Team USA women win bronze medal at World Cross Country Championships

03-20-2005

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Tom Surber
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SAINT GALMIER, FRANCE - Led by Lauren Fleshman and Blake Russell, Team USA's women's 4 km team won the bronze medal Sunday at the 2005 World Cross Country Championships in Saint Galmier, France.

Team USA tallied 67 points to place third in the women's 4 km race, with Ethiopia winning the event with 18 points, and Kenya placing second with 19 points. This is the first U.S. women's short course team medal-winning performance since 1998 in Marrakech, Morocco, when Team USA won the bronze.

Sunday's races were contested under a cloudless sky with temperatures in the upper 70s. The course was dry and fast with one 50-meter long patch of mud for athletes to contend with.

A 14-time All-American while at Stanford, Lauren Fleshman was strong from the start as she and Russell stayed aggressive throughout the race. Fleshman (Stanford, Calif.) finished the race in 11th place, with Russell (Acton, Mass.), who placed fourth at the 2004 USA Women's Marathon Trials, finishing 15th. 2004 Olympian and two-time defending USA short course champion Shalane Flanagan (Marblehead, Mass.) was 20th with 2004 Olympic Trials 5,000m champion and 2003 USA 4 km cross country champion Shayne Culpepper right behind in 21st to complete the U.S scoring. 2005 USA Cross Country Championships sixth-place finisher Amy Mortimer was 52nd, with three-time NCAA Division III cross country champion and two-time USA 6 km Cross Country Champion Missy Buttry (Waverly, Iowa) 90th.

In men's action on Sunday, 2005 U.S. men's 12 km champion Dathan Ritzenhein (Boulder, Colo.) began experiencing blisters early in the race and wound up finishing 62nd in the 12 km race on Sunday. The top finishing American was 2003 Foot Locker Cross Country Champion Matt Withrow (Madison, Wisc.), who finished 60th. Eight-time Stanford All-American Ian Dobson (Stanford, Calif.) placed 61, with 2005 USA Half-Marathon runner-up Matt Gabrielson (Apple Valley, Minn.) 79th. 2005 USA long course fifth-placer Jason Lehmkuhle (Minneapolis, Minn.) was 80th, with 2005 USA Cross Country Nationals seventh-place finisher Paul Kezes (Eugene, Ore.) 94th.

The U.S. men's squad finished 13th with 262 points, with Ethiopia winning the event with 24 points, Kenya the runner-up with 35 points and Qatar third with 42 points.

2005 USA men's junior champion and member of the Nike Oregon Project, Galen Rupp (Portland, Ore.) placed 20th in the men's junior race Sunday to lead the U.S. team to a 7th place finish (154 points). Kenya won the team title with a perfect score of 10 points, with Ethiopia the runner-up with 37 points and Qatar third with 75 points. Rupp's performance is the best in the men's junior race since Dathan Ritzenhein won the bronze medal in 2001 at Ostend, Belgium.

Other U.S. finishers included 2005 USA Junior runner-up Stuart Egan (Madison, Wisc.), 38th; William and Mary freshman Christopher Landry (Williamsburg, Va.) 46th; University of Stanford redshirt freshman Hakon DeVries (Palo Alto, Calif.), 50th; University of Washington freshman Jeremy Mineau (Seattle, Wash.), 67th and Oklahoma State University freshman Ryan Vail (Stillwater, Okla.), 77th.

Open Women's 4 km:

Individual Standings: 1. Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH), 13:15; 2. Werknesh Kidane (ETH), 13:16; 3. Isabella Ochichi (KEN), 13:21; 4. Prisca Jepleting Ngetich (KEN), 13:25; 5. Luch Wangui (KEN), 13:25.

Team USA: 11. Lauren Fleshman (13:44), 15. Blake Russell (13:57); 20. Shalane Flanagan (14:05); 21. Shayne Culpepper (14:06); 52. Amy Mortimer (14:37); 90. Melissa Buttry (15:19).

