Special to USATF, by Paul Merca
EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA - Led by the 15th place finish of Ryan Shay (East Jordan, Mich.), Team USA's men's squad earned a sixth place in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships with a cumulative time of 3:11:38 Saturday in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Team USA's placing is the highest at this event since the 1996 squad finished eighth. The five members of Team USA will split $3000.00 for finishing sixth.
The race at Hawrelak Park was held under cloudy skies, with light drizzle and temperatures in the low 40s at the start of the men's race. The course consisted of 4 1/2 laps in and around the park's perimeter. During the race, the runners crossed a bridge over the North Saskatchewan River once each lap.
Shay's 15th place finish was the highest ever placing by an American, eclipsing the 17th place finish by Clint Verran in 2002. He was followed by Jason Hartmann (Boulder, Colo.), who finished 20th in 1:03:50. Matt Downin (Norwood, N.J.) rounded out the American scorers, finishing 30th in 1:04:53.
Other Americans included Jason Lehmkuhle (Minneapolis, Minn.), who finished 33rd in 1:04:58, and Mike Morgan (Rochester Hills, Mich.), who placed 49th in 1:06:46.
Fabiano Joseph Naasi of Tanzania was the individual winner in a time of 1:01:08. Ethiopia won the team competition, running a cumulative time of 3:06:18.
In the women's competition, Team USA finished ninth in a team time of 3:49:50. Romania emerged victorious with a cumulative time of 3:31:00. Russia (3:33:05) and Japan (3:35:42) placed second and third, respectively.
Laura Turner (Tacoma, Wash.) was the top American, running a personal best of 1:16:11 in finishing 38th. Jenny Spangler (Lake Villa, Ill.) placed 43rd in 1:16:41. Stephanie Bylander (Alamosa, Colo.) rounded out the American scorers, finishing 46th in 1:16:58.
Other Americans included Dot McMahan (Rochester Hills, Mich.), who finished 48th in 1:18:44, and Michelle LaFleur (Savannah, Ga.), who placed 53rd in 1:20:36.
Constantina Tomescu of Romania was the women's overall winner, in a time of 1:09:17, leading her team to the world title.
1. Fabiano Joseph Naasi (TAN) 1:01:08; 2. Mubarak Shami (QAT) 1:01:09; 3. Yonas Kifle (ERI) 1:01:14; 4. Sileshi Sihine (ETH) 1:01:14; 5. Abebe Negera (ETH) 1:01:53.
15. Ryan Shay, 1:03:13; 20. Jason Hartmann, 1:03:32; 30. Matt Downin, 1:04:53;
33. Jason Lehmkuhle, 1:04:58; 49. Mike Morgan, 1:06:46
1. Constantina Tomescu (ROM) 1:09:17; 2. Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 1:10:19; 3. Susan Chepkemei (KEN) 1:10:20; 4. Galina Bogomolova (RUS) 1:10:34; 5. Mihaela Botezan (ROM) 1:10:36.
38. Laura Turner, 1:16:11; 43. Jenny Spangler, 1:16:41; 46. Stephanie Bylander, 1:16:58; 48. Dot McMahan, 1:18:44; 53. Michelle LaFleur, 1:20:36.
Men's Team Quotes:
Matt Downin: Didn't feel good out there. It was a combination of the weather and training for the marathon. I think I'm in really good shape. Sometimes you have bad days. I thought I could run pretty quick. I got out and got after it, then fell apart. I guess you live to fight another day.
Jason Hartmann: The race went pretty well for me. I competed and put myself in a position to run well. This is my longest race ever, so I had to be a bit conservative. The experience of running at the world championships and of competing against the best in the world will help me down the road. I see myself as being a marathoner eventually
Jason Lehmkuhle: I'm pleased. I think I would've liked to run a bit faster. I wasn't sure of my fitness, having run the World Championships marathon six weeks earlier. My plan was to run a bit conservative, and I moved up every lap. I was pleased with the way I raced.
I'm blessed to run these races...I am soaking up the international experience. I think it's good to run as many international races as you can. Being at events like this raises your own level of racing.
Mike Morgan: Just had a tough time with the weather. I went out there and froze, especially being a small guy. The experience of running with an international field is something that I will take home, and also the experience of running tough no matter where you're at.
Ryan Shay: It was cold out there, but I'd rather enjoy that if it weren't for my hands getting numb. My game plan was to stick with the Japanese runners, since I know they would run pretty consistent. In the end I had a pretty good sprint to the end, with a Kenyan and an Ethiopian at the end.
It's a pretty good testament to my fitness, and puts me in a very good position leading up to the New York Marathon. I wanted a top 15 finish, and I got that!
Women's Team Quotes:
Jenny Spangler: Aerobically I felt great, but my legs were tight from the cold and the rain. I just had trouble moving my legs. It seemed to get colder and colder as the race went on, maybe it was my imagination, but it sure felt like it. I was hoping to run 1:14 or better today, so I was disappointed in my time.
Dot McMahan: It felt like it was getting colder and windy as the race went along. It's unfortunate that it took an effect on me, but it did with everyone else. I had no one to run with for most of the race, but I passed four women in the last 5k, and I was pretty happy with that. I take home a personal best, and take home the fact that you've got to be prepared for whatever conditions are out there.
Laura Turner: I felt better in the second half aerobically, but my legs were tight. It was my first half marathon. I would've liked to have run faster. It was fun to be here. Normally you'd warm up as the race goes on, but it seemed to get colder and colder, and the wind picked up, and you could feel it especially on the bridge.
Stephanie Bylander: I felt good the first two laps, but Laura (Turner) pulled away from me. The last few laps were pretty brutal. It helps to be in a situation where people are going out faster than what you're used to, especially in international competition. I'll know what to do and what to expect if I make another team again.
Michelle LaFleur: Today was a tough day for me. I know that everyone had to deal with the cold, but my body was just numb, and it was one foot in front of the other. I felt strong at the beginning but the cold got a hold of me. I did the best I could under the conditions.
For more information on the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, please visit www.usatf.org