Team USA ready for World Cross Country Championships
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chief Public Affairs Officer
USA Track & Field
Team USA’s 35 athletes traveled to the Swiss National Equestrian Center in Avenches, Switzerland on Friday to view the course for the March 29-30 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
The Championships begin Saturday with the Junior Women's 6 km race, followed by the Senior Men's 4 km, and the Senior Women's 8 km. Competition resumes on Sunday, with the Junior Men's 8 km, Senior Women's 4 km, and Senior Men's 12 km.
The U.S. athletes were eager for the opportunity to preview the championships course, which is located about 40 miles north of Lausanne in the former Roman provincial capital of Avenches.
The Avenches' course is a 1700-meter loop around the infield of the Equestrian Center's horse track. While the course is basically flat, the footing over much of the course is uneven and during each circuit the athletes will cross two wooden bridges, a couple of small inclines, and a half-dozen drainage ditches that will provide some pace breaks.
"It's a great course," said Deena Drossin, the 2002 World Cross Country Silver Medalist. "It's a great spectator course and it's always great to have lots of spectators out there to help pull you along. There are a couple little wooden bridges the athletes have to climb. They're only a couple steps long, but they'll probably feel a lot longer late in the race. The footing isn't that great -- there are a lot of ruts on the course."
"The course is wonderful," enthused Abdi Abdirahman. "I love it. The course looks easy, but the little hills will take a lot out of you. I'm fit now and this meet fits better into my training than did Houston (site of this year's USA Cross Country Championships), so I be better able to show how fit I am."
"There's definitely uneven surfaces," agreed Meb Keflezighi," but I doubt we'll even notice it once we start racing. It's not a fast course. It will definitely be a challenge."
U.S. Junior Women's Champion Clara Horowitz remarked, "I really like the loop course because you always know where you are going. The terrain in parts is rough, but I've seen worse. I like how flat the course is."
DROSSIN TO CHALLENGE WORLD'S BEST
Shortly after Drossin and the rest of senior women’s long-course squad looked at the Avenches race course, she addressed the international media gathered for a press conference hosted by the IAAF.
“Last year was a tremendous breakthrough for me,” Drossin said of her silver-medal performance in Dublin in 2002. “I’d been coming to the world championships the last several times, and I’ve always wanted to place in the top five (her previous highest placing was 10th in 1999).”
Asked about defending champion Paula Radcliffe’s absence from the race to prepare for the London Marathon two weeks later, she said, “No matter who shows up, there will always be good competition at the world cross country championships.”
TEAM USA NAMES CAPTAINS
During a Thursday team meeting, team members voted to elect team captains for each of the six squads. Captains for the 2003 USA National Team at the World Cross Country Championships are:
Senior Women's 8 km Deena Drossin Senior Women's 4 km Collette Liss Junior Women's 6 km Rebecca Walter Senior Men's 12 km Meb Keflezighi Senior Men's 4 km Dan Browne Junior Men's 8 km Billy Nelson
BIRTHDAY CANDLES FOR WALTER
Teammates surprised USA Junior Women’s team captain Rebecca Walter, a freshman at the University of Michigan, with a slice of pie and some birthday candles to celebrate her 19th birthday on Thursday.
For more information on the 2003 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, including the full results from this weekend's competition, visit the USATF Web site at www.usatf.org or the IAAF Web site at www.iaaf.org.