (tied-13th most all-time)
  • 2017 Toughest 10-mile world champion in California
  • 8 career OCRWC podiums (5 wins and three 2nd)
  • NCAA D1 South-Central Regional XC Champion while runner at Rice
  • Fantastic rock climber
  • Running PRs – 16:39 for 5k, 10:07 for 3000S, 4:25.2 for 1500m

Rea Kolbl (29)

  • 40 career Spartan podiums (6th all-time for women)
  • Career Spartan WC placements 2016-2019: 7th, 5th, 5th, 9th
  • Top-5 at all USNS races 2017-2018
  • 7 career USNS podiums (5th all-time for women)
  • 1 of just 5 women to have won 3+ USNS races
  • Outright won 2017 Hawaii Beast AND Super, beating all men both races
  • Arguably the G.O.A.T. of women’s ultra-OCR events
  • 1st at 2019 Spartan Ultra 24-Hour Championship in Sweden
  • 1st at World’s Toughest Mudder in 2017 (90) and 2018 (75)
  • Tied women’s record with 90 miles at her WTM debut in 2017
  • 3 career Toughest 8-hour podiums (including 45 miles, which is tied for women’s record)
  • 2nd at 2017 Tougher 10-mile world championship
  • 2nd place at Eco Challenge: Fiji last year on team with Ryan Atkins
  • Competed on Slovenian gymnastics national team for 10 years, just missing Olympics
  • One of fastest female times ever on Manitou Incline (23:49)

Corinna Coffin (27)

  • 2nd at 2014 Spartan Race WC in Vermont
  • 11th at 2015 Spartan Race WC in Tahoe
  • 2019 Stadium Series champion
  • Competed in 2018 CrossFit Games (team)
  • TMX Championship – 1st in 2017, 2nd in 2018
  • 16 BattleFrog podiums (tied for most all-time for women)
  • Member of triathlon team at Virginia Tech
  • Former Broken Skull Challenge champion

Sam Briggs (38)

  • 2013 CrossFit Games champion
  • 1st in CrossFit Open twice (2013, 2014) and 2nd in 2016
  • Career CrossFit Games finishes – 1st, 4th, 4th, 9th, 17th (2013, 2015-2017, 2019)
  • Career CrossFit Regional finishes – 1st, 4th, 2nd, 4th, 2nd (2013-2017)
  • Arguably the best female runner in CrossFit Games events which involve running

Kristi (Eramo) O’Connell (31)

  • Finished 8th, 13th, and 9th at CrossFit Games 2016-2018
  • 7th at 2019 CrossFit Games (Team Invictus)
  • Finished 14th-26th in CrossFit Open in 4 of last 5 years
  • CrossFit PRs listed here:
  • NCAA D1 swimmer at University of Louisville before switching to CrossFit in 2014
  • All-American swimmer in HS in 100y breaststroke
  • 7th in Age Group at 2011 USA National Championship Olympic Distance triathlon

Lauren Weeks (30)

  • 4th at 2018 TMX World Championship
  • Competed in CrossFit Regionals 3 times (2 as an individual, 1 on a team)
  • 3 top-200 CrossFit Open worldwide finishes
  • Fastest Hyrox time ever on US soil (8th fastest worldwide)
  • Finished less than 20 seconds behind Faye Stenning and Alyssa Hawley at Hyrox Chicago

Emma Chapman (32)

  • 1st at 2018 TMX World Championship
  • Received invite to 2020 CrossFit Games, but it was rescinded due to smaller fields for Covid
  • 5th at 2019 CrossFit Games (team)
  • CrossFit Open finishes – 29th (2020) and 34th (2018)
  • 8th at 2018 CrossFit Regionals (Central Region)
  • 2nd at only career Spartan Race (2018 St. Louis Stadium)
  • Member of New Zealand’s U20 National Soccer Team
  • NCAA D1 soccer player at Marshall University (West Virginia)
  • Competed on Million Dollar Mile as a Defender
  • CrossFit profile:

Samantha Wood (35)

  • Leadville 100 finishes – 3rd (2019), 5th (2018)
  • Spartan WC finishes 2015-2018: 12th, 18th, 21st, 15th (did not race Tahoe in 2019)
  • 6 career Spartan podiums (3 wins)
  • NCAA D1 runner at Lipscomb University (in Nashville, TN)
  • Doctor (orthopedic physical therapist)
  • Member of California Army National Guard (served in Afghanistan)
  • 3rd place on Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge (season 1)

Kellyn Taylor (34)

  • 7th fastest woman marathoner in US history (2:24:28)
  • Other running PRs – 4:33.4 (mile), 15:11.5 (5k), 31:07.6 (10k), 1:10:13 (half)
  • Olympic Trials – 2020 marathon (8th), 2016 5k (12th), 2016 10k (4th), 2016 marathon (6th)
  • 3rd at 2019 USA Outdoor Track Championships in 10k
  • Former NCAA D1 runner at Wichita State University
  • 3rd at 2009 NCAA D1 Indoor Championships in mile
  • 10th at 2009 NCAA D1 Outdoor Championships in 5k
  • Wisconsin HS state champion in 1600m
  • Firefighter and mother

Chelsey Magness (36)

  • Competed on “Team Bend” on Eco Challenge: Fiji last year
  • Professional adventure racer and acrobat
  • Mother from Bend, OR

Faith Cooke (31)

  • Competed in CrossFit Regionals 2x
  • Qualified for USA Weightlifting National Championship
  • Single mom in Texas

Names To Watch In 2021 (Women)

Click here to read Names To Watch In 2021 (Men)

Honestly, it’s pretty unlikely that most of the women in this article will join the ranks of Lindsay, Nicole, or Rebecca at the top of the sport. It’s not that the women I’m about to mention aren’t really good, but rather that those three are simply on another level at most races.