Open Men's 12 km

Individual Standings: 1. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH), 35:06; 2. Zersenay Tadesse (ERI), 35:20; 3. Abdullah Ahmad Hassan (QAT), 35:34; 4. Abebe Dinkesa Negera (ETH), 35:37; 5. Eliud Kipchoge (KEN), 35:37.

Team USA: 60. Matt Withrow (38:41); 61. Ian Dobson (38:45); 62. Dathan Ritzenhein (38:46); 79. Matt Gabrielson (38:46); 80. Jason Lehmkuhle (39:14); 94. Paul Kezes (39:41).

Junior Men's 8 km

Individual Standings: 1. Augustine Kiprono Choge (KEN), 23:59; 2. Bernard Kiprop Kipyego (KEN), 24:00; 3. Barnabas Kiplagat Kosgei (KEN), 24:00; 4. Hosea Mwok Macharinyan (KEN), 24:09; 5. Mang'ata Kimai Ndiwa (KEN), 24:15.

Team USA: 20. Galen Rupp (25:05); 38. Stuart Eagon (25:57); 46. Christopher Landry (26:13); 50. Hakon Devries (26:33); 67. Jeremy Mineau (27:10); 77. Ryan Vail (27:27).

Open Men's Team Quotes:

Dathan Ritzenhein (on the blisters on his feet): That was probably the main problem. That was the big disaster. Between 2 and 3k, very early on in the race, I started getting bad blisters on the bottom of my feet. My right foot right now doesn't fit in my shoe real well, it's swollen on the bottom. That started it all and I was limping around out there and it threw me off and everything went downhill from there. When it happened I thought about taking my shoes off, but at that point they'd already formed (blisters) so that would just make it worse. I knew that when they were forming that it was going to be a long race, but it got worse and worse. My foot is really sore on the bottom. It was terrible. I think I could've held on for a respectable finish if it wasn't for this

Ian Dobson: I didn't think it would be this hot. I didn't think the heat was the problem, really. It was pretty terrible, but it was pretty bad. After two laps I was ready to be done. The only positive thing I can say about the race is that I didn't drop out. I felt weak and just wasn't competitive. There's nothing I can say.

Matt Gabrielson: Race-wise there's nothing I can compare this to due to the caliber of the field being so deep and all the countries. I was prepared for it so I wasn't shell-shocked, or anything like that. It was exactly like I expected it to be. Considering how I felt I'm pretty pleased with how I competed. I disappointed because I just didn't have it. I was off. Overall it was a great experience.

Paul Kezes: All in all, I did what I could. There wasn't much more I could do preparation-wise, physically, mentally or emotional. As far as the physical aspect goes, my body just wasn't there, but I pushed as hard as I could. I made a move after three loops where I started moving up, and then I started moving back after about 9k. My head hurts and I'm dizzy. I'm proud of myself for finishing. I hate to admit it but my body is prone to heat stroke and heat exhaustion, so I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case today.

Jason Lehmkuhle: The best thing I can say is that it was intense. It's very intense at the start and it was intense halfway through. It's billed as the most competitive race in the world and from what I've seen it backs that up for sure. I'm from a strength background and I'm in marathon training, so I can't expect to go out in 60 (seconds) in the first quarter and not have all systems just shut down. I'm happy with the way I competed and I really put forth the effort.

Matthew Withrow: I competed as hard as I could today. I just didn't have it. They fly you over here you can't give up, you gotta keep competing.

Open Women's Team Quotes:

Shalane Flanagan: That's the only reason that I'm here, for the team for the team to get on the stand. I'm so pleased that I could help the team to a top-three finish. The foot is feeling much better, which is really exciting, but it is not 100 percent better. I was not hindered by it. If anything it was a lack of fitness and not being able to work out. I am excited to see some progression on the foot. Hopefully that will translate to an awesome outdoor season. This meet was one of my goals for this year.

