Keflezigki, Brown Take Open Titles At USA Cross Country Championships

2004 Olympic men’s marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi (San Diego, Calif.) won his third national cross country title while Emily Brown (Minneapolis, Minn.) won her first at the USA Cross Country Championships on Saturday at the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood, Maryland.

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Defending junior men’s champion German Fernandez (Stillwater, Okla.) won his second consecutive title and Neely Spence (Shippensburg, Pa.) won the junior women’s 6 km.
 
In addition to the national titles up for grabs, the open and junior men and women qualified to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships March 28 in Amman, Jordan.
 
Keflezighi jumped to an early lead in the open men’s 12 km, leading a chase pack of five after the first 2 km loop.  The pack included Beijing 10,000 meter Olympian Jorge Torres (Boulder, Colo.), 2008 U.S. cross country team member Ed Moran (Williamsburg, Va.) and 2008 NCAA 5,000 meter champion Bobby Curtis (Ardmore, Pa.), with Olympic steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti (Knoxville, Tenn.) beginning to lose contact.
 
Over the next three laps, Keflezighi extended his lead to as much as eight seconds with Torres and Curtis taking charge of the chase pack.  Heading into the final lap, Keflezighi began to slow slightly as former University of Wisconsin All-American Tim Nelson (Portland, Ore.) joined Torres and Curtis as the trio closed the gap slightly.
 
Over the final kilometer, Nelson continued to close on Keflezighi and going into the final 150 meters, looked like he might have the momentum to take the win but Keflezighi kept a watchful eye on him and held Nelson off by a step for his second USA title of 2009.
 
In the kick to the finish, Curtis pulled clear of Torres for third with Moran, and Ryan Vail (Gresham, Ore.) rounding out the top-six, qualifying for the Team USA Cross Country Squad.

Brown cruises to open women’s title 

The open women’s 8 km saw Brown and Team USA Minnesota teammate Katie McGregor working together to open a small gap on the field after 2 km.  Approaching 3 km, Brown began to pull away from McGregor. 
 
Over the final three laps, Brown looked easy and as she continued to extend her lead as McGregor stepped off the course at 4 km.  In the race for second, local favorite Julie Culley (Arlington, Va.), ran 27:30 to qualify for her first U.S. team while Kathy Newberry (Williamsburg, Va.) finished third in 27:40 to qualify for her fifth U.S. Cross Country team. Completing the qualifiers for Team USA, Delilah DiCrensco (New York, N.Y.) finished fourth in 27:43 with Rebecca Donaghue (State College, Pa.) and Samia Akbar (Herndon, Va.) running 27:46 and 28:02 for fifth and sixth respectively.

Junior Women

In the junior women’s  6 km race, Allie McLaughlin (Colorado Springs, Colo.) took the early lead, opening up a 20 meter gap on the field at 2 km.  Going into the final lap, Shippensburg State freshman Neely Spence (Shippensburg, Pa.), the 2008 NCAA Divdision II cross country runner-up had pulled even with McLaughlin and began open a lead that gave her a national title and a berth on her first U.S. Cross Country Team, running 20:43 to finish 14 seconds ahead of Ashley Brasovan (Wellington, Fla.).  Rounding out the Team USA qualifiers for Amman were Alex Dunne (San Clemente, Calif.), McLaughlin in 21:10, Sara Vaughn (Tulsa, Okla.) and Katja Goldring (Los Angeles, Calif.).

Junior Men

As expected, the first three laps of  the junior men’s 8 km saw defending champion Fernandez, Stanford freshman Chris Derrick (Naperville, Ill.) and Oregon freshman Luke Puskedra (Eugene, Ore.) taking brief turns in the lead. 
 
Going into the final lap Fernandez started to press and pull away from Puskedra and Derrick and cruised to his second U.S. title in 23:20.  During the final kilometer Derrick overtook Puskedra for the runner-up position, running 23:39.  Puskedra was timed in 23:53 while the Team USA qualifying positions were rounded out by Ryan Hill (Hickory, N.C.) in 24:35, Patrick Dupont (Fairport, N.Y.) and Francisco Medrano (Lafayette, Ind.).

Masters Championships 

National championships were also decided for masters men and women at 8 km with titles on the line in five-year age groups beginning at age 40 and up.
 
