ST. LOUIS – Shalane Flanagan used her superior strength to pull away from the rest of the women’s open field while Chris Derrick bested a loaded men’s open race as each claimed USA Cross Country titles Saturday at Forest Park.
In addition to awarding national championships for competitors in men’s and women’s junior, open and masters competition, spots on Team USA for the World Cross Country Championships, scheduled for March 24 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, were also on the line for the top six finishers in the junior and senior races. Complete results from Saturday’s races can be found here.
Emily Stites and Oklahoma State’s Craig Nowak also claimed national titles in junior competition as competitors battled steady breezes and temperatures in the 30s throughout the day.
Women’s Open (8 km)
Flanagan set the tone early and by the final two kilometers it proved to be too much to handle as the 2008 Olympic 10,000-meter bronze medalist won her sixth USA Cross Country title in a time of 25:49.0.
2012 Olympian Kim Conley ran with Flanagan through the first six kilometers and eventually finished runner-up in a time of 26:06.0.
Competing less than two weeks before her 40th birthday and in her first cross country race since 2007, Deena Kastor placed third overall in a time of 26:41.0. A veteran to the sport, Kastor has won a total of seven USA Cross Country titles in her career with her first coming in 1997.
Rounding out the top five were Emily Infeld, who placed fourth in a time of 26:47.7, and Neely Spence who was fifth in 26:54.2.
Men’s Open (12 km)
Running in a tight pack of as many as 25 runners through much of the race, Derrick pulled away from one of the deeper fields in the event’s history. Emerging to place second and third, respectively, were 2012 Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp.
It was a breakthrough win at the professional level for Derrick, who holds the American collegiate record in the 10,000m and was selected as an NCAA Division I All-American 14 times while at Stanford. The former American junior record holder in the 5,000m, Derrick’s winning time was 35:36.6, which was ahead of Ritzenhein (35:44.1) and Tegenkamp (35:55.8).
The trio spent the duration of the race near the front of a large pack that included Elliot Heath and Ben True, who placed fourth and fifth, respectively. Ryan Vail and 2012 USA Cross Country champion Bobby Mack were also in the mix and placed sixth and seventh.
Women’s Junior (6 km)
Stites and Erin Finn broke away from the rest of the pack early before Stites then made it a solo race in cruising to the victory in a time of 20:27.3. Finn, the runner-up at the 2011 Foot Locker Nationals, finished second in a time of 20:48.6.
Following Stites and Finn, the quartet of Colorado’s Carrie Verdon, Kathryn Knight, Samantha Nadel and Sydney Scott all finished in a bunch to all secure their spots on Team USA for the World Junior Cross Country Championships. Verdon finished third in a time of 21:08.8. Knight was fourth in 21:09.3 and Nadel fifth in 21:10.3.
Men’s Junior (8 km)
Oklahoma State freshman Nowak ran easily through the finish to win in a time of 24:47.0 as a group of five battled for second place.
Wisconsin’s Malachy Schrobilgen was able to pull ahead and finished second in a time of 24:51.2 and Matt Mclintock was third in 24:51.9. Darren Fahy, Thomas Graham and Andrew Gardner all also secured their spots in Poland by finishing in the top six.
Women’s Masters (6 km)
Jody Hawkins (W46) took the lead from the start and continued to pull away through the finish to win her age group and the women’s masters USA Cross Country overall title. Hawkins pulled away from her close friend Carmen Ayala-Tronco (W53) to win in a time of 22:30.0. Hawkins finished second overall and won the masters 50-54 year old age group in a time of 23:06.90.
Cindy Blakeley-Came (W48) finished the race third overall and second in her age group in a time of 24:07.5 while Kelly Vandermaiden (W40) was the fourth overall finisher and also won her master’s age group in 24:16.7. Pamela Di Guiseppe (W45) finished fifth overall (25:21.0).
Also picking up wins in their age group in women’s masters competition were: Catherine Utzschnei (W57), 26:35.0; Donna Swanson (W60), 32:58.0; Linda Frisby (W65), 30:07.0; Ellen Nitz (W72), 37:18.0; Judith Smythe (W75), 41:04.3.
Men’s Masters (8 km)
Less than one month after his 40th birthday, Ahrlin Bauhman (M40) was able to outlast Raymond Pugsley (M43) to finish as the top overall finisher in the men’s masters race as men in the 40-44 age group grabbed the top eight overall spots. Bauhman won in a time of 25:57.7 and Pugsley’s second-place time was 26:02.6. Rusty Snow (M43) placed third in 26:09.2.
Also picking up wins in their age groups were: John Mirth (M50), 27:12.1; Matt Wegenka (M48), 27:48.9; Mark Rybinski (M57), 29:49.9; Ignacio Jimenez (M63), 30:36.4.
Shalane Flanagan (women’s open winner)
“It was a lot of fun. The spectators and the fans were phenomenal. At the start and the finish area I could just see fans lining everything. The whole meet was really well run. Overall my race was really great because I had competition until the last 2 km. Kim (Conley) ran really tough. It means a lot more when you have a national championship and someone pushing you the whole way. That was great and I think we will have a really good team going to Poland.”
Kim Conley (women’s open runner-up)
“I felt really good for about 6 km, when Shalane (Flanagan) started grinding me down, but it was certainly fun to be up there.
