INDIANAPOLIS -- USATF Marathon champion Jared Ward and top American at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Sara Hall highlight an impressive group of athletes competing Saturday morning at the USATF 25 km Championships, hosted by the Fifth Third River Bank Run in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The USATF 25 km Championships are the fifth stop on the 2015 USATF Running Circuit. The top 15 finishers at each race on the circuit qualify to compete in the 2015 .US National 12K, which takes place in November in Alexandria, Virginia.
Ward enters Saturday’s race coming off his first national title effort, winning the USATF Marathon Championships in mid March in impressive fashion. Along with a runner-up finish at the USATF Half Marathon Championships in January, Ward continues to impress in his first full year as a pro.
For Ward, this weekend’s race offers an opportunity for him to extend his USATF Running Circuit standings lead over second place Matt Llano and third place Girma Mecheso. Ward currently has 48 points, while Llano and Mecheso have 33 and 30 points. Both Llano and Mecheso are entered in Saturday’s contest.
Llano, a young runner training with Northern Arizona Elite in Flagstaff, looks to build off his runner-up finish at the USATF Marathon Championships and fifth place finish at the USATF Half Marathon Championships. Meanwhile, Mecheso hopes to improve on his tandem of third place finishes at the USATF Half Marathon Championships and USATF 15 km Championships.
Christo Landry and Abdi Abdirahman are two other athletes with potential to take home the win. Landry, the 2014 USATF Running Circuit champion, finished second at the USATF 15 km Championships and is coming off a 27:55.19 10,000m effort on the track at the Payton Jordan Invitational. Landry won the USATF 25 km Championship title and should use his knowledge of the course to his advantage.
For Abdirahman, a four-time Olympian, he enters with a seasonal best race coming at the Gasparilla Half Marathon in February, where he finished second behind Dathan Ritzenhein in 63:55.
Other experienced veterans include top ten USATF Cross Country and USATF 15 km Championships finisher Augustus Maiyo, eighth place USATF Half Marathon Championship finisher Brett Gotcher, 2014 USATF Mountain Running champion Joseph Gray, Raleigh Half Marathon champion Bobby Mack, 2014 USATF 25 km Championship tenth place finisher Jon Gries and Luke Puskedra, who placed as top American last weekend at the Bloomsday 12K.
USATF Running Circuit veteran Hall is the pre-race favorite on the women’s side. Entering Saturday’s contest coming off a 20th place finish at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, where she was top American, Hall continues to show her range and versatility, which makes her a contender in nearly every race she runs.
Despite struggling at the USATF Marathon Championships, she owns two top-five series finishes to her name this season, with a third-place finish at the USATF Half Marathon Championships and a fifth-place finish at the USATF Cross Country Championships.
Hall finds competition from a half dozen women, including top returnee Heather Capello. Capello, who placed 15th at the USATF Half Marathon Championships earlier this year, placed fifth in last year’s Grand Rapids race. She looks to use that experience to challenge for the win.
Katie DiCamillo and Lindsey Scherf are two other top contenders. DiCamillo heads into the weekend with a sixth place USATF Marathon finish in late March, while Scherf was the second American at the Bloomsday 12K last weekend, only finishing behind USATF Marathon champion Blake Russell. Scherf was a second place finish at the 2012 USATF 25 km Championships.
2013 USATF 25 km champion Dot McMahan is also in the field. McMahan, who trains with the Michigan-based Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, has had a quiet start to her 2015 season, but can never be overlooked, especially with the home-state crowd behind her.
Marci (Gage) Klimek, who finished seventh last year and is the number two returnee, along with Kara Foster, who placed tenth at the USATF 15 km Championships are two other notable runners fully capable of challenging for top three.
USATF 25 km Coverage
Race video, results, post-race interviews and photos will be available shortly after the USATF 25 km Championships on USATF.TV. Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #USARC.
About the USATF Running Circuit
The USATF Running Circuit is a USA Track & Field 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 $30,200 in prize money will be awarded at the USATF 25 km Championships.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USATF Running Circuit race. For the USATF 25 km Championships, scoring is set as 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 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