MOMBASA, Kenya - The 16-member Team USA squad practiced Friday at the Mombasa Golf Course, the venue for this Saturday's 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
The championships begin Saturday with the Junior Women's race at (all times local) 3:30 p.m. in Mombasa, with the Junior Men's 4 km race at 4:05 p.m. The Senior Women's 8 km race follows at 4:40 pm, and finishes with the Open Men's 12 km at 5:20 p.m.
Athletes practiced Friday under clear skies with temperatures in the mid 90s, with very high humidity. Close to identical weather is forecast for Saturday's world championships.
The course, set at the Mombasa Golf Club, is a two kilometer loop that winds tightly over the fairways along the Indian Ocean. Traveling through a dozen sand traps each circuit, the course is primarily flat with short straight stretches, a few short climbs and several turns.
Following Friday's course preview, Team USA members Joshua Edmonds, Michael Spence, and Renee Metivier Baillie gave their impressions of the course.
Josh Edmonds: It's a windy course, hard packed, except for the sand traps that we navigate through, which will make it interesting. Other than that, the course looks pretty decent.
The short climbs and the sharp turns look like some places to do something.
Michael Spence: The footing is quite good, except for the sand which mixes things up, but that's what cross country is supposed to be. The course itself looks good; there's some good rises, but not any extended hills, but a couple of good abrupt changes of pace. The heat will be the biggest factor.
Renee Metivier Baillie: I thought that this is one of the most beautiful courses. What people in the press said about the course, with it being picturesque next to the Indian Ocean is entirely true. They put sand on the part of the course where we cross the asphalt road, which I've never seen before!
At first sight, this course looks easy, but with the sand, and tricky turns, this course is harder than I thought. The footing is perfect; the grass is as perfect as you can get it. With the sharp turns, you can really lose people.
Junior spotlight - Matt Tebo
From Paul Merca
Albuquerque native Matt Tebo finds himself as the lone high schooler on the 16-member Team USA squad competing in Saturday's IAAF World Cross Country Championships at the Mombasa Golf Course here in the Kenyan coastal city.
As one of America's top prep distance standouts and a six-time New Mexico state champion at Eldorado High School, Tebo has earned All-American status from several track and field publications in 2006, and he won the Foot Locker West Regional cross country title before placing fifth in the Foot Locker national finals in December.
"It's been great learning from many of the pros on this team," Tebo said in describing the interaction between the junior and senior teams. "They don't mind if we try and tag along with them and work a little harder to try and keep up with them. They hang out with us, they eat meals with us, they play ping-pong and go swimming with us. It's really a lot of fun."
This week, the team visited several sites around Mombasa, including historical Fort Jesus, went on a shopping excursion, and tried to purchase items to bring home from street vendors. "I found out that I wasn't quite as good at bargaining as I thought," he said.
In Saturday's race, the New Mexico native plans to "go hard, and find out what I need to do to run with these kind of people at this level. It will certainly be a learning experience."
A total prize purse of $30,000 will go to the individual placing in the top-six in both the men's and women's open races, while winning teams in the open divisions will receive $20,000 and awards again reaching down to sixth for men's and women's teams.
The IAAF World Cross Country Championships will be shown on a pay-per-view basis online Saturday starting at 3 pm eastern time on wcsn.com.
For more information on the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, please visit www.usatf.org.