Saturday, February 15, 2014

Chris Derrick wins second straight USA harrier title; Izaic Yorks becomes fifth Husky to break 4 minutes...

BOULDER, Colorado--With no world cross country team berths on the line, it may have been devoid of big names, but you wouldn't have known it as the athletes who made the trek to the home of the University of Colorado gave it their all at the USA Cross Country Championships at the Flatirons Golf Course.

Portland-based Chris Derrick (left/photo by Paul Merca) repeated as the senior men's national cross country champ, after staying in the pack for the first third of the 12k race.

Derrick, the Stanford alum, stayed with the group of nine for the first two laps, and stretched out his lead over the final four 2k laps, winning the title by a 25-second margin over Luke Puskedra of the Nike Oregon Project, with 2012 champ Bobby Mack third at 36:43.

Club Northwest's Joe Gray from Lakewood, the 2013 USATF national club cross country champ, was fourth in 36:58.

Bellingham native Jake Riley was eighth in a time of 37:18.

Derrick, who has been training in Colorado Springs over the last few weeks, said, "I want to be the best cross country runner in America. I feel really strong in my training, especially training at altitude at Colorado Springs.  I've never done two hour runs before, and now I'm doing those.  I felt the guys were letting me have it, and I felt like I was in a groove, so I went."

In the women's 8k race, there was a bit of an upset, as Flagstaff-based Amy Van Alstine took the victory over Boulder resident Jenny Simpson.

From the gun, a pack of a dozen women grouped up and ran together for much of the first half of the race, including pre-race favorite and US Olympian Jenny Simpson.

Just before the 4,000m mark, Van Alstine along with Northern Arizona Elite teammate Kellyn Johnson, Simpson, Eastern Washington alum Mattie Suver and Alisha Williams started to break from the field. As Van Alstine and Johnson led the charge, the field continued to thin. Before 6,000m Van Alstine surged ahead, gaining a three second lead over Johnson and an eight second lead over third place Suver.

Over the final 2,000m, Van Alstine charged hard, grinding down the competition and widening her lead. As she crossed the finish line with a wide smile and her arms raised in triumph, Van Alstine realized she won her first U.S. title, 22 seconds before the runner-up, Simpson at 27:35.

Suver crossed the line in third in 28:01.

“I expected someone to go, but nobody went,” said Van Alstine. “I tried to pick it up a bit, and I could feel everyone breathing on me. I felt really good, and I was kind of surprised that I won, and that Jenny (Simpson) wasn't in front of me. I'm really happy and amazed.”

In the junior men's 8k, Colbert's John Dressel, the 2013 Foot Locker national runner-up, finished fourth in a time of 25:45, as Stanford's Sean McGorty led a Cardinal 1-2-3 finish, winning the national title in 24:44.

In Seattle, University of Washington sophomore Izaic Yorks (above/photo courtesy University of Washington) joined Greg Gibson, Eric Garner, Austin Abbott, and James Cameron as the fifth runner in school history to break four minutes in the mile at the Husky Classic Saturday at the Dempsey Indoor.

Yorks was fourth in a race that was won by defending NCAA 1,500m Champion Mac Fleet of Oregon, but Yorks, who could see the clock ticking away down the homestretch, leaned across the line to become just the fifth Husky ever to run a sub-four-minute mile, one of the most treasured numbers in sports. His time ranks fourth in UW history, with the last Husky to break the mark being current senior James Cameron, back in 2011.

“I knew today was the day. I knew it, I just didn’t know by how much,” said Yorks, who was running his first mile this season after beginning the year running 800- and 1000-meter races. “But I was extremely excited, and even more excited to know that this for sure isn’t as fast as I can go. More than anything it’s my first mile rust-buster.”

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