Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Leading the pack

Nice roundup of the national cross country championships earlier this month from (although Super Bowl is two words, not one). Photo by Bob Betancourt (yeah, that's Blake front and center)

Football wasn’t the only major sports event that took place last weekend.
As Americans made Superbowl party plans and stocked up on beer and snacks last Saturday, top athletes from around the nation gathered in America’s Finest City to compete in the annual national championships for cross country running.

In cool 50-degree weather, the event started at 9 a.m. in San Diego's Mission Bay Community Park with a community race and concluded with the main event – the men's open – later that afternoon.

“There is no better cross country event in America with respect to the caliber of athletes who attended than the one we had in San Diego last Saturday,” said Paul Greer, San Diego Track Club coach and one of the event directors, in an email. “The very best cross country runners in the United States competed … many of the runners are former Olympians from the Masters and Open Championships, and many of the Junior runners who competed will be our future Olympians in years to come.”

The last time San Diego hosted the championships was in 2008. The San Diego-Imperial Association hosted the event for USA Tack & Field.

In addition to designating the country’s national champion, the event is also used for the World Cross Country team trials. The top six runners for each race will continue on to the World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbra, Spain on March 20.

Shalane Flanagan, an Olympic bronze medalist in 2008 and American record holder in the 10,000 meter run, placed first in the Woman’s Open with a time of 25:47. Flanagan was closely followed by Molly Huddle with 26:31 and Lisa Koll at 26:41.

“I took a very conservative approach,” said Koll, who placed third. “All I wanted to do is to make the team and everything else was just gravy. I got to the point where I could see second place and went for it, but I didn’t make it, which was OK.”

Magadalena Lewy Boulet, Blake Russell and Alissa McKaig completed the USA Women’s Open team.

Teammates Koll and Flanagan prepped for the race by tapering from 80 miles a week to 1000 km and did more race-specific workouts.

In the 12km Men’s Open, Brent Vaughn placed first with a 35:46 finish, followed by Andrew Bumbalough at 35:54 and Edward Moran with a close 35:54.

The USA men’s team includes Matt Tegenkamp, Benjamin True and Brian Olinger.

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