The main reason I’m saying that is because there’s a huge difference in terms of drop-off within the top-25 for both genders. As you can see above, the 25th best man finished as close to the winner as the 10th best woman at US National Series races last year. Yes, the women’s field is much deeper now than it was just a couple years ago, but a top-10 finish on the women’s side at a major race (while very impressive) is still not as difficult to achieve as it is on the men’s side. Combine that with several higher-than-expected placements at Tahoe after several top contenders DNF’d and it’s easy to have big expectations for some new names on the women’s side.

The reality is that they’ll probably be slightly behind the next pack of women, including Faye, Rea, Alyssa, Rose, and Leigh Anne. That doesn’t mean they’re not fantastic racers, though. I repeat: everyone in this article is already among the best in the sport. They’re all still capable of a top-10 finish at major races no matter who shows up. You should start familiarizing yourself with these women who are on the rise for 2021 because they’ll only continue to climb the ranks of the best female OCR athletes going forward.

I was on the Myriam Guillot-Boisset hype train all of last year and she didn’t disappoint. Most people in North America weren’t aware of her ridiculous margins of victory throughout Europe and Asia, but I could tell that it would translate well during championship season. All of the women in this article are trending in the right direction, so let’s see if my predictions for 2021 are as successful.

Eszter Hortobagyiova (@estikaofficial)

By now, you’re well aware of how good the top European women are, specifically Zuzana Kocumova and Myriam Guillot-Boisset. They’ve taken down the best North American racers at Tahoe and Greece, so it’s undeniable that there’s plenty of talent at the top in Europe. It’s time to add another name to that list: Eszter Hortobagyiova.

Speaking of Zuzana, did you know that only 8 women have ever beaten her in a Spartan Race? Eszter (4) and Lindsay Webster (2) are the only women to have beaten Zuzana multiple times.

Eszter has been one of the top racers in Europe for a few years, but she took her racing to another level in 2019. How dominant has Eszter been lately? She’s won 19 of her last 22 Spartan races and finished 2nd in the other 3. For comparison, Nicole Mericle has won 13 of her last 22 Spartan races and finished on the podium in the other 9.

We were able to get a sense of how close they are when they went head-to-head in Greece last November. Nicole won the Super and Beast, while Eszter won the Sprint after Nicole missed her spear. However, they were essentially tied after the first two events, miles ahead of the competition:

There are very few women in OCR who have the speed to run with Nicole, but Eszter is one of them. Go back and watch some of the 2019 Trifecta World Championship coverage and you’ll see some clips of Nicole and Eszter battling throughout the first two races:

Prior to her great performances in Greece last year, Eszter had finished 3rd at the 2017 Spartan European Championship and 2nd at the 2018 Spartan European Championship, a few minutes ahead of Myriam and Alyssa Hawley. Additionally, Eszter won the 2018 European OCR Championship by nearly 10 minutes, proving she has good obstacle proficiency at non-Spartan events, too. Although Eszter DNF’d at Tahoe last year, she was in 4th place over 80 minutes into the race after the swim, only 2 minutes out of podium position at the time. You can’t fake being in 4th place that late into the world championship.

Bottom line, Eszter is probably the best racer that most OCR fans have never heard of. Start working on pronouncing “Eszter Hortobagyiova” now because at just 26 years old, she’s going to be one of the best in the sport for a long time.

Ulrikke Evensen (@ulrikke_evensen)

The not-so-secret formula for doing well at OCR is being a fast trail runner with great grip strength. Let’s see if Ulrikke checks either of those two boxes.

✅ Ulrikke represented Denmark at the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships, finishing 20th overall on the 25.7-mile course with 7,200 feet gain. Ok, she’s pretty good at trail running.

✅ Check out some of the videos on her Instagram page to see why Ulrikke is one of the most obstacle-proficient women in the sport, like this one:

Her range is up there with the best in OCR:
— 4th at last year’s 2019 OCRWC 3k
— 1st at 2019 OCRWC team relay
— 1st at 2018 Europe’s Toughest Mudder (45 miles, tied for women’s record)
— 5th at 2017 World’s Toughest Mudder (80 miles)

It’s a shame that Ulrikke DNF’d at Tahoe last year due to the cold, as she was less than a minute behind Rebecca Hammond in 5th place over an hour into the race. Don’t be surprised if she finishes next year’s Spartan Race WC in the top-5, though. Like Eszter above, Ulrikke is only in her mid-20s, so get used to her battling for championship podiums for a number of years.

Annie Dube (@mountaingoatgirl)

Just two years ago, Annie Dube raced in the Age Group division at 2 of her first 3 Spartan Races. The third Spartan Race of her career was at Tahoe in 2018, where she was the top Age Group finisher, which was good enough for 25th overall. She permanently switched to Elite last year and had several great performances in her first year on the US National Series circuit and 8 Elite podiums since the start of 2019. She’s proof that it’s possible to start in Age Group before successfully transitioning to Elite.

