JACKSONVILLE - Andrew Carlson (Bloomington, Minn.) captured his first national title as 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist and defending women's champion Deena Kastor (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.), dominated the women's field at the 2008 USA 15 km Championships Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.
Despite strong, gusty winds, Carlson took charge of the men's lead pack early, leading a group of nearly 20 men past the first mile in 4:47. Occasionally, Fasil Bizuneh (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Reid Coolsaet (Canada) would take a brief turn at the front only to have Carlson take control again as Dan Browne (Portland, Ore.) and Brian Sell (Rochester Hills, Mich.) remained tucked in the pack.
Passing through 10 km just under 29 minutes, Carlson maintained control of the pace as Browne moved to his side. As the leaders started the long climb up the Hart Bridge towards the eight mile mark, Browne made an effort to break away from the pack. The move was enough to drop everyone except Carlson, who would answer with a move of his own, quickly putting ten meters on Browne.
At the finish inside Alltel Stadium, Carlson hit the line in 44:12, nine seconds ahead of Browne. Coolsaet finished third overall in 44:25 while Bizuneh took third in the championship division in 44:29. Brian Sell and Jason Hartmann (Springfield, Ore.) rounded out the top five in 44:47 and 44:57 respectively.
In the women's race, Kastor led from the gun and was on her own to fight the wind. Running 49:36, Kastor earned her sixth national 15 km title. Katie McGregor (Minneapolis, Minn.) ran the majority of her race alone as well, taking the runner-up spot in 50:53 while Tara Storage (Beavercreek, Ohio) took third in 52:33, Mandi Zemba (Minneapolis, Minn.) fourth in 52:33 and Samia Akbar (Herndon, Va.) rounding out the top five in 52:35.
Athletes competed for a total prize purse of $61,500, with the men's and women's USA Champion earning $12,000 each.
This year's running once again featured the Equalizer Bonus, awarding $5,000 to the first male or female to cross the finish line, with the top-seeded women beginning 5 minutes before the men. The 5 minute "head start" is based on the time differential of the U.S. 15 km records: 42:22 for the men (Todd Williams, 1995) and 47:15 for the women (Deena Drossin, 2003), both set on the Gate River Run course. Carlson secured this year's Equalizer Bonus after catching Kastor as they descended the Hart Bridge.
About the USARC
The USA 15 km Championship was the second stop on the 2008 USA Running Circuit (USARC) and this marks the 15th year that the USA 15 km Championships has been hosted by the Gate River Run.
The USARC is a USA Track & Field road series, features USA Championships from 5 km to the marathon and attracts the best U.S. distance runners. The fourteenth edition for the men and thirteenth for the women, the 2008 USARC has seven events for men and nine 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 ($6,000, $4,000, and $2,500) 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 2008 USA 15 km Championships visit www.usatf.org.