FUKUOKA, JAPAN - Adam Goucher (Portland, Ore.) finished sixth to lead Team USA's open men's team to fifth place in the 4 km at the 34th IAAF World Cross Country Championships at Umi-no-Nakamichi Seaside Park on Saturday.
Pre-race favorite Kenenisa Bekele, of Ethiopia, defeated Isaac Songok, of Kenya by one second running the 4-kilometer course in 10:54 to win his fifth straight win in the short course event. Goucher ran 11:02 for the highest ever finish for a U.S. man over 4 km.
Goucher held true to his pre-race prediction of a top-ten finish, working his way through a pack of over 30 men before he moved into the top-ten during the final circuit, steadily pushing his way past many of the world's best harriers during the final kilometer.
"When you say something, you hope it happens," said Goucher. "I was looking at the start list, and I said to myself to run my race, and let it unfold, because people will die, and I just kept running hard. I felt good out there, especially when you're running against the fastest guys in the world. This was just awesome!"
In the team competition, Team USA scored 80 points to finish fifth behind Kenya (21), Ethiopia (48), Morocco (53) and Qatar (66) respectively.
Russell leads U.S. women in Open Women's 8 km
In her first race of the weekend, Blake Russell (Marina, Calif.), finished 11th in the Open Women's 8 km. Defending champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia made a late charge to overtake Lornah Kipligat of the Netherlands in the final 200 meters, running the 8-kilometer course in 25:21 to win by five seconds. Russell's time of 26:23 was good for her highest finish ever at the World Cross Country Championships.
"It felt tough, I felt like I finished strong. My goal was top ten and I was 11th, so I can't be too disappointed," said Russell, who will run the Open Women's 4 km on Sunday. "I usually don't like ice baths, but I am going to have one to get ready for tomorrow. I think tomorrow will be easy compared to this. At least I know how to run it."
Ethiopia won the team title with 16 points, defeating Kenya (39) for the second straight year. Early in the race the U.S. women were in position for a sixth team medal but were pushed back to score 91 points to finish fifth-place, thanks to late charges from Japan (80) and Australia (87) respectively.
U.S. junior women finish eighth
McKayla Plank (New Rochelle, N.Y.) and Erin Bedell (Waco, Texas) finished 32nd and 35th respectively to lead Team USA's junior women's squad to an eighth-place finish in the 6 km race. Kenya swept the first four places to score a perfect 10 points to take the team title over Ethiopia (29) for the second consecutive year. Host country Japan finished third with 58 points.
Open Men's 4 km
Individual Standings: 1. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH), 10:54; 2. Isaac Kiprono Songok (KEN), 10:55; 3. Adil Kaouch (MAR), 10:57; 4. Benjamin Limo (KEN), 11:00; 5. Aboosh Mohamed Ali (ETH) 11:01.
Team USA: 6. Adam Goucher (11:02); 19. Ryan Hall (11:18); 27. Jorge Torres (11:21); Daniel Lincoln (11:21); 33. Ian Dobson (11:25); 57. Luke Watson (11:35)
Open Women's 8 km
Individual Standings: 1. Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH), 25:21; 2. Lornah Kiplagat (NED), 25:26; 3. Meselech Melkamu (ETH), 25:38; 4. Benita Johnson (AUS), 25:43; 5. Wude Ayalew Yimer (ETH), 25:47
Team USA: 11. Blake Russell (26:23); 21. Katie McGregor (26:46); 26. Sara Slattery (26:51); 33. Colleen De Reuck (27:07); 49. Rene Metivier (27:37); 59. Sharon Thompson (27:54).
Junior Women's 6 km
Individual Standings: 1. Pauline Chemning Korikwiang (KEN), 19:27; 2. Veronica Nyaruai Wanjiru (KEN), 19:27; 3. Mercy Jelimo Kosgei (KEN), 19:45; 4. Emmy Chepkirui (KEN), 19:52; 5. Belainesh Zemedkun Gebre (ETH), 19:56.
Team USA: 32. McKayla Plank (21:15); 35. Erin Bedell (21:20); 39. Kauren Tarver (21:26); 40. Nicole Blood (21:28); 53. Marie Lawrence (22:05); 68. Madeline McKeever (22:52).
Junior Women's 6 km
Nicole Blood - It was different than any kind of race that I've run. It was really aggressive out there-it was fun! The start was really rough, and a lot of girls went out hard. The experience has been amazing being out with the best in the world.
McKayla Plank - It was a tough race all the way through. There was a lot of pushing and shoving out there. I started out third on our team, and I tried to work my way up and hang on at the end. I did the best that I could. I take home a lifetime of experience. This has been the best time of my life. This is my first real taste of international competition, and I can't wait to try and earn another spot on Team USA.
Kauren Tarver - There was a lot of competition-man it was fast! There was a lot of people pushing and shoving, and coming up besides and behind you. I want to train harder and come back to world cross next year.
