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Keflezighi to defend crown at USA Men's 8 km Championship


Ryan Lamppa
Media Correspondent
USA Track & Field
(805) 696-6232

Field to Showcase Many Olympic Hopefuls

NEW YORK - (March 15, 2004) - In an important Olympic year test, defending champion Meb Keflezighi and last year's runner-up Chad Johnson will headline a field of America's leading long distance runners at the 2004 USA Men's 8 km Championship on Saturday, March 27, it was announced by New York Road Runners (NYRR) president and CEO Allan Steinfeld.

Keflezighi (Kah-FLEZ-gee), 28, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., has already booked his trip to Athens for this summer's Olympic Games by finishing second (2:11:47) at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon last month in Birmingham, Ala.

But for most in the field, the 8 km (4.97-mile) Central Park loop course, which has netted some of the world's fastest times the last two years, will be an early season gauge of their readiness for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track and Field in July.

"Meb knows that he is on his way to Athens this summer, but for the rest, this race is a good and exciting preview of who could be wearing the red, white and blue at this year's Olympics," said Steinfeld.

In all, the expected field of about 40 athletes includes seven past Olympians and 28 men who have broken 14 minutes for 5000 meters.

Five members of the United States team expected to compete at the World Cross Country Championships in Brussels on March 20-21 - Luke Watson, Robert Gary, Abdi Abdirahman, Dave Davis and Nolan Swanson - were also announced. In addition, Long Island native Anthony Famiglietti, 25, who finished third at the USA Men's 8 km Championships in 2002 but was forced to miss last year's race with a leg injury, is signed to return. And Bolota Asmerom, who competed at last weekend's IAAF World Indoor Championships, will be making his New York City outdoor racing debut.

Last year, Keflezighi outdistanced the field, winning by an 11-second margin, by pulling away at the three-mile mark to claim the championship in 22 minutes, 28 seconds. The Team Running USA athlete, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Eritrea, had an outstanding 2003 season, adding USA road racing titles at the Gate River Run 15K (43:31) in Jacksonville, Fla., and at the New Haven 20K (58:57 - U.S. record). He recently won his fourth consecutive U.S. 15 km title at Gate River in 43:18.

Johnson, 27, of Portland, Ore., was a surprise second-place finisher last year in 22:39. He went on to run career best times of 13:36.89 for 5000 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays and 28:35.23 for 10,000 meters at the Cardinal Invitational. Unfortunately, he struggled through his marathon debut at the ING New York City Marathon, finishing in a disappointing 2:25:50.

Gary, 30, of Columbus, Ohio, splits his time between being the Ohio State head track coach and pursuing his own competitive running. He was a 1996 Olympian in the steeplechase. Abdirahman, 27, of Tucson, Ariz., finished third in last year's race and was 10th in the 10,000 meters at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Watson, 23, of Stillwater, Minn., has had a busy and successful start to the 2004 season. The Team USA Minnesota athlete took second last month at both the USA Cross Country Championships 4 km race (11:14) and the USA Indoor Championships 3000 meters.

Davis, 25, of Portland, Ore., finished fifth at last year's race and will be making his second trip to the World Cross Country Championships.

Swanson, 28, of Springfield, Ore., finished a disappointing 18th at last year's 8K after placing seventh in 2002. He most recently placed sixth at the USA Cross Country Championships, making his first World Cross Country Championships team.

The USA Men's 8 km Championships has a total prize purse of $20,000 and is part of the NYRR Professional Racing Series, which also includes the Circle of Friends New York Mini (June 12) and the ING New York City Marathon (November 7). First place in the USA Championship is $5000; second place, $4000; third place, $3000; fourth place, $2000; and fifth place, $1250. Prize money will be awarded to the top 15 finishers. A $25,000 bonus is being offered to the winner if he breaks the American 8 km record of 22:04 set by Alberto Salazar in 1981.

The USA Men's 8 km Championships is part of the 2004 USA Running Circuit, a USA Track & Field road racing series featuring USA Championships from 5 km to the marathon. The 2004 USARC offers a record $818,700 in guaranteed prize money.

Founded in 1958 with a membership of 47, New York Road Runners (NYRR) is one of the world's foremost running organizations. NYRR is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the sport of running and walking for health, recreation, and competition, and provides full professional services related to all aspects of racing, including course certification, computer scoring, and event promotion. The organization has a full-time staff of more than 60 employees, supplemented by a network of thousands of volunteers, serving more than 39,000 members from every U.S. state and more than 100 countries.

Contact: Richard Finn, (212) 423-2229,

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