Monday, March 21, 2011

Inside Punta Umbria: Flanagan Captures Second Major Medal

Four KIMbia athletes took the line at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, with Lineth Chepkurui captaining her Kenyan team, Shalane Flanagan and Brent Vaughn headlining the US senior women’s and men’s teams, respectively, as the reigning national champions, and Andrew Bumbalough making his senior debut after competing in the junior race in 2006.

Shalane Flanagan affirmed her status as one of the world’s best runners, once again, taking bronze in the deepest distance race on the planet. Flanagan planted herself among the leaders from the very start, and prepared to be a part of any late-race maneuvering, even making an appearance at the front of the lead pack.  When the race broke open on the penultimate lap, the Massachusetts native lost a little ground, but battled back over the final 2k loop to pass Ethiopia’s top entrants in Meselech Melkamu and Wude Ayalew and make a play for second place. Flanagan clocked a 25:10 to capture the World Championships Bronze, just two seconds behind Linet Masai and twelve seconds behind gold medalist Vivian Cheruiyot, thus adding to her Olympic Bronze and NYC Marathon Runner-Up finish one more world class honor. Additionally, Flanagan’s 3rd-place finish anchored a bronze medal-winning effort from the American women in the team race, a repeat of last year’s performance.

In the same race, Lineth Chepkurui took eighth — eighteen seconds out of the medals — which might be a bit of a disappointment for an athlete who has placed as high as fourth in this event, and who had her eyes on a possible title earlier in the winter. However, having struggled somewhat to train and race at full health in recent weeks, eighth seems a solid result alongside the distinction of captaining the gold medal-winning women’s team from Kenya.

The KIMbia men put themselves in the thick of the race in the early going, racing in the giant secondary pack, but each had a difficult final “4k,” and Brent Vaughn ended up 55th with Andrew Bumbalough finishing 78th.

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