Flanagan, Ritzenhein, Rupp win U.S. Cross Country titles

02-13-2005

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Tom Surber
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VANCOUVER, Wash. - Shalane Flanagan successfully defended her U.S. women's short course title as Dathan Ritzenhein won the men's long course crown, and Galen Rupp won the Junior Men's U.S. title Sunday at the 2005 USA Cross Country Championships at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Wash.

The USA Cross Country Championships serve as the selection event for the U.S. team that will compete at the 2005 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, March 19-20 in St. Galmier, France. The top six finishers in the Open and Junior races qualify for the U.S. team. The USA Championships follows the same format as the upcoming World Championships, with six races over a two-day span.

The three championship races on Sunday were held under mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-40s. The course was wet and muddy in spots from Saturday's rain.

Open Women's 4 km Championship

In successfully defending her U.S. women's 4 km title, Flanagan adds to her impressive list of accomplishments that include winning the 2002 and 2003 NCAA Division I women's cross country titles while at the University of North Carolina. Also in 2003, Flanagan was the runner-up in the 5,000 meters at the 2003 USA Outdoor Championships. Also in 2003, Flanagan won the ACC 5,000m title, and was the runner-up in that event at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She finished the 2003 season ranked #4 in the U.S. at 5,000m. Flanagan competed at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens after placing third in the 5,000 meters earlier that summer at the Olympic Trials. She ended the 2004 season ranked #4 at 3,000m and #3 at 5,000m in the U.S. by by Track & Field News.

With her win, Flanagan defeated a strong field that included 2003 U.S. women's short course champion and 2004 Olympian Shayne Culpepper, in addition to Lauren Fleshman, who placed third in this race last year. Flanagan also finished ahead of two-time NCAA Division III cross country champ Melissa Buttry, who won her first U.S. national title at the 2003 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, and placed fourth in the short course race last year.

Flanagan jumped out to a 10-meter lead at the end of the first kilometer, with Culpepper, Russell and Fleshman trailing behind. At the top of the hill, Flanagan finished the first loop still with a comfortable lead, with Culpepper breaking away from the chase pack. Going down the starting straightaway, Buttry joined Culpepper as they continued to chase Flanagan. By the 3 km mark Flanagan stretched her lead to 30 meters over Buttry, Culpepper, Russell and Fleshman. Culpepper pulled clear of the others coming down the final straight to finish as the runner-up, three seconds behind Flanagan.

"It was a surprise for me to pull away that quickly," said Flanagan. "I tried to get out decently fast because the mud that's out there can slow you down. Because my foot has been bothering me I haven't gotten in the training lately that I wanted to, and that gave me a lack of confidence compared to most years. I'm happy with how it went today. I love cross country. "

"I'm getting ready for outdoor track, which is my main focus this year," said runner-up Shayne Culpepper. "I haven't run cross country in two years and it was tough trying to remember how it feels to run. This group has a very good shot at making the podium (at the World Cross Country Championships).

Open Women 4 km Top 15

1. Shalane Flanagan (13:24), 2. Shayne Culpepper (13:27), 3. Melissa Buttry (13:29), 4. Blake Russell (13:30), 5. Lauren Fleshman (13:30), 6. Amy Mortimer (13:38), 7. Kelly Strong (13:47), 8. Heather Sagan (13:51), 9. Sabrina Monroe (13:51), 10. Patricia Nervo (13:58), 11. Lisa Galaviz (14:01), 12. Christin Wurth (14:04), 13. Lucinda Hull (14:05), 14. Elissa Riedy (14:09), 15. Erika Aklufi (14:10).

Team Scoring:

1. Run AZ - 10 points.

Open Men's 12 km Championship

Dathan Ritzenhein proved his fitness coming into the cross country season with his surprise win at the 2005 Reebok Cross Country Challenge on January 9 in Belfast, Ireland, against a strong international field. The 2003 NCAA cross country champion while at the University of Colorado, Ritzenhein won the junior men's bronze medal at the 2001 World Cross Country Chamionships. A 2004 Olympian at 10,000 meters, Ritzenhein last competed at the USA Cross Country Championships in 2002 when he placed fifth in the 12 km race at Vancouver. A month later he placed 24th at the World Cross Country Championships in Dublin, Ireland.