Her Instagram name says it all: Annie loves spending time in the mountains. She spent several months exploring the Andes Mountains in South America before entering the OCR scene and even hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro last year. Not only that, but Annie spends a lot of time rock climbing. As we all know, good mountain runners who like to rock climb succeed at OCR.

After finishing 7th at Utah and 9th at West Virginia, Annie had high hopes for Tahoe last year. Like so many others, however, she DNF’d after the swim despite entering the water in 8th place over 80 minutes into the race. Based on her progression over the past year, especially at major races, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Annie continue to finish in the top-10 at USNS events once racing resumes, especially on courses with lots of elevation gain.

Morgan Schulz (@morgan.schulz)

Another promising young athlete, 23-year-old Morgan Schulz is looking to make a name for herself in Hyrox and shorter obstacle races. Morgan ran the 6th fastest Hyrox time on US soil in Chicago, finishing within a minute of both Faye Stenning and Alyssa Hawley. Even though Morgan has been focusing on shorter, high-intensity races, she finished 7th place at the 2019 West Virginia Beast against the top Spartan athletes from North America.

Prior to OCR, Morgan was an NCAA Division 1 runner at the University of Illinois. Her running pedigree and strength background makes her skillset tough to beat. Expect to see Morgan put up one of the fastest Hyrox times in history next season and be a podium threat at every Stadium Series race. She might also go after the women’s world record in the beer mile, too, after running a ridiculous 6:54 earlier this year.

Jezabel Kremer (@jezabelkremer)

After starting her OCR career with 3 straight podiums back in 2017, Jezabel was forced to end her season early after getting pregnant in July 2017. Jezabel returned to action just 4 months after the birth of her son at the 2018 Spartan European Championship in Morzine, one of Spartan’s most difficult venues worldwide. She was in 8th place about a mile from the finish before suffering a freak accident on the slack line, fracturing her elbow and two ribs. Her 2018 season ended immediately.

Jezabel returned with a vengeance just 6 months later, and she was arguably Europe’s third-best female Spartan racer last year, behind Myriam Guillot-Boisset and Eszter Hortobagyiova. Her 9 podiums in 2019 were the 5th most in Europe, with 6 of those coming in the French National Series, Italian National Series, or European Mountain Series. The only races she didn’t finish top-4 last year were at the Trifecta World Championship in Greece, where she finished 8th overall.

Prior to OCR, Jezabel was a very talented swimmer, finishing 1st at the European University Championships for France. She also had several top-10 finishes at cross-country skiing races in her mid-20s. Next year will be only her second full season of racing, but expect her to be in the front pack at many Euorpean races and a top 10-15 finish in Abu Dhabi.

Arielle Fitzgerald (@ariellefitz22)

No one thought that Arielle Fitzgerald would finish in the top-5 at West Virginia last year. Seriously, not a single person included her in nearly 200 ballots for the Yancy Camp prediction contest for that race. Yet her surprise 5th place finish was not a fluke. Arielle is an accomplished runner with 10 Spartan podiums in 17 career races. Did you know Arielle set two Guinness world records back in 2016?
— Fastest 50k on a treadmill (3:51:25)
— Fastest 100k on a treadmill (8:30:34)

Arielle has been one of the best Canadian female racers for nearly 5 years, but no one has really noticed because Lindsay and Faye have (understandably) gotten all of the attention (note: Jessica Lemon is another Canadian athlete who deserves more recognition). In fact, Arielle only has 2 career finishes outside the top-5 at a Spartan Race, one of which was 13th place at the 2018 Spartan Race World Championship. She was on pace to finish slightly better last year, too, before DNF-ing after the swim. The top athletes know who she is when they see her at the start line, but fans should get used to hearing Arielle Fitzgerald within the top 5-10 at major races whenever she travels to the US from Canada.

Lillie Elkin (@lillieelkin_spartanocr)

OCR fans have been calling Lillie Elkin “the female Veejay Jones” since her surprise 5th place showing in Jacksonville at the first (and only) US National Series race in 2020. That performance wasn’t a fluke, though. Lillie has been moving up the ranks since she finished 10th during her Spartan Elite debut as a 17-year old back in 2017.

The name “Lillie Elkin” first caught my eye in November 2018 when I saw that a teenager finished within a minute of Rose Wetzel to finish 2nd at the Sacramento Sprint. I saw her name again a few months later at the 2019 Jacksonville Super USNS after she finished 19th overall if you combined Elite plus Age Group divisions. Lillie raced the remainder of the US National Series, dominating her 18-24 Age Group and finishing in the 16th-23rd range if you combine Elite plus Age Group divisions.

Then she took her game to the next level. After finishing just 5 minutes outside the top-10 at West Virginia, Lillie ran the 13th fastest overall time at Tahoe after winning the Age Group division outright. She switched to Elite and won her last two races of 2019 in Sacramento.

After her 5th place finish in Jacksonville to start the 2020 US National Series, she’s no longer an under-the-radar athlete. Lillie’s pre-OCR background is actually in softball, just like Alyssa Hawley. Give her a couple more years to develop as an endurance athlete and Lillie Elkin will be an even bigger threat on the US circuit.

Jamie Brusa (@bruiser_ocr)

Just like Morgan Schulz, Jamie Brusa was a former NCAA Division 1 runner at the University of Illinois. After several finishes in the 13th-22nd range during the 2018 US National Series, Jamie steadily improved last year with a 9th place finish at Big Bear. She took things to another level towards the end of the year, though, finishing 12th at both West Virginia and Tahoe. Her progression at the Spartan Race World Championship was 28th to 23rd to 12th over the past three years. That’s what usually happens when you’re a talented runner who has finally transitioned to an obstacle racer.