"I was prepared to go out hard and sink my teeth in and go for it with her. She just had a little more strength than I did over the last 2 km, but it was great to be up there with her. I'm very hungry to win a title one day.
"Making the (2012 Olympic) team had changed my mental approach. It's a different approach in my training now that I know that I've made an Olympic team and it’s not a lofty dream to make a world championship team. I believe that I can be at that level instead of hoping I can be at that level.
Deena Kastor (women’s open third place finisher)
On racing the World Cross Country Championships following the LA Marathon:
“It's not typical for me to turn around after a marathon, but a lot of the top marathon runners have turned around and run a fast 10k about a week or so after a marathon to get their track qualifiers out of the way. I know if I take care of myself after the marathon, I think I can make a strong showing in Poland.
"I knew that I had some strong competition and that it would be hard to make this team, but I promised to put in an honest effort for a little bit over a half hour, and commit to having a strong race. This will be my tenth U.S. cross country team, and 18th international team, so I'm pretty excited to represent the USA.”
Chris Derrick (men’s open winner)
“It went about like I hoped it would. It was a little slower at the front. I figured Dathan (Ritzenhein) would make a big move and I wanted to go with him. When he first moved I didn’t know if he would be able to do that because we were really rolling. One of my favorite tactics has always been to crest the top of a hill then go. That set up perfectly with 2 km to go.
“It is really good (to beat a deep field). I haven’t won a lot of big races. I have won some conference championships. I haven’t won any national championships or NCAA championships. It’s good to be aggressive and I really wanted to win. The last two km I wasn’t thinking about anything else. I just really wanted to win. It’s good to have the win.
“It is going to be great (making Team USA). World Cross Country has been typically dominated by the Africans. It will be a tough experience and I am looking forward to that.”
Dathan Ritzenhein (men’s runner-up)
“I am a little disappointed. I wanted to win. I tried to give it all that I had. It was a really deep field and I think one of the best fields we have had at the USA Cross Country Championships in a while. I gave it a good hard effort. I would have liked to have won, but I gave it everything that I had.
“It was a big group. It felt like nobody really wanted to take the lead. I didn’t really mean to be that close to the front. I tried to push it a little bit and finally things cleared out. With two laps to go I really started pushing it. At some point someone had to go.”
Emily Stites (women’s junior winner)
“From the beginning I was trying to stay relaxed and stay with the pack. After the first lap, I tried to break up the pack and see how it went. It was great that Erin (Finn) was able to hang with me, and then I decided to keep going. ”Erin was closing late, so I tried to kick it in as best as I could. I think running in the NCAA meet and running in Scotland helped me in knowing that I can run with the top girls.”
Erin Finn (women’s junior runner-up)
“I am very excited. I was sick with a fever on Wednesday so to come back and compete for that I am really happy. I am so honored and God has blessed me that I can represent the USA. I am so excited.
The race didn’t go as I had planned. I started to break away at about 2 km with Emily (Stites). She started to go a little faster, but I told myself to be smart. Had it been the final race I probably would have tried to stay with here.”
Craig Nowak (men’s junior winner)
“Everything happened exactly how we wanted it to. I was able to stay calm for the first two laps around the course. I wasn’t worried about where anyone was. The last kilometer I wanted to make a move.
“The race plan was to not worry about anyone else. This is awesome. It was a great experience going to Scotland (for the BUPA Edinburgh) earlier in the month and I am looking forward to going again to represent the U.S.”
Malachy Schrobilgen (men’s junior runner-up)
“This was my goal to come in here and make the team. I had run one 8 km this year. I got about halfway into the race and thought, ‘this is where it is going to get tough.’ I thought I could go with some of these guys. I knew if I moved with this pack I was going to make the team. I knew this was going to be really tough. But this was still the goal of mine (to make the team).
“It has been below 10 degrees (Wisconsin temperature) for a few weeks. This was good Wisconsin weather. It was perfect conditions for me.”
Matt Mclintock (men’s junior third place)
“I wanted to win but I wanted to make the team. That was the primary focus. I just sat back and went out really slow. Once it picked up with one km to go it became fast very quickly. I locked up the last 50 meters but I still made the team.
“Everyone was together and it was definitely a kicker’s race. This is awesome. I saw this field and I knew it would be tough to make it. I am so happy to make it.”
Jody Hawkins (women’s masters overall winner)
“The plan was to go out quickly. I've been training with my high school team and I thought that by training with them, I could go out quick."
"You can never count out (runner-up Carmen Ayala-Troncoso). The moment you do, she'll come back and beat you. I've been racing against her since my 20s. ”The weather really wasn't that bad today, especially compared to last year. I've been watching the forecasts, and decided to make the trip.”
Ahrlin Bauman (men’s overall masters winner)
“I was worried that I might not be as competitive as I thought I could be. I turned 40 on January 1st. The pace was real comfortable--almost like a tempo run. It wasn't like the open race where you go out in 4:40 the first mile. ”I took the lead for a little bit, but couldn't break those guys, so I thought it would come to a kick, but I didn't want to lead. With 800 to go, there was a little bit of separation between Ray Pugsley and I and the rest of the group. With 200 to go I told myself 'I gotta give it a try,’ so I started sprinting, and held on.”