Skip to Main Content
Chico State

Ultramarathon Alum Leans on Wildcat Crew

Anthony Costales runs during the 2023 Western States 100 while donning his Chico State cross country jersey.
Jaja Ferrer Capili

A one-pound iced lemon loaf is not an obvious snack for someone running a 100-mile endurance race.

“At some point you need real food,” said Anthony Costales (Kinesiology, ’13), who recently finished third in this summer’s prestigious Western States Endurance Run and ranks among the top ultramarathon racers in the world. “This packs 400 calories and 60 carbs, and it’s easy to eat.”

“At some point, you need real food,” said Costales (Kinesiology, ’13). “This packs 400 calories and 60 carbs, and it’s easy to eat.”

Alongside lemon loaf, his grueling daily training regimen, and a burning desire to win, another special ingredient propels the 2013 Chico State kinesiology graduate and three-time conference 5,000-meter conference champion: his Chico State crew.

Having lost his sponsor heading into 2023 despite being ranked the #6 UltraRunner of the Year in 2021 and having won five of the last 10 races he started, Costales had to find a support team to help with many details that go into a 100-mile race. His wife, fellow Chico State distance running alum Katie Spencer (Anthropology, ’12) was the perfect captain and identified an all-start lineup of helpers.

She called upon venerated Chico State Cross Country Coach Gary Towne (Physical Education, ’91; MA, Physical Education, ’95) and former teammates Dillon Breen (Business Information Systems, ’15), Brooke (Fox) Bergesen (Health Education, ’11; Credential, ’14), and Kyle Fox (Attended, Civil Engineering, 2009-12). Each handled several roles that day—none more important than lemon loaf chef—as Costales climbed 18,000 feet and descended more than 23,000.

Members of his crew were easy to spot—they all sported the same vintage Chico State cross country singlets as Costales—a polka-dot style theme with the old “Wildcat Head” logo serving as the dots. And if you couldn’t see them, you’d hear them. Fans along the way chanted “CHICO!” louder and louder as the race went on. Fellow Wildcat and world-class ultrarunner Jimmy Elam (Psychology, ’10) paced Costales for the final 40 miles.

“We had the most fun crew out there,” Spencer said. “We were all in Chico State gear. We had so many people coming up to us and telling us their Chico State stories or connections. It was a good time, and everyone on the crew crushed it.”

“It got pretty loud, and people were getting into it,” Costales said. “They had so many people doing the chant that we normally would. It was cool that many Chico people got invested in the race.”

Costales collected his daughter, 2-year-old daughter Piper (who turns 3 this month) and carried her during the final 100 meters down the Placer High School track before laying down to rest with her by his side just beyond the finish line. His finishing time of 15:09.16 was third best on the day and 13th fastest in the race’s history.

All that success is due to much more than just lemon loaf. Costales, who has been teaching middle school P.E. in Salt Lake City (where he and Katie have lived since they were married in 2017), often leaves the house well before sunrise to get in long runs, works out during his lunch breaks, and puts in more work late in the evening once Piper goes to bed. He rarely misses an opportunity to tune up his body for the mental and physical beatdowns he knows are part of the sport.

The lifestyle is a grind and the races an exercise is pain management and mental fortitude.

“You’d think it would be the opposite, but I’ve always performed better when I’ve had more on my plate,” Costales said. “I’m just good at forcing myself to take advantage of the little time I have.”

It’s a lifestyle that several Chico State alumni have embraced, including Costales, Elam, and fellow world-class ultrarunner Tim Tollefson (Exercise Physiology, ’08). The three Wildcats are undoubtedly three of the most accomplished ultrarunners on the planet.

“It’s really cool to have these heavy hitters on the ultra scene worldwide,” Towne said. “We have a lot of pride about it. It takes physical toughness, resilience, and superior mental toughness. It’s great having alums like that, that are having such success at that level.”

Tollefson, who started the Mammoth Trail Fest last year, boasts 19 wins in 33 career ultra races. Elam finished first in the High Lonesome 100-miler and second at the Run Rabbit Run 100-mile race this year. And Costales has won eight of the last 15 ultras he entered. After recently announcing his new partnership with Nike Running on Oct. 18, he will next be competing at the Ultra-trail Cape Town on November 24: a 100-mile race in South Africa with an elevation gain of 7,516 meters.

Follow the progress of all three:

Costales: Strava / Instagram

Elam: Strava / Instagram

Tollefson: Strava / Instagram / Mammoth Trail Fest

Anthony Costales lays on the ground just beyond the finish line of the Western States 100 as his daughter, Piper, sits next to him.
Photo: Hilary Ann Yang
Anthony Costales lays on the ground just beyond the finish line of the Western States 100 as his daughter, Piper, sits next to him.