Amazingly, Jamie has never podiumed at a Spartan Race before, which is insane to think about for someone who finished 12th at last year’s World Championship. She also has a VO2 max of 71, which is world-class for women. Not only do I think Jamie will finally get her first podium next year, but she’ll also be a 7th-10th place threat at major races.

Joanna Hills

Last but not least is Joanna Hills. Unlike all of the other women on this list, I barely know anything about her. Shocking, I know. However, I can assure you that if anyone can find out info about someone in OCR, it’s me. You don’t even want to know the lengths I’ve gone to to find some results in the past. Eventually I’ll get to the bottom of the Joanna Hills mystery. Part of me wonders if she is even a real person. This is literally the only ever non-blurry photo I’ve been able to find of Joanna Hills:

Joanna doesn’t have any social media accounts and is the only one missing in nearly all post-race podium photos. Talk about a woman of mystery! It’s not just me, though. I’ve reached out to several top racers in Australia since I first noticed Joanna in 2018 to try to find out more about her. They’re all as confused as me. Here’s what they had to say about Joanna Hills:

— “You’ve pretty much got as much info on her as we all know! We know she does cross-country running and I think is a mountain running champion, too. Apart from that, she turns up, dominates EVERYONE, and then goes home again.”
— “No one knows if she’s coming because she signs up on the day (of the race). Just turns up on the start line and that’s all you see of her. Super shy. Keeps to herself. Never really travels to many races.”
— “She’s been training really hard and was planning on (racing Spartan) World’s this year until Covid. I would be putting a good amount of money down that she would be top-3.”
— “Crazy mystery woman! I’ve tried to have a good chat with her after races and she barely said a word.”
— “She stopped racing Spartan for a bit because she used to win by sooo much that she’d get in the top-5 for men. She’s an absolute force.”
— She’s the next Deanna Blegg for sure. We just can’t seem to chat to her long enough to find out who she is!”

Now that we’ve established that Joanna is a “legend,” let’s take a look at some stats. Here’s what I do know about Joanna Hills, the mysterious 23-year old Australian sensation:
— Never lost a Spartan Race in 7 attempts
— 16th at 2015 World Mountain Running Championship (Junior division, representing Australia)
— Absolutely destroys the women’s field every time she steps on the start line (14:12 average winning margin over 2nd place)
— Has finished top-10 overall finishes (men + women combined) in all 4 Australian National Series races in which she has competed
— Defeated 2-time Olympic steeplechaser Victoria Mitchell by over 7 minutes only a year after Victoria competed in Rio de Janeiro in 2016

Joanna’s most impressive Spartan accomplishment happened at the 2020 Gold Coast Super, where she won the race overall (men + women combined) by over 4 minutes. She took down the reigning Asia-Pacific Regional Champion (the equivalent of West Virginia in the US) and a couple other Spartan Pro Team men, so it’s not like there wasn’t good competition in this Gold Coast race. One of the top finishers in that race managed to get in a couple words with Joanna and told me, “She did a lot of grip and strength training. Hence, why she “chicked” us on that course.” That’s bad news for her opponents who may have hoped she was simply a great runner but not obstacle-proficient yet.

The only time she hasn’t won by at least 4 minutes was a 39-second win at the 2020 Gold Coast Sprint. Want to know who finished 2nd in that race? Her 13-year old sister, Denielle, who finished 2nd at the 2019 Australian Cross-Country National Championships for the 12-and-Under division. With that podium, Denielle Hills became the youngest person to ever podium in an Elite Spartan Race, even 2 years younger than Veejay Jones performed the same feat. It might not be a bad idea to remember her sister Denielle’s name a few year’s down the road in case she decides to pursue Spartan racing.

Bottom line, no one knows much about Joanna Hills, but I won’t be surprised at all if Joanna Hills is fighting for a podium in Abu Dhabi in 2021. She is a fantastic mountain runner, is used to hot/sandy conditions from living in Australia, and has won every Spartan Race she’s ever done by ridiculous margins. Based on the “legend” status that Australia’s best racers have given her and the Spartan results I’ve seen so far, Joanna Hills gets the “Jack Bauer OCR Stamp of Approval.”

Other Names to Watch

US + Canada
— Bethany McChesney
— Cody Mezebish
— Erin Wachter
— Lacey Bourgois
— Laura Cummings
— Lauren Stroud
— Lauren Weeks
— Nell Rojas (if she races)
— Sara Woodward
— Tia Reagan

— Adela Vorackova
— Alisa Petrova
— Anna Karaseva
— Natalia Gurchenkova
— Ona Sociats Razquin
— Svetlana Parygina

— Nedene Cahill

Names To Watch In 2021 (Men)

Click here to read Names To Watch Women in 2021 (Women)

Until last year, there were only about 7 men who could were capable of podiuming at major race (Hobie, Cody, Atkins, Killian, Woods, Hunter, and Albon). All of that changed in 2019. Suddenly, predicting the top finishers was no longer as easy as it used to be. OCR fans may have been surprised to see Johnny, Veejay, Ryan Kempson, Tyler, and Aaron emerge as contenders, but they were all trending in that direction for years. Let’s take a look at some athletes who I think will make a similar jump next year, assuming OCR returns to normal at some point in 2021.

