Monday, February 4, 2013

Four in Top Four at US Cross Country

As a running fan posted to Twitter on Saturday, the only inevitabilities in life seem to be death, taxes, and Shalane Flanagan winning the US Cross Country Championships. In the St. Louis-hosted 2013 edition of the race, Flanagan felt some pressure from Kim Conley, but the Jerry Schumacher-coached athlete still managed to open a sizeable margin of victory to capture her sixth US Cross Country title. Meanwhile, with the top six finishers in the men’s and women’s races earning berths to represent America at the World Championships, every entrant from the Schumacher training group placed in the top four of their respective races.

Lining up alongside Shalane, Emily Infeld took fourth in her first-ever competition as a pro athlete, defeating such accomplished athletes as Sara Hall, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, Neely Spence, and Alissa McKaig. Just six seconds ahead of the fast-finishing Georgetown graduate was all-time great Deena Kastor. Mirroring Infeld on the men’s side was Elliott Heath — also in fourth, also in his debut. In what was arguably the fastest collection of track 10,000m runners ever assembled for this race, Heath narrowly edged Ben True (27:41, US 5k Champion) and Ryan Vail (3-time World Cross Country qualifier, 27:51) for fourth position; using the speed that took him to a 3000m NCAA title, the Minnesota-native beat the pair down the homestretch by mere tenths.

The veteran of the group, two-time Olympian Matt Tegenkamp, finished third, after separating from the field  in a lead trio of the most accomplished entrants. A little past 8-kilometers, American star Dathan Ritzenhein used a hard move to break up the field, and Tegenkamp and eventual winner Chris Derrick were the only ones who could cover. As a Missouri native, “Teg” had high hopes for his homecoming, and even led the phalanx of runners on early laps of the 2k criterium-style circuit. Hanging tough with the two men who had finished just behind him in 3rd and 4th at the Olympic Trials 10,000m, Tegenkamp was in the mix to win until the troika began the twelfth and final kilometer of the race and Derrick opened up some daylight. Holding on for third gave Tegenkamp an upgrade on his fourth-place finish at the 2011 championships, and put him — and Heath — ahead of defending US champion and recent Edinburgh cross country victor Bobby Mack…  as well as eight other sub-13:30 or sub-28:00 athletes.

One of those men was Sean Quigley who ended up in 14th. After a solid run in Edinburgh, Quigley’s form continues to improve, as he defeated a few of the men he had previously been behind earlier this season — US Club Champion Jake Riley, Matt Forys and Jonathon Peterson — as well as notable talents such as Scott Bauhs.

More coverage to come this evening and tomorrow.

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