JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) ran 47:20, to win her fifth national 15 km title, while 2004 Olympic Marathon sliver medalist Meb Keflezighi (San Diego, Calif.) took an unprecedented sixth men's crown in 43:40 Saturday at the USA 15 km Championships in Jacksonville, Fla.
Kastor also captured this year's Equalizer Bonus of $5,000 for being the first athlete - male or female - to cross the finish line. The top-seeded women started 5 minutes before the men, with the "head start" based on the time differential of the U.S. 15 km records of 42:22 for the men (Todd Williams, 1995) and 47:15 for the women (Deena Drossin, 2003).
Kastor charged to the front early, running her first three mile splits in 5:04, 5:01, and 4:58, under pace for her American Record, set at this race four years ago. But her quick splits on the hilly and winding second and third miles combined with warm, humid conditions to take their toll on the record attempt. Despite never being challenged en route to her win, Kastor missed her event and American record -and the accompanying $8000 in bonuses-by a scant five seconds.
Team Running USA teammate and two-time USA 15 km champion Jen Rhines (Ardmore, Pa.) finished second in 48:58, with Elva Dryer (Gunnison, Colo.) third in 49:40.
Meanwhile, Keflezighi had plenty of company, with reigning USA Half-Marathon Champion Ryan Hall (Big Bear Lake, Calif.), Team USA World Cross Country squad member Fasil Bizuneh (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and journeyman Christian Hesch (Morro Bay, Calif.) accompanying him through two miles (passed in 9:04).
As the trio of Hall, Bizuneh, and Keflezighi separated themselves on the march towards the finish line, each took turns in the lead until just past halfway, when Bizuneh attempted to break things up with a hard surge.
Following another move by Bizuneh at five miles, Keflezighi kept on pressing, quickly distancing himself from the former Arizona State standout. Though the two had gapped Hall, he proved to still have some fight left in him, passing Bizuneh and cutting Keflezighi's onetime 30-second lead in half by the time eight miles had been reached at the top of the massive Hart Bridge.
It wasn't enough, though, as Keflezighi, looking effortless, powered down the other side of the bridge towards the finish line in the shadow of Alltel Stadium, for the win.
"I really thought it was going to come down to the last downhill," Keflezighi said later. "But Fasil made a huge move at five miles. I followed him, and it kind of broke things open for me."
Following Keflezighi was Hall, 21 seconds back, with Jason Hartmann (Boulder, Colo.) closing well to pass Bizuneh for third in 44:12.
Marking the 14th year that the USA 15 km Championships has been hosted by the Gate River Run, Kastor and Keflezighi each took home $12,000 for their victories as part of a total prize purse of $58,000 for the championships.
USA Running Circuit
The 2006 USA 15 km Championship was the second event of the 2007 edition of USA Track & Field's 2006 USA Running Circuit (USARC). The USARC, a USA Track & Field road series, features USA Championships from 5 km to the marathon and attracts the best U.S. distance runners, including Olympians Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi, Colleen DeReuck and Dan Browne. The thirteenth edition for the men and twelfth for the women, the 2007 USARC has nine events for men and seven events for women.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with a final $12,500 grand prix purse ($6000, $4000, and $2500) for the top three men and women point scorers overall. The USARC points at the USA Marathon Championships will be doubled.
The mission of the USA Running Circuit is to showcase, support, and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $4 million dollars to U.S. distance runners.
For more information on the 2007 USA 15 km Championships and the 2007 USARC, visit www.usatf.org.