INDIANAPOLIS - Many of the top cross country runners in the U.S. will converge on legendary Van Cortlandt Park for the USA Cross Country Championships Presented by Gleukos this Saturday and Sunday.
The championships will be televised February 20 (late evening February 19) at 12:00 a.m. EST on ESPN 2.
Among the favorites are defending U.S. women's long course champion Colleen De Reuck, and men's reigning 12 km champion Dathan Ritzenhein, while 2004 Men's 4 km champion Charlie Gruber and Lauren Fleshman, the top returning finisher from last year's women's 4 km, will also be on hand to take on America's best this weekend at the 2006 USA Cross Country Championships presented by Gleukos and World Cross Country Team Trials.
In addition to crowning national champions, the USA Cross Country Championships presented by Gleukos will serve as the selection event for the U.S. team that will compete at the 2006 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. The top six finishers in the Open and Junior races are eligible to compete April 1-2 at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. The USA Championships follows the same format as the upcoming World Championships, with six races over a two-day span.
Also contending for USA Cross Country titles and Team USA berths in the men's 12 km will be 2005 USA 20 km and 10 Mile Champion Abdi Abdirahman, as well as Jason Hartmann and Max King, who finished second and third respectively at the USA Men's Half Marathon Championship. The men's 4 km 2004 USATF National Club Cross Country individual Champion Jorge Torres heads a field that also includes Ian Dobson and Ryan Hall, who finished second and third respectively at the 2005 USA Outdoor Championships 5,000m.
In the women's 8 km, 2005 USA 10,000 meter champion Katie McGregor will challenge DeReuck for the title along with 2005 USA 20 km champion Blake Russell and 2005 USA Marathon Champion Nicole Aish.
In the women's 4 km, Fleshman will see challenges from 2004 Olympian Carrie Tollefson, 2004 NCAA 5,000 meter runner-up Sara Hall and NCAA 10,000 meter champion Sara Slattery.
In the Junior men's 8 km, 2005 Foot Locker National Champion A.J. Acosta leads a field that includes Kenny Klotz of Oregon, who finished fourth at the Foot Locker Championships, and Landon Peacock who finished fifth.
The Junior Women's 6 kmis led by Baylor University freshman Erin Bedell from Plano, Texas, who finished 28th at last year's IAAF World Cross Country Championships in St. Galmier, France. Bedell placed second in last year's national championships in Vancouver, Washington.
Heavy morning rains and gusty winds late in the day on Friday and dipping temperatures continue to dominate the headlines in advance of the USA Cross Country Championships.
Olympian Anthony Famiglietti, expected to contend in the 4 km race, shrugs off the weather as a problem. "It's cross country, "he said. "It's never been how fast you run, it's where you place. The snow, the hills, just adds to the competitiveness. The more pain the better." For more information on the USA Cross Country Championships presented by Gleukos visit www.usatf.org.