By the end of the first lap, Ritzenhein and Alan Webb were five meters ahead of 2002 NCAA cross country champion Jorge Torres and Tim Broe, who won his third U.S. short course title here on Saturday. At 3 km, Ritzenhein and Webb were 20 meters up on Torres and Broe, with Ritzenhein leading Webb by three steps going up the hill at the end of the second lap. Ritzenhein continued to lead comfortably with Webb in tow and Torres in third position. At the 5 km mark Ritzenhein had pulled further away, and Torres passed Webb, who dropped out of the race after being passed. By the start of the fifth loop Ritzenhein had the race sewn up as his former Colorado Buffalo teammate Torres secured the runner-up position.

"They wanted to take it out hard for the first K (kilometer) and I moved my way up to the front and saw Alan (Webb) up there, which was good because it helped me establish a pretty good lead and I kind of held it about the same the rest of the way," said Ritzenhein. It was good to race Alan again. He's a great competitor and he went for it, which is pretty impressive because not a lot of people do that. I think we have what it takes and we're not going to be satisfied just sitting in the middle of the pack. I felt great. I've taken a good turn in my training and I'm going to be better than ever. I'm going into the Worlds (2005 World Cross Country Championships) thinking that I can medal."

"I had the inside track on Dathan and his fitness level, being that I live in Boulder," said runner-up Jorge Torres. "My plan was to bide my time and wait for the time to strike. I didn't have another gear to go faster to catch up with Dathan. I feel strong, but I don't have the anaerobic capacity. I'm disappointed that I didn't win yesterday (the Open Men's 4 km championship)."

Open Men's 12 km Top 15

1. Dathan Ritzenhein (36:59), 2. Jorge Torres (37:14), 3. Tim Broe (37:27), 4. Matt Withrow (37:32), 5. Jason Lehmkuhle (37:33), 6. Ian Dobson (37:33), 7. Paul Kezes (37:40), 8. Matt Gabrielson (37:54), 9. Joe Driscoll (38:11), 10. Peter Gilmore (38:15), 11. Max King (38:16), 12. Dave Davis (38:18), 13. Steve Sundell (38:20), 14. Josh Eberly (38:30), 15. Fernando Cabada (38:38).

Team Scoring:

1. The Farm Team - 25; 2. Team XO - 31, 3. Hansons-Brooks D P A - 38, 4. Hansons-Brooks D P B - 42

Junior Men's 8 km Championship

A member of the Nike-funded Oregon Project, Galen Rupp of Portland, Ore., dominated the field in Sunday's USA Junior Men's 8 km championship race. As a prep senior at Central Catholic High School, Rupp last summer, set the U.S. high school record at 5,000 meters (13:37.91), to go along with his national records at 2,000m (5:18.5) and 3,000m (8:03.67). Despite incurring a foot fracture in his foot in November, Rupp ran smoothly across the Fort Vancouver course.

A large pack of runners hit the 2 km mark with Rupp in control and looking relaxed. Rupp started to test the field at the 3 km, where he began to pull away from the field. Starting the third lap, Rupp was in front followed by Stuart Eagon. Beginning an uphill ascent during the third lap, Rupp stretched his lead to 10 meters over Eagon. By 7 km Rupp was all alone with a large lead over the rest of the field, winning by a 9-second margin over Egan.

"I just wanted to take it as easy as possible for the first two laps," Rupp said. "The last lap I wanted to take it out, but prior to that I threw in a couple surges in the second and third laps to see how everyone would react to it. With one lap to go, that's when I decided to make my move. I'm definitely peaking for Worlds. "

In finishing second to Rupp, Eagon said he was accustomed to that position. "I've done that too many times," he said. "Most of the guys up front were relaxing in the first K through the 4th K. I tried to make a run at Galen in the middle of the last loop."

Junior Men's 8 km Top 15

1. Galen Rupp (25:13), 2. Stuart Eagon (25:22), 3. Hakon DeVries (25:27), 4. Christopher Landry (25:33), 5. Jeremy Mineau (25:40), 6. Ryan Vail (25:42), 7. Bradley Harkrader (25:46), 8. Dave Mock (25:59), 9. Stephen Shay (26:03), 10. Timothy McLeod (26:06), 11. Christopher Pannone (26:07), 12. Alexander Miletich (26:14), 13. Jon Harding (26:17), 14. Drew Shackleton (26:18), 15. Joshua Perrin (26:21).

Team Scoring:

1. Wings of America - 10 points.

For more information on the 2005 USA Cross Country Championships, including the complete results, visit www.usatf.org.