BOULDER, Colo. - Olympians Alan Culpepper (Lafayette, Colo.) and Deena Kastor (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) returned to the USA Cross Country Championships for the first time since 2003, winning in style today at the USA Cross Country Championships presented by Gleukos. Culpepper was timed in 37:09 for the men's 12 km course and Kastor cruised to victory in 26:47 for the women's 8 km.
The event also served as the trials race to select the Team USA squad that will compete at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, to be held in Mombasa, Kenya on March 24. The 2007 USA Cross Country Championships will be televised in association with the Tyson Invitational February 11, from 1-3 p.m. on ESPN 2.
Culpepper, the 2004 Olympic Marathon Trials champion, used a run from behind strategy to win his third cross country title over a field that included three other past champions. Kastor, the 2004 Olympic Marathon Bronze Medalist, took the lead early to make quick work of an equally strong women's field to win her eighth championship.
2005 champion Dathan Ritzenhein (Boulder, Colo.) charged to an early lead in the men's race, opening a nine second gap over multiple USA Cross Country champion Adam Goucher (Portland, Ore.) at half way, with Culpepper another six seconds behind his former Colorado teammate.
Moving into the final four kilometers, Culpepper began a push that would take him past Goucher and Ritzenhein by the 9 km mark and from there was able to enjoy winning the title in his hometown.
"This is really special," said Culpepper. "I almost came to tears down the last straight seeing all the fans. This is where Shayne and I started our marriage, and this is where my running made a big step forward. I felt like I owed it to Boulder to run well today-they've been so supportive of Shayne and I. The way this community supports us is truly amazing."
Goucher overtook Ritzenhein to capture the runner-up spot in 37:35 with Ritzenhein finishing 12 seconds later for third. Also qualifying for the Team USA Cross Country squad were Jorge Torres (Boulder, Colo.); Michael Spence (Ogden, Utah); Zach Sabatino (Morgantown, W.Va.); Fasil Bizuneh (Bristol, Va.); James Carney (Marina, Calif.); and Jason Lehmkuhle (Minneapolis, Minn.).
In the women's race, Kastor and two-time USA Cross Country 4 km champion Shalane Flanagan (Pittsboro, N.C.) separated themselves from the field immediately but Kastor was on her own for the majority of the race after dispatching Flanagan at the first kilometer mark.
"It felt good to get back to cross country-I haven't run a cross country race since 2003," said Kastor. "I was a little scared because of my lack of cross country racing. But as soon as we got to the starting line, I felt that excitement once again from years back. It's a different burn that I felt today versus the marathon. I put my heart and soul out there, and I didn't have much left at the end."
Flanagan was timed in 27:48 for the runner-up spot, with Kara Goucher rounding out the top three in 28:01. Rounding out the qualifiers for the women's Team USA Cross Country squad was Lauren Fleshman (Palo Alto, Calif.); Renee Metivier (Boulder, Colo.); and Elva Dryer (Gunnison, Colo.).
In the junior men's 8 km race, Elliot Heath (Winona, Minn.) pulled away from the field with three kilometers to go, running 26:07 to win the USA Junior Men's Cross Country title. Also qualifying to represent the U.S. at World Cross Country was Kenny Klotz (Eugene, Ore.); Matthew Tebo (Albuquerque, N.M.); Ryan McNiff (Los Alamos, N.M.); Noel Bateman (New Rochelle, N.Y.); and Joshua Edmonds (Cooperstown, N.Y.).
In the junior women's 6 km, Jordan Hasay (Arroyo Grande, Calif.) ran away from the rest of the field to capture the title in 21:44 and qualify for her first Team USA Cross Country team. Additional team qualifiers included Bona Jones (Fort Meyers, Fla.); Kari Hardt (Queen Creek, Ariz.); Aurora Scott (Chesapeake, Va.); Jocelyn Burke (Waunakee Wis.); and Aislinn Ryan (Bellvale, N.Y.).
National championships were also decided for masters men and women at 8 km with titles going to the following:
40-44 - Dennis Simonaitis (Draper, Utah); Patty Murray (Boulder, Colo.).
45-49 - Peter Magill (South Pasadena, Calif.); Mercedes Gil (Fort Collins, Colo.)
50-54 - Steve Gallegos (Golden, Colo.); Martha Buttner (Boulder, Colo.)
55-59 - Doug Bell (Greeley, Colo.); Kathryn Martin (Northport, N.Y.)
60-64 - Richard Meyers (Voorhees, N.J.); Marilyn Stapleton (Greeley, Colo.)
65-69 - Thom Weddle (Minneapolis, Minn); Betty Valent (Boulder, Colo.)
70-74 - John Brennand (Santa Barbara, Calif); Lois Calhoun (Boulder, Colo.
75-79 - Donald Hayes (Boulder, Colo.)
80-84 - Glenn McIntosh (Boulder, Colo); Nancy Smalley (Boulder, Colo.)
85-89 - Irving Weiss (Boulder, Colo.)
The 2007 USA Cross Country Championships will also be the topic of a documentary called "Showdown", which takes fans behind the scenes with Abdirahman, Culpepper, Keflezighi, Ritzenhein, and Jorge Torres.
Shot on location in Houston, San Diego, and Tucson, as well as in Edinburgh, Scotland, the movie's action culminated this weekend at the 2007 USA Cross Country Championships.
The DVD will be released later this spring in partnership with USA Track & Field (USATF), and feature richly cinematic "look and feel". It will show in 16:9 widescreen format, with high-definition footage rarely seen before in the sport. A 2-minute trailer can be previewed here.
For more information on the 2007 USA Cross Country Championships presented by Gleukos visit www.usatf.org.