SAN DIEGO - A record field of more than 700 athletes will converge on Mission Bay Park in San Diego, Calif., for Saturday's USA Cross Country Championships. Six races are scheduled to decide national champions for masters men and women; junior men and women; and open men and women.
In addition to the national titles, open and junior men and women will qualify to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 30. The 2008 USA Cross Country Championships will be televised in association with the AT&T USA Indoor Track & Field Championships February 24, from 5-7 p.m. on ESPN 2.
This year's field includes six U.S. Olympians and eight former USA Cross Country Championship titlists, including Elliot Heath (Winona, Minn.) and Jordan Hasay (Arroyo Grande, Calif.), the defending champions in the junior men's and women's events.
The open men's race will see Ryan Hall (Big Bear, Calif.) and Dathan Ritzenhein (Eugene, Ore.) face each other for the first time since the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon on November 3, 2007, where both men punched their ticket to Beijing, China for the 2008 Olympic Games. Though Hall dominated the Olympic Trials in New York, the 12 km distance could prove to be more favorable for Ritzenhein when considering his personal best for 10,000 meters of 27:35.65 versus Hall's 28:07.93.
With a men's field that includes seven men who have run faster than 28:00 for 10,000 meters, Hall and Ritzenhein are likely to see challenges from a variety of contenders including recent USA Half Marathon champion James Carney (Boulder, Colo.), 2004 Olympian at 10,000 and the marathon Dan Browne (Portland, Ore.), Olympic steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti (New York, N.Y.), former NCAA Cross Country champions Jorge Torres (Boulder, Colo.) and Josh Rohatinsky (Portland, Ore.).
Also vying for team positions for Edinburgh will be former U.S. cross country squad members Max King (Eugene, Ore), and Andrew Carlson (Minneapolis, Minn.), Matt Gabrielson (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Jason Lehmkuhle (Minneapolis, Minn.).
The women's field will feature American Record holder Shalane Flanagan (Pittsboro, N.C.), a two-time USA Cross Country 4 km titlist (2004, 2005). Flanagan will face 2006 USA 10 km champion on the roads Katie McGregor (Minneapolis, Minn.), who will look to make her sixth USA Cross Country team. Additional contenders for the title and team berths include Nicole Aish (Gunnison, Colo.), Blake Russell (Monterey, Calif.), Sara Slattery (Lafayette, Colo.) and two-time USA Cross Country Champion (2004, 2005) Colleen De Reuck (Boulder, Colo.).
Junior champions set to defend
Heath, currently a Stanford University freshman, will face the challenge of German Fernandez, the 2007 California state champ from Riverbank High School, who finished third in last fall's Foot Locker National Championships; the University of Virginia's Emil Heineking, the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year, who finished 56th at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana; and, Matt Tebo of the University of Colorado, who was a member of Team USA at last year's World Cross Country Championships.
Hasay, who ran 9:23.90 in an outdoor 3,000m race last weekend, will be pressed by Stanford freshman Alexandra Gits, who was third at the 2007 NCAA West Regional cross country championships last fall; and 2006 Team USA member Kauren Tarver of Serrrano (Calif.) High School. Others to watch include Duke University's Christy Adamyk; North Carolina State's Colleen Wetherbee; and the University of Washington's Lauren Saylor.
National championships will also be decided for masters men and women at 8 km with titles on the line in five-year age groups beginning at age 40 and up.
The men's field will be led by Peter Magill (South Pasadena, Calif.) and Tracy Lokken (Marquette, Mich.) while the women will be led by Jody Hawkins (Frisco, Texas) and Sylvia Mosqueda (Los Angeles, Calif.).
For more information on the 2008 USA Cross Country Championships visit www.usatf.org.