Richard Hynek (@richard_hynek)

If you someone hadn’t heard of Richard Hynek before the Trifecta WC last year, you definitely knew the name afterwards. Richard ran a dominating Beast on the final leg of the Trifecta WC to win the title by 4:13 over Woods, Killian, Atkins, Newell, and the best racers from throughout Europe. However, his performance in Greece shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. After all, he finished 3rd behind Jon Albon and Albert Soley the year before. Additionally, Hynek finished 14th at Tahoe a month earlier and 16th in 2018. Not a bad resume for someone who is only 21.

Richard Hynek is essentially the Veejay Jones of Europe. After collecting his first podium at the ripe-old age of 18, Richard has added over 20 more since. Seven of those podiums have taken place in the Middle East. What do you get if you combine his experience racing on sand in the Middle East, his phenomenal downhill running skills, and confidence from beating the world’s best racers in Greece? A serious threat to podium at the 2021 Spartan Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi.

Mark Gaudet (@markgaudet85)

There haven’t been too many obstacle races in 2020, but there have been several notable challenges involving OCR-specific fitness this season. One of those was the Burpee 10k, which consisted of 12 rounds of running 800m then doing 20 burpees. Mark completed this challenge in an absurd 45:38.

Let’s break that down real quick. If it took Mark 3 seconds per burpee (a very solid pace for 240 total burpees), that’d be 12:00 worth of burpees. Subtract that out and it means Mark would’ve run his 10k in about 33:30 (5:24 mile pace). That’s absolutely ridiculous, especially considering how much of a toll that burpees take on your body. Needless to say, Mark is one of the best compromised runners in OCR.

Then there was the Ultra Virus 12-hour race in which athletes ran as many 5-mile loops as possible within 12 hours. Mark finished 2nd with 85 miles (8:24/mile pace) during that race, just behind another Mark (see below). The 4x Best Ranger competitor also finished 4th at 2018 World’s Toughest Mudder with 85 miles. Between his military background and ultra-endurance performances, Mark can suffer with the best in the sport.

Mark has steadily improved at major races over the past two seasons, improving from 23rd to 11th at West Virginia last year. After closing out 2019 with a 15th place finish at Tahoe, Mark started the 2020 season strong with a 7th place finish at Jacksonville. Now that he has a full US National Series of experience, expect Mark to continue to gain on the lead pack with consistent top-5-10 finishes at major races next season.

Mark Batres (@mgbracing)

Everyone has known about Mark Batres for years. He’s the super-talented runner who has the potential to win every major race, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together for a whole season. Next year will finally be his breakthrough year in OCR.

I honestly thought 2019 was going to be Mark’s breakthrough season. Mark finished top-9 at all 2018 US National Series races, including 3rd in Chicago and 7th at Tahoe. The 2019 season was starting off with two very flat courses in Jacksonville and Alabama. It seemed as though Mark was destined for an amazing 2019 season, but he essentially spent all of 2019 injured.

Finally healthy again to start the 2020 season, Mark narrowly missed the podium with a 5th place finish in Jacksonville. All signs pointed to a great comeback season for Mark, but then Covid-19 happened. As a result, he decided to see how far he could run in 12 hours at ORM’s first Ultra Virus race. He did ok. And by “ok,” I mean ran 85 miles and would have broken the 100-mile world record if he continued that pace after the race ended.

There aren’t too many venues in the US that consist of sandy terrain, but Mark has absolutely dominated those that do (Laughlin and Arizona). Given his quick stride and success on sandy courses, I’d argue that Mark is OCR’s best sand runner in the US, which is great news for him in Abu Dhabi. Additionally, Mark is very heat-acclimated from living in southern California, so he won’t suffer due to the heat in Abu Dhabi. Temperatures in Abu Dhabi in December often reach into the 80s, so athletes who aren’t as heat-acclimated as Mark may not perform as well. Don’t be surprised if Mark is battling for a podium spot at next year’s Spartan Race World Championship.

Mohammed Mira (@mohammedmira5359)

Before I reveal names, which OCR athlete’s running PRs do you think are most impressive?

If you picked “E”, then you chose Mohammed Mira. Here are the rest of the answers: “A” = Max King, “B” = Ryan Woods, “C” = Mark Batres, and “D” = Hobie Call.

As you can see, Mohammed Mira is one of the fastest pure runners in OCR history. All of the other names on that list have had plenty of OCR success, so there’s no reason to think Mohammed won’t follow in their footsteps. In fact, he already has, winning last year’s Spartan Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Regional Championship by over 4 minutes.

You might think to yourself, “Yeah, but he probably didn’t face as good competition as he would in the US or Europe.” That’s true in terms of depth of the field, but the top athletes who race in the Middle East are truly world-class OCR athletes. Mira beat Egor Belousov (13th at Tahoe last year), Sergei Perelygin (3 straight podiums at OCRWC 3k and the 2018 Spartan European Regional champion), and Armin Botha (14:16 5k PR and one the best obstacle racers in South Africa), among others.

Based on the research I’ve done, I’d put Mohammed Mira as one of my dark-horse podium picks for the 2021 Spartan Race WC in Abu Dhabi. Mohammed won’t need to travel 10+ hours like many of the top athletes and he’s an incredible runner on sand. Don’t be surprised if you see Mohammed Mira leading much of next year’s Spartan Race World Championship.

