Friday, March 27, 2015

Guiyang Course Preview

Ryan Vail, Maksim Korolev, Andrew Colley and Chris Derrick check out the course/Paul Merca photo

GUIYANG, China—The twenty four runners comprising Team USA visited the Quigzhen Training Base to conduct their final pre-race tuneup for Saturday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

The runners toured the course under cloudy skies and mild temperatures, a stark contrast from the last world championship meet two years ago where a snowfall hit Bydgoszcz, Poland several days before the race.

The two-kilometer loop course features a series of turns that makes it difficult for runners to gain a consistent rhythm.  It features several small man-made hills, with a small dip of five meters at the base of the first hill before going up.

Temperatures for the races Saturday are projected to be in the mid to upper 50s, with a threat of rain, which if it happens, may play to the strengths of Team USA, particularly the senior men’s squad, who took a surprising team silver medal in Bydgoszcz.
The championships begin at noon, local time (midnight, Eastern Time) with the junior women's 6K race, followed by the junior men's 8K race at 12:30 local time (12:30 am Eastern time). 

The senior women's 8K race is set for 1:15 pm local time (1:15 am eastern time) followed by the senior men's 12K at 2:10 pm local time (2:10 am Eastern time).

Before the team toured the Quigzhen Training Base, three time USA national cross country champion Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon) was invited to speak to the international media at the traditional pre-race press conference.

Even with the absence of Ben True, who finished sixth in the senior men’s 12k race two years ago, Derrick likes Team USA’s chances to return to the podium.
“We still have Ryan Vail who was in the top 20 last time and he’s very experienced.”

“It’s going to be tough to replicate what we did last time simply because so many things went well. I think it’s rare for things to go so well two times in a row, but I think the team is still strong.”

“I’d say my confidence is pretty high. I think in Edinburgh (where he won the Great Edinburgh Cross Country Race in January) I wasn’t very fit because I had some injuries, but by the time I ran at the US Championships, I felt I was very strong and I am hoping to test myself against a very good field tomorrow.”

Following the course tour, the team selected its four team captains.

Three-time US Olympian Jen Rhines (Boston, Massachusetts), who will make her fifth appearance at the world cross country championship meet, was selected by her peers to serve as the senior women’s captain.

Ryan Vail (Portland, Oregon) , who is making his fifth appearance at the world cross country championships (fourth as a senior) was selected as the senior men’s captain.

Elected captains of the junior men’s and women’s squads were Oklahoma State University freshman Cerake Geberkidane (Denver, Colorado), and University of Colorado freshman Kaitlyn Benner (Superior, Colorado), the reigning US junior champion.

Vail, who was part of the 2013 team that won a sliver medal, said that the honor of being picked as team captain means a lot, and hopes that his experience here will rub off on some of the younger guys.

Rhines echoed the same sentiment, stating, “we have a really great group of people, and I think that everyone’s going to work hard and pull for each other.”

Benner was humbled yet thrilled to be picked as team captain, stating that the women comprising the junior team have bonded well during their stay in China.

Geberkidane gave thanks to every person who helped him get in a position to make the team, and is honored to be picked by his peers.

The four captains also gave their thoughts on the conditions of the Quigzhen Training Base course.

“This course reminds me a lot of the 2009 world championships in Amman, Jordan, with a lot of man made hills, a lot of divots”, said Vail. “It’s gonna be a dragging course.”

Rhines said that the windy course may make things difficult to find a consistent groove, but that it may work to their advantage late in the race when runners start fading from starting fast early.

Benner noted that the little trough or divot in the early part of the loop could make things interesting.
Geberkidane said that the course design “could break your momentum when you think you’ve established a rhythm. You have to be very smart about not going hard too early.”

Universal Sports will show a one-hour highlight package of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships beginning at noon, eastern time on Sunday.

For more information on the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, please visit

Paul Merca is in Guiyang as a correspondent for USA Track & Field.  This was also posted at

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