Before competition began, there was little that separated Team USA Minnesota’s Jonathan Grey from the rest of the record 1,226 athletes in Saturday’s USA Track & Field Club Cross Country Championships.
However, that was about to change.
At the midway point of the men’s open 10-kilometer race, Grey made a bold move in hopes of claiming the club cross country title.
Facing a stellar field that included defending national club champion Aaron Braun and 2011 World Outdoor Championships 1,500m bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz, Grey made a move to create separation between himself and the rest of the field. It was aggressive and risky with 5 km remaining.
But as the race went on his lead continued to grow and he was 20 seconds ahead of second place with one kilometer remaining. The move was a surprise to most who were watching. Even as Grey crossed the finish line in the winning time of 29:38, he was waiting for one of the athletes with a strong finishing kick to chase him down. None did and Grey finished 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Braun.
“Apparently the move looked devastating,” Grey said based on discussions he had following the race. “But it just felt natural to be going that speed and no one came with. I dropped the pace maybe 2-3 seconds per kilometer.”
Grey wouldn’t go so far as to say the win at the Club Cross Country Championships was the best of his running career, but it definitely made his short list. After all, he needed to go all the way back to his high school days to recall the last time he won a cross country race.
“I usually don’t keep race bibs, but this one I put back into my backpack,” Grey said. “This one meant a lot to me. I was surprised, but most of my friend and competitors weren’t. I was the only one who was surprised.”
A three-time NCAA All-American at the College of William and Mary and the 2010 Mt. SAC Relays 10,000m champion, Grey is hopeful Saturday’s win will fuel the remainder of his running career. A native of Lancaster, Penn., he joined Team USA Minnesota in September as a transition into the next part of his running career.
It was vindication that Grey is heading in the right direction. His performance at the Club Cross Country Championships places his name among the list of competitors for Team USA at the 2011 Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country meet January 8 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Making an international team was a goal for Grey.
Following his college career, making the move to Team USA Minnesota seemed like the right move to help Grey achieve his goals.
“It’s a good start and this tells me I am heading in the right direction,” he said. “Team USA Minnesota was the right fit. The team and the support are fantastic.”
After competition in Edinburgh, Grey will compete in the Houston Half Marathon before turning his attention to the 2012 track season and specifically the Olympic Team Trials. The fifth place finisher in the 5,000m at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships, Grey has his goals set on making the Olympic Trials “A” standard in either the 5,000m or the 10,000m. It will soon become the focus of his training.
His mind remains indecisive over which he will pursue.
“I prefer the 10,000m, but I have never really gotten a good crack at the 5,000m,” he said. “I’m definitely a 10,000m guy, but my 5,000m chances were extremely limited. I’m excited to go after one of them. It’s one of those things where you do your best to hopefully get to the Olympic Trials then you ask yourself, ‘okay, now what?’”
Whether Grey will reach the goals he would like to or not remains to be seen. But he proved Saturday he can run with those that will take him there.
USA Track & Field