Nikita Kriukov (@nikita_kriukov)

What do Zuzana Kocumova, Claude Godbout, and Marco Bedard have in common? They were all Olympic or world-class cross-country skiers before switching to OCR. How good was Nikita Kriukov at skiing? Let’s take a look:

2 Olympic medals in cross-country skiing
— Gold medal at 2010 Winter Olympics (Individual Sprint)
— Silver medal at 2014 Winter Olympics (Team Sprint)

Cross-Country Skiing World Championships
— 3 gold medals (2013 Individual Sprint, 2015 Team Sprint, 2017 Team Sprint)
— 1 silver medal (2015 Team Sprint)
— 1 bronze medal (2011 Team Sprint)

The guy even has a Wikipedia page, so you know he’s legit:

Unfortunately, Nikita he may not be able to compete at OCRWC in Vermont next year. Many top Russian OCR athletes (including Sergei Perelygin) have been unable to obtain a travel visa to compete in the US. That’s why you never saw most of the top Russian athletes at Tahoe.

However, Nikita could certainly compete for the Spartan Race world title in Abu Dhabi. Realistically, Nikita would probably do better at OCRWC due to his obstacle proficiency. Seriously, watch some of his Instagram videos for proof that he’s truly an obstacle racer now, not just a good endurance athlete who can fake their way through harder obstacles.

Now for the bad news: Nikita received lifetime doping ban in 2018 after his bloodwork from the 2014 Olympics was retested. However, that ban was reversed, meaning he was later cleared of wrongdoing. What if he does well at major international OCR events? How will OCR fans deal with the fact that he potentially may have been doping throughout his athletic career? Will most assume he is guilty by association since so many other Russian Olympians cheated the system this decade? We’ll know the answer soon once Nikita Kriukov starts beating some of the best in the sport.

Kris Brown (@krisbobbrown)

Raise your hand if you think you could have won the Tahoe Ultra Beast last year by 48 minutes then come back the next day to finish 25th in the Beast at the 2019 Spartan Race World Championship? That’s what Kris Brown did last year, so unless your last name is Atkins, Killian, or Albon, you should put your hand down.

The OCR story of Kris Brown is a unique one. After winning the 2010 Malibu Sprint, Kris finished 2nd at the 2012 Sacramento Beast between Hobie Call and Hunter McIntyre (whose shoe fell off during the race). He then disappeared from obstacle racing for 6 years before winning the 2018 SoCal Beast by 12 minutes. And by “disappeared,” I mean he became a professional trail runner who finished top-10 at the prestigious Western States 100 [Miler].

Competition was much deeper in after Kris returned to OCR in 2019 compared to what he faced in the early years, so he didn’t experience the same immediate success. After finishing 12th-19th at three US National Series events and 25th at Tahoe, Kris pulled off a 10th-place finish at the Trifecta WC in Greece. Now that he has had a year of improving his obstacle proficiency and carries, expect big things from Kris Brown in 2021 if he takes OCR seriously next year.

Peter Mlynar

The second former Olympic cross-country skier on my watch list, Peter Mlynar can climb with the best athletes in OCR. After sitting in the top-10 throughout the first hour of the 2018 Spartan World Championship, Peter dropped to 25th due to obstacle failures. However, Peter has podiumed in 12 of his 14 career Spartan Races. Last year was his first full season as an OCR athlete, so Peter will surely continue to improve due to the experience he gained last year.

Other Names to Watch

North America
— Benjamin Morin Boucher
— Daniel Sorensen
— David Magida
— Forrest Bouge
— Hawk Call (still in college)
— Jaryd Flank
— Jase Kraft
— Joshua Riedinger
— Logan Broadbent
— Nic Maszk
— Nicholas Ryker

-– Christopher Woolley
-– Liam MacKenzie
-– Matt Murphy (making a comeback)

— Alexis Dewet
— Igor Gorbunov
— Ivan Degtyarev
-– Juan Jose Rodriguez Garcia
-– Luca Pescolderungg
— Peter Ceniga
-– Piotr Lobodzinski
-– Samuel Castela
— Til Leipziger

-– Armin Botha
— James Meredith

-– Dailong Sheng
— Elias Tabac
— Gabe Heck
-– Niu Zhiming

2019’s Highest Earning OCR Athletes

How much are the top racers in the obstacle racing world making?

Nicole Mericle won more obstacle racing prize money that any one else in 2019. This is a massive jump from 7th on our 2018 list with $27,000. Her biggest payday from 2018 was the OCRWC 3K where she won $6,300. In contrast, her largest one day payout this year was the 2018 Spartan World Championship in Tahoe, where she won $20K.

Her 2019 total of $66,050 is $7,600 more than the 2nd highest OCR money winner, Ryan Atkins, and is $12,117 more than the next female, Lindsay Webster.

A couple of other interesting tidbits from this years lists:

  • Hundreds of thousands of dollars were taken out of the prize pool as Tough Mudder removed prize money.
  • Jon Albon only ran 4 money races, and that was enough to earn him 7th on the list at nearly $25,000.
  • Hunter McIntyre is not in the top 25 for the first time in years as he focused on Crossfit and Hyrox.
  • North Americans dominated the top 10 men and women with Russia’s Sergei Perelygin and France’s Myriam Guillot-Boisset as the only Europeans.
  • Myriam is the oldest race turning 40 this year, and the youngest is 21 year old, Veejay Jones.
  • For a comparison to CrossFit, check out this list by The Morning Chalkup.

