BEND, Oregon -- It was a day of firsts at the USATF Cross Country Championships Saturday in Bend, Oregon, as Mattie Suver and Craig Lutz won their first national titles, taking home top prize in the women’s senior and men’s senior races.
The USATF Cross Country Championships are the first stop on the 2016 USATF Running Circuit, as the second stop takes place next Saturday, February 13 as the nation’s best marathoners take part in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon in Los Angeles.
The women’s race got off to a conservative start, as a pack of four women clearly established themselves amongst the field by the first mile. Suver, 2014 USATF Cross Country champion Amy Van Alstine, Cally Macumber and Megan Rolland packed it up and ran stride for stride much of the first 8,000 meters of the 10 km race.
The four women saw a fifth join their ranks, as Allison Grace Morgan worked her way up to the leaders, joining the pack as they passed the 6 km mark.
It wasn’t until halfway through the fourth lap of the five-lap race when Suver and Van Alstine started to pull away from the other three, while Rolland dropped well off the chase pack.
With a mile to go, Suver put in a move that Van Alstine simply couldn’t cover, driving the pace hard through the tight turns of the course. Suver continued to build her lead each step of the way, ultimately breaking clear and running to her first national title. Suver, arms raised, claimed first place in 36:38 over the incredibly challenging course.
Van Alstine held strong to finish seven seconds behind Suver with a runner-up time of 36:45, while Macumber and Grace Morgan rounded out the top four with times of 36:55 and 37:01.
Rolland, who ran with the lead pack much of the race, struggled home to a fifth place finish of 37:19, but well ahead of fellow Oiselle runner Collier Lawrence, who placed sixth in 38:14. Gina Slaby ran to a seventh place time of 38:47, while Sara Klopfenstein, Maggie Callahan and Caroline Jepleting rounded out the top ten.
While the women’s race was moderate in the early stages of the race, the men’s race started out extremely fast thanks to Max King. King shot to the lead in the first half mile of the race, bounding up hills and around turns, eventually owning nearly a ten second lead on the chase pack of eight that followed behind.
While King looked strong and poised over the first lap of the five-lap race, the pack, which then contained seven runners, caught him during the second lap.
Lutz and Aaron Dinzeo, who was a runner-up finisher at the 2014 NCAA DII Cross Country Championships for California University of Pennsylvania, took turns leading for the third and fourth laps of the race, pushing the pace and whittling the field down to a pack of five with a lap to go.
While King, former Adams State runner Tabor Stevens and Donnie Cowart worked hard to maintain contact with Lutz and Dinzeo, the two eventually put a gap on the field, one they would never relinquish.
With a mile to go, Lutz put in a tremendous surge, breaking Dinzeo and putting nearly ten seconds between himself and second place in less than a half a mile. With the finish line in sight, Lutz continued to grow his lead, ultimately crossing the finish line first in 31:40, as he claimed his first national title.
Dinzeo held tough over the final mile of the race to finish second in 31:47, holding off a late charge from former NCAA rival Stevens, who placed third in 31:57. Cowart finished fourth place in 31:58, while King held on gamely at the end to place fifth in 32:05.
Rounding out the top ten, former University of Colorado teammates Joe Bosshard and Andy Wacker finished sixth and seventh in 32:26 and 32:27, while U.S. Army teammates Hillary Bor and Emmanuel Bor took home eighth and ninth in 32:37 and 32:39. Christo Landry placed tenth overall in 32:45.
About the USATF Running Circuit
The USATF Running Circuit is a USATF road series featuring USATF 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 $27,000 in prize money was awarded at the USATF Cross Country Championships.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USATF Running Circuit race. For the USATF Cross Country Championships, scoring is set as 22.5 for first, 18 for second, 15 for third, 10.5, 9, 7.5, 6, 4.5, 3 and 1.5, with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.
The mission of the USATF Running Circuit is to showcase, support and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USATF Running Circuit and its races have provided over $7 million to U.S. distance runners.
Contributed by Scott Bush