Sunday, December 12, 2010

Washington alum & Swiss national record holder Christian Belz announces retirement...

ZURICH, Switzerland--Two time Swiss Olympian Christian Belz (#865/photo by Paul Merca) announced his retirement from competitive running Sunday in Zurich after a seventh place finish in the Zurich New Year's Run, the final race of the Post Cup road running series in Switzerland.

After graduating from the University of Washington in 1998, Belz competed in two Olympics--Sydney in 2000, where he finished eighth in his heat in the 3000 meter steeplechase in 8:29.19, and in Athens four years later, where he was 12th in his heat of the 5000 meters in 13:29.59.

He also participated in four IAAF World Track & Field Championships during his career, finishing eighth in his heat in the 1999 championships in Seville in the steeple (8:29.19); 13th in the finals two years later in Edmonton (8:31.43); 13th in the finals of the 5000 in Paris/St. Denis in 2003 (13:26.02); and 14th in the 10000 in Helsinki in 2005, where he set a Swiss national record of 27:53.16 in the rain at Olympic Stadium.

Belz also appeared twice for his native country at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, finishing 18th in the short race in 2003 in Lausanne as the Swiss hosted the meet; and 28th in the short race in St. Etienne, France.

Belz (photo courtesy is the Swiss national record holder in both the steeple (8:22.24 in 2001 in Hengelo), and the 10000. However, he recently stated that he is most proud of his 5000m PR of 13:12.16, set in 2003 in Heusden, nearly five seconds off the national record set in 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympics by silver medalist Markus Ryffel.

This past summer, Belz finished sixth in the 10000 at the European Championships in Barcelona

In the press release from the Swiss Athletics Federation, Belz said, "I will devote myself more to my family and my job as a sports economist...I am leaving in good health. My decision to retire was not forced upon me."  He expressed concerns that to continue competing at the international level, Belz, who has two children, would have to train away from home for an extended period of time, a sacrifice that was not an option.

In a post Sunday on his Twitter account, he wrote, "Felt good to lead the pack one more time. I'll sure miss it. Thanks for all the support."

At the University of Washington, he was a two-year letter winner in track, competed in three Pac-10 cross country championship meets for the Huskies, and made two appearances for the Dawgs at the NCAA cross country championships, earning All-America honors in 1998 with a 17th place finish in Lawrence, Kansas.

Belz is 10th on the all-time UW list in the 3000 steeplechase, with a 8:48.34h mark set in 1997.

On Saturday, Club Northwest's women's team finished sixth in the 6k race at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships Saturday at McAlpine Greenway Park, scoring 159 points, as McMillan Elite out of Flagstaff, Arizona swept both team titles with a low score of 69 points.

Sarah Porter, who recently finished second at last week's NCAA Division II championships for Western Washington, finished seventh in a time of 20:17.

Former Georgetown runner Rose Wetzel was 27th in 20:46, followed by Claudia Copeland in 20:56.

Rounding out the scoring for Club Northwest were former Stanford runner Sarna Becker in 48th place in 21:13, and Lois Ricardi Keller in 75th at 21:34.

Renee Metivier Baillie of Boulder, who was a member of the bronze medal winning USA squad at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland this spring, won the individual title in 19:51.

Club Northwest's open men's team finished twelfth in a field of 45 teams with 351 points.

The team was led by former Washington Husky and current Northwest University coach Mark Mandi, who finished 59th over the 10k course in 31:07.

Also scoring for the Seattle based club were former Eastern Washington runner Paul Limpf, who was 69th in 31:21, followed by Kevin Murphy in 96th in 31:43.

Former Gonzaga runner Brett Winegar was 101st in 31:48, and former Husky Mike Sayenko was one place behind Winegar in the same time.

Aaron Braun of McMillan Elite won the race in 29:36, leading his club to the team title with 29 points.

Former Washington State runner Drew Polley, now running for the Hansons/Brooks Distance Project, finished 47th in 30:52.

The 2011 edition of the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships will be held at Seattle's Jefferson Park Golf Course.

Complete results from the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships can be accessed here.

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