Winners Prevail In Dominating Fashion

High school senior Aisling Cuffe won the Junior Women's race by 26 seconds. Photo: Jane Monti

Cuffe, Olson win junior races; McGill, De Reuck capture Masters crowns.

Written by: David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

SAN DIEGO — In dominant fashion, the six winners at today’s USA Cross Country Championships won their respective races by comfortable margins here in Mission Bay Park.  The event, contested for the second time here in four years, selected the junior and senior teams for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships next month in Punta Umbria, Spain, where athletes will compete in similarly warm and sunny conditions.

In the Junior Women’s race, Cornwall, N.Y., high school senior Aisling Cuffe crushed the field by nearly half a minute, clipping through the 6K course in 21:13.  She left her most serious rivals, Molly Grabill and Katie Flood, after the first of three laps to make her first national team.  The 17 year-old, twice the USA junior champion at 5000m, was clearly thrilled to be headed to her first global championships.

“It was a little tougher than I thought it would be the last K,” said Cuffe who could not suppress her joy.  “I’m so excited.  Like, last year I was hoping to go to Canada (for the IAAF World Junior Championships), and I missed it (because she did not have a qualifying time).”

Grabill finished second in 21:39, and Flood third in 21:43.  Two 14 year-olds, Emma Abrahamson (10th) and Alana Hadley (19th) made the top-20.

Stanford University’s Erik Olson also dominated in winning the junior men’s race.  The bronze medallist in the junior division at the NACAC Cross Country Championships last year accelerated midway through the penultimate lap, breaking away from the field, covering the 8K course in 24:48, and winning by nine seconds.  Maxwell Straneva of Syracuse University finished next in 24:57, and Craig Lutz of Lewisville Marcus High School in Texas was third (25:06).

“Really, for me, the last 3K is when I tried to drop the hammer,” said Olson who runs for Stanford University.  “I just felt like my strength this past winter… allowed me to push with 3K to go.”

Olson was unconcerned by the early front-running of UCLA freshman Dustin Fay, who was caught in the second lap and would eventually finish 35th.

“Eight-K is a pretty long distance,” Olson said.  “It’s pretty hard to lead from start to finish.  If it happened to be, like, Dathan Ritzenhein, I’d be a little more worried.”

The overall masters (40+) titles went to two athletes in the 45-49 category, Colleen De Reuck and Peter Magill.  De Reuck’s win over the 8K course in 28:47 was expected, and she beat her nearest rival, triathlete Joanna Zeiger, by more than a minute and a half.  Magill, 49, upset Gray Mavhera, 41, and Christian Cushing-Murray, 43, running 26:17.  Magill turns 50 in four months and could become the first-ever 50 year-old to break 15 minutes for 5 kilometers.

“That’s my only individual goal this year,” said Magill who works in the research department of a California law firm.  He credited his success to training wisely, and not trying to do the workouts he did 25 years ago.

“I don’t train like an idiot,” Magill quipped.  “Most masters runners train too hard.  You have to adjust every day.”

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