Ritzenhein, O’Neill Headline USA Half-Marathon Champs As 2009 USA Running Circuit Begins In Houston

2008 Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein (Eugene, Ore.) leads a competitive men’s field and 2004 Olympian Kate O’Neill (Palo Alto, Calif.) will defend her 2008 title Sunday at the 2009 USA Half Marathon Championships, hosted by the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.

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Ritzenhein will be joined by two of his 2008 Olympic teammates, marathoner Brian Sell (Rochester Hills, Mich.) and 5,000 meter team member Ian Dobson (Mammoth, Calif.) in the race for the first U.S. title of 2009.  Not to be overlooked however is 2004 Olympic Marathon Silver medalist Meb Keflezighi (San Diego, Calif.), who is returning to form after injuries sidelined him in late 2008.
The men’s field will feature more than 50 top U.S. athletes and also includes 2008 USA 15 km champion Andrew Carlson (Flagstaff, Ariz.), 2007 USA Half Marathon runner-up Fasil Bizuneh (Flagstaff, Ariz.), U.S. record holder for 25 km Fernando Cabada (Boulder, Colo.) and Max King (Bend, Ore.), who finished third in the 2006 championship.
In the women’s race, O’Neill will face a highly competitive field that includes 2008 Olympic marathoner Magdalena Lewy-Boulet (Oakland, Calif.), 2008 USA Women’s 8 km champion Sara Slattery (Mammoth, Calif.), 2008 USA Half Marathon runner-up Desiree Davila (Rochester Hills, Mich.) and the 10,000 meter champion at the 2006 AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships Amy Rudolph (Providence, R.I.).
Though not a masters championship, the field also includes masters stars with 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon champion Colleen De Reuck and former NCAA All-American at Wisconsin Stephanie Herbst-Lucke (Atlanta, Ga.) who will challenge for top-10 open finishes. 
About the USARC
The Aramco Houston Half Marathon is the first stop on the 2009 USA Running Circuit (USARC), and will feature a total championship prize purse of $59,500 plus potential bonuses.
The 2009 USARC is a USA Track & Field road series, featuring USA Championships from one mile to the marathon and attracts the best U.S. distance runners, including Olympians Deena Kastor, Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanagan and Anthony Famiglietti. The 2009 USARC has ten events each for men and women.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with a final $12,500 grand prix purse ($6,000, $4,000, and $2,500) for the top three men and women point scorers overall. The USARC points at the USA Marathon Championships will be doubled.
The mission of the USA Running Circuit is to showcase, support, and promote U.S. runners.  Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $6 million dollars to U.S. distance runners.
For more information on the 2009 USA Half-Marathon Championships visit www.usatf.org.

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