Shayne Culpepper: It's a great feeling. It's an awesome feeling. It was a lot of fun. I am so happy that we were able to pull it off. I probably went out a little bit too slow, but I really wanted to have a solid performance by going out conservatively. If I would have gone out hard, maybe I would have run awesome, but then again, I could've gone out the back door. It was important to be a scorer, so I played it kind of safe. We knew as a group that we wanted to medal, however we are all different runners and we have different strengths, so we wanted to do our own race plan, and individually run as best as possible.

Lauren Fleshman: We did a great job out there. This group ran with a lot of integrity. Everybody said what they wanted to do for this week from way back at U.S. Nationals. We thought we had a chance to win a medal and before the race we all talked about our goals and it's such a mature group of women. Everyone ran with one goal in mind and that speaks volumes about this team. I got some really good advice from some athletes that ran yesterday and got some good advice to stay conservative and stay within myself. I pretty much emulated Jorge Torres' race plan from yesterday. I had a really strong kick home and passed some people the last 50 meters to get 11th.

Melissa Buttry: It's an amazing feeling to make the medal podium. It was probably my worst race of the season so far. I hurt my foot at Nationals last week and it caused me to break down mentally. It was really fun to be with the team. The girls ran awesome and I'm really proud of them.

Blake Russell: This is more than I imagined. I'm so excited. It was a hard race. I know me being more of a long distance runner I had to go out hard and get a good start. I started my kick with 4k to go. I was running pretty hard and I felt that I was recovering after the hills and jumps and I caught a couple people. I was happy to finish with a strong kick. The little hills were more annoying than anything else. They were high enough that you had to think about them, but they weren't bad. The mud was the worst part. We came hoping to get a medal. Everybody needed a really great day and Lauren really stepped it up a notch. I think everybody really had a good day.

Amy Mortimer: We are so excited. This was our goal and we really wanted to do it. My race was pretty brutal and it was a really hard race, but I'm happy with it. I wasn't sure what to expect when I came here. It was exciting and really neat to have such a team atmosphere. My teammates are awesome and we've really bonded.

Junior Men's Team Quotes:

Galen Rupp: I honestly thought the start would be faster. I got out really well, and I was probably in the lead, I think, for the first 50 (meters) and that might've hurt me a little bit.

The course was good. The first two loops were not the most challenging, but it really hits you in the last two. The mud spots really got to me, I know, and the hills as well, though they're not very big they catch you when you're tired. You need to keep your focus a lot because you're going over logs and having to dodge other people, and you have to watch you're footing as well. It was about what I expected. I thought it was going to be a lot faster in the first k.

Hakon Devries: I think that it was probably one of the hottest races I've run temperature-wise that I've run in my life. There's no shade on the course and it just got to me. We figured that Galen (Rupp) would go out, maybe a couple of spots ahead of us and we were hoping to see where he was moving and try to pack up as best we could. It worked to an extent, but we got separated early and we all started hurting and we didn't have anybody to use. I ran the fastest 200m I've ever run to start the race and I still got buried in the middle of the pack.

Stuart Eagon: Not available for comment.

Christopher Landry: We went out really fast and I wanted to go out a little slower because I didn't want to be dead last. Surprisingly enough the pack broke right in front of me and I was able to have room to maneuver and get up front as much as I wanted. I'm used to running in 30 to 40 degree weather, so this was scorching. It was nice having our other five guys out there so I could see them and try to work my way up to them, so I could run with them for a little ways.

Jeremy Mineau: It was a fast race. It went out quick and I went out a little harder than I probably should have. It was good to be running with the USA guys for the first 2k or so, we were sticking together and running in a good rhythm. At about 2k, I hadn't started to relax yet and it just hit me and I just couldn't keep it up. This is totally different from a collegiate field. It's intense the entire way.

Ryan Vail: It was definitely the most intense conditions I've ever been in with the heat. My problem was to go out conservative and hopefully work my way back up. I went out conservative and just didn't come back the way I expected. The competition is great, with so many runners running so fast and it's really intense to be in the middle of that.

For more information on the 2005 World Cross Country Championships, visit www.usatf.org.