INDIANAPOLIS - Members of the 2005 Team USA World Cross Country squad will look to build off the success of recent U.S. teams at the 33rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships, March 19-20 in Saint-Etienne/St. Galmier, France.
In recent years Team USA athletes have provided numerous podium finishes in both individual and team competition. The most recent came in 2003 in Lausanne, Switzerland when Deena Drossin (now Kastor), won the silver medal in the women's long course race to lead the U.S. women's team to the bronze medal. Two-time defending USA long course champion Colleen De Reuck placed eighth in the individual competition that year to help Team USA to its third-place finish. De Reuck, the winner of the 2004 USA Olympic Women's Marathon Trials and two-time defending U.S. 8 km cross country champion, will call upon her vast experience as part of this year's U.S. women's long course squad.
Kastor and De Reuck were a formidable pair in 2002 in Dublin, Ireland, as Kastor won the silver medal and De Reuck grabbed the bronze to pace the U.S. to the team silver medal, placing just 10 points behind the gold medal winning Ethiopian squad.
The women's long course team enjoyed a podium finish in 2000 with its bronze-medal finish, with Kastor and Jen Rhines leading the way by placing 12th and 13th respectively. The U.S. also won the team bronze in 1998 in Marrakech Morocco as Elva Dryer finished eighth and Amy Rudolph crossed the line in ninth place.
Not to be outdone, the U.S. senior men's team in 2001 enjoyed an impressive performance as Bob Kennedy (12th), Meb Keflezighi (13th) and Abdi Abdirahman (15th) led Team USA to the bronze medal in the long course race, as Brad Hauser (15th), Tim Broe (18) and Andy Downin (19th) led the short course squad to an impressive fourth place finish in the 4 km race.
Looking ahead to this weekend's competition, 2001 World Cross Country Championships Junior Men's bronze medalist Dathan Ritzenhein will compete in France after easily winning the men's open race last month at the 2005 USA Cross Country Championships. Ritzenhein enters the championships as a contender to make the podium after his surprise win against a strong international field at the 2005 Reebok Cross Country Challenge on January 9 in Belfast, Ireland, a performance that foretold his commanding win last month in Vancouver.
Team USA will field a strong women's short course team that could finish on the podium this year. The squad will be led by two-time defending USA 4 km champion and two-time NCAA cross country champion Shalane Flanagan and 2003 USA women's short course champion, 2004 Olympian and 2004 world indoor 3,000-meter bronze medalist Shayne Culpepper, along with NCAA 5,000-meter record holder Lauren Fleshman. Three-time NCAA Division III cross country champ Melissa Buttry, who won the U.S. national cross country 6 km titles in 2003 & 2004, will add depth to the lineup, along with 2004 Olympic Women's Marathon Trials fourth-place finisher Blake Russell, who placed fourth in the short course race and third in the 8 km race last month at the USA Championships.
In the Junior Men's championship race this weekend, look for reigning national champion and Alberto Salazar-coached Galen Rupp to make challenge for podium honors. Rupp won the USA Junior Men's title last month by a comfortable nine-second margin over a talented field. A member of the Nike-funded Oregon Project, 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) as a senior at Central Catholic High School in Portland, Ore.
For more information on the 2005 World Cross Country Championships, visit www.usatf.org.