Derrick repeats, Van Alstine surprises at USA Cross Country Championships
INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Derrick repeated as senior men’s champion, while Amy Van Alstine surprised the senior women’s field with her upset victory at the USA Cross Country Championships, Feb. 15 in Boulder, Colorado.
The USA Cross Country Championships are the second 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.
Derrick rolled into Boulder on Saturday as the pre-race favorite. After winning his first USA Cross Country Championship title in 2013, the Portland-based runner seemed poised to repeat, but plenty of competition would challenge him throughout.
From the gun, Boulder-resident Brent Vaughn took out the pace, leading a pack of nearly 15 men through the first lap 2k split at 5:59.89. With less than a second separating the top ten men, it seemed only a matter of time before an athlete or two made their move.
Bobby Mack, who competed on Team USA as they won silver at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Moscow, was the first to surge leading up to the 4,000m mark. Mack’s move thinned the field as the top pack reduced to eight athletes. With Derrick running stride for stride just off Mack’s shoulder, the pack of runners including Sean Quigley, Luke Puskedra, Joseph Gray and Jacob Riley formed tightly behind the duo.
At 6,000m, Derrick put in a surge, losing the majority of the pack, while Mack and Quigley tried their best to hold on. For the next quarter mile Derrick continued to lower the pace before ultimately running solo just before the 8,000m mark.
Over the final two miles of the race, Derrick continued to lengthen his lead, as Puskedra came up to challenge Mack for second over the final mile and a half. As the finish line neared, Derrick took one last look over his shoulder and cruised towards repeating as U.S. champion. Derrick crossed the line in 36:13.76, well ahead of runner-up Puskedra at 36:38.37.
“I want to be the best cross country runner in America,” said an elated Derrick after the race. “I feel really strong in my training, especially training at altitude at Colorado Springs. I've never done two-hour runs before, and now I'm doing those. I felt the guys were letting me have it, and I felt like I was in a groove, so I went.“
Behind Derrick, Puskedra out maneuvered Mack over the final mile of the race, pulling away to a second place finish, improving upon his eighth place finish from 2013. Mack finished third overall in 36:42.24. USA Club Cross Country champion Gray and Quigley finished 4-5 respectively in 36:57.43 and 37:01.55.
In the women’s race, the 8,000m race led to a few surprising results, including a breakthrough performance for Flagstaff-based Van Alstine. From the gun, a pack of a dozen women grouped up and would run together for much of the first half of the race, including pre-race favorite Olympian Jenny Simpson.
Just before the 4,000m mark, Van Alstine along with Northern Arizona Elite teammate Kellyn Johnson, Simpson, Mattie Suver and Alisha Williams started to break from the field. As Van Alstine and Johnson led the charge, the field continued to thin. Before 6,000m Van Alstine surged ahead, gaining a three second lead over Johnson and an eight second lead over third place Suver.
Over the final 2,000m, Van Alstine charged hard, grinding down the competition and widening her lead. As she crossed the finish line with a wide smile and her arms raised in triumph, Van Alstine realized she won her first U.S. title, 22 seconds before the runner-up, Simpson at 27:34.60
“I expected someone to go, but nobody went,” said Van Alstine. “I tried to pick it up a bit, and I could feel everyone breathing on me. I felt really good, and I was kind of surprised that I won, and that Jenny (Simpson) wasn't in front of me. I'm really happy and amazed.”
Following behind Van Alstine, Simpson used a ferocious kick to finish second in 27:56.72, crossing the finish line with a smile on her face as she now shifts her focus back to the track.
USARC veteran Suver and teammate Williams finished third and fifth respectively, crossing the finish line in 28:00.93 and 28:18.53, while Johnson finished fourth overall in 28:12.49.
Rounding out the top eight, Suver’s and Williams’ teammate Rochelle Kanuho continued her impressive 2014 campaign with a sixth place finish in 28:22.90, while Team USA Minnesota runner Meghan Peyton finished seventh in 28:26.70. Alia Gray ran to an eighth place finish in 28:37.66.
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 $30,000 in prize money will be awarded at the USA Cross Country 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.
About USA Track & Field
USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, some of the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the country’s #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States. For more information on USATF, visit www.usatf.or
Contributed by Scott Bush