INDIANAPOLIS – Defending champions Ben True and Janet Bawcom enter as two of the pre-race favorites at this year’s USA 15 km Championships, which takes place Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida, hosted by the Gate River Run.
The USA 15 km Championships are the third stop on the USA Running Circuit, which concludes this fall with the .US National Road Racing Championships
. The top ten finishers at each race on the circuit qualify to compete in the .US National Road Racing Championships.
Bawcom leads a stellar women’s field, with a total of four Olympians and numerous national champions. After a relatively quiet end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, Bawcom is back in action, looking to jump back atop of the USARC standings, which she led for much of last season. However, the 2012 Olympian will have her hands full with a deep field of competition.
Shalane Flanagan and Amy Hastings are in the middle of their training block for next month’s Boston Marathon, but both have plenty of talent and drive to defeat Bawcom. Flanagan is a multi-time U.S. champion, while Hastings is a fellow Olympian. While both might not be fully race sharp, their experience will play into the early tactics of Saturday’s race.
Not to be overlooked, reigning USA Cross Country champion Amy Van Alstine and her teammate Kellyn Johnson, who recently won the NACAC Cross Country title, have momentum on their side. Both athletes are running their best and their recent victories should bolster their confidence to compete with any and all competitors.
Another pair of teammates look to impress, as well. Alisha Williams and Mattie Suver are having strong starts to their season, as well. Williams was runner-up at the USA 15 km Championships in 2013 and fifth at the USA Cross Country Championships, while running an indoor best of 15:34.28 for 5,000m back in January. Suver placed fifth at the event in 2013, while earning third place at sixth place finishes at the USA Cross Country Championships and USA Half Marathon Championships.
Their teammates Brianne Nelson and Wendy Thomas are equally as able to finish top five. Nelson placed fourth at the event in 2013, while Thomas is coming off of a fourth place finish at the USA Half Marathon Championships earlier this season.
Olympian Jen Rhines is also entered and is looking for a breakthrough race this weekend, while Alexi Pappas finished second to Williams in the indoor 5,000m in January finishing in 15:42.87.
Other notable veterans include Lindsey Scherf, Maegan Krifchin, seventh place finisher at the USA Cross Country Championships Meghan Peyton and Katie Matthews.
On the men’s side, True faces a strong challenge from two-time USA Cross Country champion Chris Derrick. True is coming off of a big 2013 campaign, which saw both he and Derrick lead Team USA to a silver medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. True finished sixth overall, while Derrick placed tenth.
While True is just starting his season after taking some down time due to injury at the end last season, Derrick is hitting his form, undefeated through two cross country races. The Portland-based runner looks to add to his growing resume after his USA Cross Country Championship victory last month.
USA 15 km runner-up Bobby Curtis returns to action, looking to improve one spot from last year, when he was edged by True over the final half mile of the race. He’ll be joined by 2013 USARC overall winner Shadrack Biwott, who looks to jump back in the thick of competition after a seventh place finish at the USA Half Marathon Championships in January.
Meanwhile, both Tyler Pennel and Matthew Llano enter Saturday’s race with much momentum on their side. At the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston, both athletes came away with big personal bests, while finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Pennel crossed the finish in 1:01:44, while Llano finished just slightly behind in 1:01:47. Both athletes enter with a top three finish in sight.
In similar fashion, Sean Quigley looks to surprise the field. After finishing fifth at the recent USA Cross Country Championships, and finishing fourth in Jacksonville last March, Quigley should be eyeing a very strong finish.
An established group of USARC veterans look to better their 2013 performances, as well. Christo Landry placed fifth at the USA 15 km Championships last season, while Tim Ritchie earned sixth and Craig Curley took home seventh.
Eighth place USA Half Marathon finisher Fernando Cabada, 2013 USA Marathon champion Nick Arciniaga, Brent Vaught and Elliot Krause are other notable entries capable of top five finishes.
Live text updates of the USA 15 km Championships will be available at www.USARunningCircuit.com
beginning at 8:20 a.m. ET. Video of the race, post-race interviews and photos will be available shortly after the race in cooperation with RunnerSpace.com. Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #USARC
About the USARC
The USARC is a USA Track & Field road series featuring USA championships from one mile through the marathon and consistently attracts the best American distance runners with more than $500,000 to be awarded in total prize money. A total of $53,000 in prize money will be awarded at the USA 15 km Championships.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.
The mission of the USARC is to showcase, support and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $7 million to U.S. distance runners.
Contributed by Scott Bush