The masters men’s 8 km was led by USATF National Club Cross Country masters champion Simon Gutierrez (Alamos, Colo.) in 25:15, taking the 40-44 age-group title and Carmen Ayala Troncoso (Austin, Texas) took the masters women’s 8 km in 30:10, winning the 45-49 age-group.
 
Additional masters titles were also won in the following age-groups: 40-44 – Lisa Goldsmith (Nederland, Colo.); 45-49 – John Carroll (Weschester, Pa.); 50-54 – Brian Pilcher (Ross, Calif.) and Dorothy Beckett (Columbia, Md.); 55-59 – James Robinson (Rochester, N.Y.) and Kathryn Martin (Northport, N.Y.); 60-64 – Terry Delph (Coopersburg, Pa.) and Ann Hirn (Portmouth, Va.); 65-69 – Thomas Jennings (Ft. Washington, Pa.) and Mary -Louise Michaelson (New York, N.Y.); 70-74 – Thom Weddle (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Judith Smythe (Boulder, Colo.); 75-79 – Jerry Lewis (Reston, Va.).   
 
Highlights of the 2009 USA Cross Country Championships will be televised on February 15 during ESPN coverage of the Tyson Invitational.  The championships will consist of six cross country championship races for men’s and women’s categories with national titles on the line for junior, masters and open divisions.  The nation’s premier cross country event, the Championships featured $47,000 in prize money.
 
For more information on the 2009 USA Cross Country Championships visit www.usatf.org.
 
ATHLETE QUOTES:
 
Carmen Ayala-Troncoso (Austin, Texas)-I caught a side stitch, but fortunately it was on the final lap of the race with about three minutes to go.  This race is hard, because it’s age graded.  I raced as hard as I could.  I wanted to run my first loop very comfortable, as I have a tendency to go out hard.  All in all, I thought that it was a really good race for me.
 
This course was tough, but I liked it.  The hills kill you, but it is one of the toughest courses.  There’s really no room to relax on this course.
 
Simon Gutierrez (Boulder, Colorado)-Cross country is a great way to stay motivated over the winter.
 
I usually don’t trust my speed over the last lap but I threw some surges with about 1500 meters to go.  We were both tired, but I was a bit fresher towards the end.  He was actually leading down the homestretch, but I pulled away with about 200 meters to go.  I won the club cross country championships in December, and I wanted to win this championship.  Now I’m going to try and and run some fast 5 and 10 ks this spring.
 
Neely Spence (Shippinsburg, Penn.)-It really helps to have people to run with.  I was really using the downhills on the last lap.  My dad (Steve) was out there on the final straightaway, and was telling me to ‘go with your arms!’
 
German Fernandez (Stillwater, Oklahoma)-I felt pretty much in control the entire race, except for the last 800.  I didn’t realize that that last stretch was that long.  I felt pretty relaxed, but I didn’t want to do anything drastic down the stretch.
 
I’m 100% healthy from the Achilles injury (from the NCAA cross country championships).  We contacted one of the doctors from Stanford University after the NCAA meet and he asked for an MRI immediately.  Fortunately, no surgery was needed after nationals.  I took about three weeks off before I started running.
 
This meet was always in the plans.  I’m running a 3000 next week in Seattle.
 
Emily Brown (Minneapolis, Minn.)-I was very nervous about having people behind me the entire race. I don’t think that the field was as deep as it’s been in the past. 
 
I had no idea where the rest of the field was at; 25 meters, 75 meters, 100 meters; I don’t know how that relates in terms of time.  I was running like I had dogs behind me and running towards the finish line.  I heard people cheering (for the runners behind me) and that’s too close for comfort.
 
Meb Keflezighi (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.)-That’s what a championship race should be like; guys were stepping up to the plate.  I thought that the guy behind me was Ed Moran or possibly Jorge Torres, but it was a guy in a Nike jersey (Tim Nelson). 
 
This is my first cross country race since 2003, and I am glad to win my third national title.
 
Front running was my style in high school, and that’s what the plan was today
 
I felt comfortable in the first lap.  A lot of people out on the course were excited to see me and the others on the course and see the kind of effort we put out.
 
I had 1/2 inch spikes on the front of my shoes and 3/8th spikes in the back. 
 
The London Marathon is the priority.  My coach and I will make a decision on whether or not to go to Amman for World Championships.  World Championships are a great event, but the priority for the spring is the London Marathon.

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