10. Rea Kolbl – $16,350

9. Veejay Jones – $18,333

8. Ryan Kempson-$19,000

7. Jon Albon – $24,956

6. Ryan Woods – $26,450

5. Robert Killian – $29,457

4. Myriam Guillot-Boisset – $34,315

3. Lindsay Webster – $53,933

2. Ryan Atkins – $58,400

1. Nicole Mericle – $66,050

Summary of Top-10 Highest Earners

The following table breaks down prize money won at races by race brand and series:

Top-25 Highest Earners by Gender

Here are the 25 male and female athletes to earn the most prize money purely from placement at races in 2019:



**Editor’s Note – Jack Bauer would like to thank the following for their help with European and Worldwide totals: Chris Davis, Johnny Tieu, Hallvard Borsheim, Maggie Cvektovic, Jessie Montague, Andrew MacDonald, Kimi Isom, Ian Deeth, Chris Woolley, Albert Soley, Vivian Chee, Christian Szcherf, David Dietrich
Luke De-Benedictis, and Mik Gerylo.

Spartan Race Points Series Formula – A Proposition

Spartan just announced the 2020 US National Series (USNS) locations, so it’s only a matter of time before additional series details are announced. Honestly, it felt like we were watching an NFL game every time race footage from a 2019 USNS race aired. Fans and athletes spent just as much time arguing about penalties and other rules infractions as they did discussing the actual action on the field. All OCR fans really want is a controversy-free season next year.

It’s pretty tough to create a simple scoring system for the Spartan Race US National Series that balances rewarding loyal racers (good for business) while also rewarding the true top performers who couldn’t travel to all races (good for the sport). However, I have a simple formula that Spartan could use in 2020.

1. Calculate % of winner
2. Determine factor
3. Multiply those two values

Calculate % of Winner for Each Race
Divide the winner’s time by your time and that’s your % of winner

Determine Your Factor
Look up the % in the column representing the # of USNS races you *finished*. If you ran all 5 USNS races, use 100%. If you finished only 3 USNS races, then use 96%. And so on…

Final Score
• Multiply your average % of winner (step 1) by the factor (step 2)
• Maximum possible score would be 1,000 pts (only if you win all 5 USNS races)

Let’s use Ryan Woods’ USNS season as an example:

1. Ryan Woods’ average % of winner was 93.9%
2. Ryan Woods finished 4/5 USNS races, so he would have a 98% factor
3. Final score = 920.6 pts (93.9 x 98)

Here’s how the top-15 men would look following the same steps:

Look at the average place and % of winner for the guys on this improved top-15 list. Deservedly so, Veejay, Killian, and Woods would have moved up several places vs. their actual USNS ranking. Just outside the top-10, Brakken Kraker, Brian Gowiski, and Cody Moat moved up quite a bit, as their key stats suggest they had great seasons despite only showing up to a couple USNS races.

The same holds true for women. There were only 56 Elite women/race in the USNS this year, yet several women who averaged 40th+ place were ranked 10+ spaces above Rebecca Hammond (33rd), Amanda Nadeau (35th), and several other top women. In fact, if you add up every finishing place in Rebecca Hammond’s 17 career elite Spartan finishes, it only equals 36! How could anyone think that a system that shows her ranked 33rd is accurate? Clearly, ranking well in the USNS is a participation game.

It’s obviously in Spartan’s best interest (as a business) for the best athletes to show up at all races. The last thing they’d want is for an athlete to show up to only one USNS race, win it, then disappear the rest of the year. My formula already accounts for this possibility.

Let’s pretend that someone had an amazing start to the year by winning the first three USNS races this year before skipping the final two series races. They’d only have earned 960 points (100% x 96%), which would have placed 4th in the men’s standings and 3rd for women.

What if a new female athlete bursts onto the scene next year and somehow beats Nicole and Lindsay in 4 straight USNS races before deciding to skip the final race. She would have barely edged Lindsay and Nicole for the overall series title (earning 980 pts), something which wouldn’t have happened if she only ran 3/5 races in the existing scoring system (only 900 pts). Let’s be honest, if someone could beat Lindsay and Nicole 4 times, then she was absolutely the best racer in the US National Series that year, even if she missed a race.

If the same thing happened on the men’s side, Ryan Atkins would still have won the points series by 7 points (987 vs. 980). Problem solved. It’s almost impossible for someone to win the entire USNS points series unless they finish all 5 races because the talent is so deep these days. No need for Spartan to worry about a nightmare scenario (from a marketing perspective) of their series champion not showing up to the final race.

One aspect about last year’s season that created some controversy was the new points series scoring. Placing in the top-4 was the only thing that mattered. The points difference (24 points) between 4th vs. 5th was the same as 5th vs. 29th, but actual athlete performance for 5th vs. 29th varied significantly. There’s barely any difference in athlete caliber between the 4th- and 5th-place finisher at a USNS race, but the talent gap between 5th and 29th is huge. This is why % of winner is a better metric to use than simply place. It’s pretty flawed that they’re rewarded identically in the points series:

Additionally, athletes were no longer allowed to drop their worst performance or skip a race in the USNS, which was an option every year prior to 2019. It didn’t matter if you had to attend a wedding or funeral, got injured, canceled a flight, etc., there was no way to avoid earning zero points from that missed race. In fact, Spartan scheduled the first Stadium Series race (Citi Field) on the same exact day as the third USNS race (Seattle). That meant two of the best Stadium racers, Robert Killian and Ryan Kent, had to bail on any realistic chance of winning the Stadium Series since they were forced to race in Seattle instead.