Marie Lawrence -It was everything that I expected. I just wished that I had a better race. The race felt kind of slow for a while, then I didn't feel like myself. It's a really great experience, and I am glad that I came. I just wished that I had a better day.
Erin Bedell -I would've liked to have done better, but we all went out and did our best. The field was real tough out there; probably better than it was last year. It was aggressive around the curve. You just have to get used to running with the best of the best; it's also the same way at the NCAA's. I have to be a little bit more aggressive and not feel sorry for myself in the middle of the race.
Madeline McKeever - It was the worst race of my life. I got out well, but my body just kind of backfired. I felt like I was jogging and I couldn't do anything about it. I felt very sluggish. I didn't feel like a runner today. I don't know if I will be back for one of these, but I have an idea of what it takes to get back here and be the best runner I can be. It's been inspiring to be around the older runners, and the best runners in the world.
Open Men's 4 km
Daniel Lincoln - I was trying to get into a rhythm. I couldn't calm myself down and get into a rhythm and hang in the pack like I needed to be. Between 2 and 3k is when I let myself drop off, and that's what I was disappointed in myself with. I could tell I was having a bad day, and the results are ok for having a bad day. I was definitely wanting more.
Ryan Hall - It went well. The pacing wasn't as crazy as I thought it was going to be. I got out there and tried to get into a rhythm, and tried to stay close to Adam. He ran a great race. I wanted to be a part of this team and run a good 4k. I was up there right around 2k. I feel pretty good for tomorrow's 12k race. I feel like I have more in the tank. I feel like I did in New York. Tonight, it's an ice bath, lots of rest, and gear up for tomorrow.
Jorge Torres - It was tough from the gun. I knew from when we checked out the course yesterday that it was going to be fast. Our whole goal was to finish on the podium. Goucher ran a hell of a race-you gotta give him his props. Our team has a lot of young guys and we're trying to prove that America is trying to get up to the top level.
Ian Dobson - It slowed down in the second kilometer, and we got back in there. It felt more like a 2k race out there. I was behind a few of our guys, and I wanted to run in the pack. I wanted to be like (Adam) Goucher-he did it!
Luke Watson - I went out a little conservative. Historically on a real flat course, if I go out hard I don't run well. I was by Ian at 2k, then the pain set in, and that's when guys started to move. To really do well, you really need to put four guys in the top 20 or so.
Open Women's 8 km
Colleen De Reuck - The start was pretty fast, but after the first lap, things settled down. It was a tough race out there. I heard people yelling out there (with the team race in the balance). My (left) Achilles went out there, and I couldn't push off the way I wanted to. I heard people yelling, 'go with the Japanese and the Australian', but I couldn't do anything about it.
Renee Metivier - It wasn't a good day. Some of my teammates really stepped up. I tried to stay tough for my team. I was trying to get up there to help out, but I was too far back to make an impact. This was a learning experience. I went out a little too slow, and it's hard to make up ground.
Sara Slattery - I was hurting after 2k. This was a race where you couldn't let up up--otherwise people will pass you. It was helpful to have Katie running with me. We kept going back and forth and it gave me motivation to get going again. It's the strongest race I've ever run. Wearing the USA on your chest makes you want to push it even more, and you don't want to let your team down. It was very motivating to have people out there cheering us on. This is a building block to the next race. Hopefully next year I can be top 10-15. I want to be out here next year pushing USA to be on the podium.
Katie McGregor - I wasn't real excited about my race, but at the same time, I wasn't real disappointed. I thought that for what I was doing the past month, I'd do pretty well. I felt like I was picking people off every lap. The rolling hills helped us out a lot. It was a fun race. Overall, I thought our team did pretty well. I was disappointed with the fifth place finish. The whole time we knew we were fighting with the Australians, but the Japanese girls started coming up the last lap--we just weren't planning on it. We caught a few Aussies at the finish, but it didn't help. You'd like to get up on the medal stand, but I think we did pretty well.
Sharon Thompson - It was fast. I felt like I was running hard the whole time. I tried to pick off people, but I kept falling back a little bit. I know now from the experience how to prepare better. The experience is good for the next time around.
The second day of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships will feature the Junior Men's 8 km race, the Open Men's 12 km race and the Open Women's 4 km race. Day two will be Webcast in the United States at www.wcsn.com, giving American fans the chance to watch Team USA live as they compete. The Webcast will begin at 10:50 p.m. ET/7:50 PT on Saturday, April 1; and continue in the early-morning hours of April 2.
Cost of the Webcast of the World Cross Country Championships is $19.95. Fans also can sign up for the wcsn.com World Athletics pass, which provides access to all 2006 WCSN track and field Webcasts, including 13 European events such as select Grand Prix meets, the 2006 World Athletics Final and 2006 World Cup in Athletics.
For more information on the 2006 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, visit www.usatf.org.