Hall surprises Ritzenhein; Tollefson, Uhl win USA Cross Country Championships presented by Gleukos


Jim Estes
LDR Programs Manager
USA Track & Field

NEW YORK - Ryan Hall (Woodside Calif.), surprised defending champion Dathan Ritzenhein (Boulder, Colo.), in the open men's 12 km, while Carrie Tollefson (Minneapolis, Minn.), took the open women's 4 km and Kiel Uhl (Ames, Iowa), captured the Junior men's 8 km to win U.S. titles at the 2006 USA Cross Country Championships presented by Gleukos held at Van Cortlandt Park on Sunday.

The championships served 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 for the U.S. team on April 1-2 in Fukuoka, Japan. The USA Championships and World Cross Country Team Trials follow the same format as the upcoming World Championships, with six races over a two-day span.

Under clear skies with temperatures in the low 20s during Sunday's competition, the began with the Junior men's 8 km that saw a large group pass the first loop with Michael Eaton (Bowling Green, Ky.), and Landon Peacock (Morely, Mich.) in front and Uhl and Jordan McDougal (Peru, N.Y.) staying close.

As the pack advanced through the next two laps, several lead changes saw McDougal, Scott Macpherson (Fayetteville, Ark.) and University of Arkansas teammate Chris Barnicle (Fayetteville, Ark.) each take a turn in the lead. Uhl maintained contact until he began to edge away over the final lap to win the title in 23:50, seven seconds up on Macpherson. Barnicle finished another six seconds back for third, while Andrew Bumbalough (Brentwood, Tenn.), made a charge to take fourth. McDougal and Eaton held on to finish fifth and sixth respectively, to finalize the U.S. squad.

"I saw a little bit of a gap, and I knew I should make a move then," said Uhl. "I have a decent kick, but I knew there were some guys back there who were faster than me, so I knew that I would have to go with about 3k left. My first goal was to get myself on the team, then go for broke."

In the open women's race, 2005 runner-up Lauren Fleshman (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.), Tollefson and Sara Hall (Woodside, Calif.), worked together to generate a ten meter lead over a chase pack headed by Saturday's open women's 8 km champion Blake Russell (Marina, Calif.), As the leaders began the second lap, Tollefson extended a small lead that she would carry to the finish to win her first USA Cross Country title, running 12:32, five seconds up on Fleshman. Russell, Amy Mortimer (West Roxbury, Mass.), Sarah Schwald (Madison, Wis.), and Sara Hall completed the top-six to make the U.S. team.

"It didn't seem early to break away, because Lauren Fleshman and Sara Hall were up there," said Tollefson. "I thought, relax, and cover the move, get through the hills, and hammer. It was a good race. We have a handful of great runners who are going to Japan."

In the open men's race, Hall and Jorge Torres (Boulder, Colo.), who were third and fourth in Saturday's 4 km, pressed the pace along with Ritzenhein and Max King (Bend, Ore.) to take a small lead on the rest of the field that included Jason Hartmann (Boulder, Colo.) and Pat Gildea (Knoxville, Tenn.). At the start of the fourth lap, Hall stepped into the lead and began to open a gap of 30 meters on Torres while King passed Ritzenhein to move in to third. As the final two laps progressed, Hall easily extended his lead to win comfortably in 34:38, 27 seconds ahead of Torres. King held on to finish seven seconds ahead of Ritzenhein in 35:20 while Hartmann and Matt Gabrielson (Apple Valley, Minn.) rounded out the U.S. squad for Fukuoka.

"It was probably the most fun race of my life," said Hall. "It's my first 12k. I thought that I would make a move and see who would go, and maybe if I get a gap, then keep going. I'm not the best in the mud and slop, so I was happy that the ground froze last night. I am really excited to be going to worlds with my wife Sara." Sara Hall finished 6th in the women's open 4k.

The USA Cross Country Championships presented by Gleukos will be televised February 20 (late evening February 19) at 12:00 a.m. EST on ESPN 2.

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