2019 USNS Standings
Let’s take a look at how the 300-264-240-216-192-191… scoring system worked this year for the top-20 men. I think every OCR fan would agree that Woods, Killian, Veejay, and several other top athletes were ranked way too low in the standings. What did they all have in common? None of them finished all 5 USNS races.

Proof That I’m Unbiased
I’m about to finish 4th in the Stadium Series, which uses the same scoring system as the USNS. I’m fully aware that I’ll benefit from the flawed scoring system. I haven’t had the 4th-best season of athletes who took part in at least one Stadium Series race this year. I’d be 6th if Brakken Kraker (currently 3rd) and Matt Kempson (currently 4th) decided not to skip the final race of the Stadium Series. As a result, I’ll make a few hundred bucks extra and they’ll both drop out of the top-10 without receiving a series leader payout. It’s not fair that I’ll finish ahead of both of them despite not beating them at any of the first 4 Stadium Series this year.

• True top racers are penalized just enough for missing a USNS race, but it doesn’t eliminate their chance of still finishing where they deserve (based on performance, not # of races)
• Rewards great performances by people who can’t be at every race
• Almost guarantees that the overall series winner must attend all 5 races (good for business)
• All names pass the “eye test”
• Can be used for both Elite and Age Group
• Easy to use for National Series, Stadium, and Mountain Series
• Gives top athletes some flexibility in the event of a family emergency, wedding, injury, canceled flight, unexpected work commitment, etc.

The 2019 Spartan points series scoring system was 100% based on participation, not analyzing results. This article isn’t about adjusting the standings so a few athletes can earn an extra $100 (which would easily be offset by travel costs to attend the required 5/5 races). It’s about recognizing the best athletes in the sport, not the ones with the biggest wallets. Athletes deserve to look back a decade from now and know where they really stacked up against the best in their sport, not against the biggest spenders in the sport.

The formula is simple, ensures the top names still have to attend most (if not all) of the USNS races, and ranks the true best racers a lot more accurately than the existing 300-264-240-216-192 scoring system. With over 3 months until the first USNS race of the 2020 season, Spartan can easily make a switch like this. Your move, Spartan. There’s still plenty of time to avoid making 2020 a repeat of a controversy-filled 2019 season.

Gender Differences from This Unpredictable Spartan Race Season

Men’s Overview

If I had to summarize the 2019 Spartan Race season so far, I’d say that this is the year where the “best of the rest” finally caught up to the “historical best.” Raise your hand if you thought back in January that Johnny Luna-Lima, Ryan Kempson, and Tyler Veerman would all finish ranked in the top-5 of the US National Series (USNS)? I’m sure you also thought they’d all have at least a .500 record head-to-head against Robert Killian and Ryan Woods, too, right? Ok, put your hand down, you liar.

The same 7 men dominated Spartan Race from 2016-2018: Ryan Atkins, Robert Killian, Hobie Call, Cody Moat, Hunter McIntyre, Jon Albon, and usually Ryan Woods. They were on a different level and rarely lost to anyone outside that small list of names. So how rare was it for someone else to beat them (even once) before this year? Very.

Combined, those “historical top-7” men ran exactly 100 total Spartan Races in 2017 and 2018. Only 15 different people worldwide managed to beat just one of those top-7 guys even once last year at any distance (not counting Robert Killian running Iceland with a weight vest). Only 4 men who beat ANY of those top-7 men in multiple races both years 2017-2018 (Angel Quintero, Ryan Kent, Mark Batres, and Veejay Jones). That’s insane.

Then something happened this year: the “historical top-7” men started losing to new people. In just 5 months of racing this year, SEVEN separate guys have taken down at least 2 of the “historical top-7” in at least 3 separate races. Keep in mind that Hunter and Hobie aren’t active on the Spartan scene anymore, and Cody rarely races. That means fewer chances to beat those “historical top-7” men this year. Is age or too much racing finally catching up to Woods and Killian? Was this new crop of OCR stars really talented all along, but it just took them a few years to master the sport?  It’s probably a combination of the two, but more likely the latter.

The only certainty about this season is that the competition on the men’s side is at an all-time high and will continue to get deeper next year. But what about the women’s side?

Women’s Overview

On the women’s side, it’s been all about Lindsay Webster and Nicole Mericle. Nicole started the year on fire with two wins, including a nearly 7-minute win in Jacksonville. Since then, Lindsay has been unbeatable, winning each of the last 3 US National Series races by at least 2:50.

However, just like on the men’s side, several women have tried to disrupt the status quo and have challenged most of the “Fab 5” all season. Rose Wetzel has made a comeback with a 4th-place ranking in the US National Series standings. Leigh Anne Wasteney has finished in every position 4th – 8th in the 5 US National Series races. Unfortunately, Rebecca Hammond has dealt with injuries since Seattle after a breakout 2018 campaign, but her ability is undeniable.

Two new women showed potential to be the next Rebecca Hammond and finally break up the “Fab 5” at the start of the year: Nell Rojas and Tia Reagan. However, Nell (understandably) decided to give up on OCR to focus on the 2020 Olympic marathon trials, while Tia is still in the growing stages of the sport (similar to what Ryan Woods went through a few years ago).

Want to go even deeper into the (Jack Bauer Stats) woods? Click here.