Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sara Hall top American at World Cross; Suver, Felnagle & Dressel shine...

Sara Hall was the top American finisher in the senior women's race, placing 20th (photo by Paul Merca)

GUIYANG, China—Two weeks after running in the Los Angeles Marathon, Sara Hall (Flagstaff, Arizona) finished 20th in the eight-kilometer championship race to lead Team USA’s senior women’s squad to a fifth place finish at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships at the Quigzhen Training Base Saturday.

The Americans scored 128 points, as Ethiopia won a close battle with Kenya, by a count of 17-19.

Uganda was third with 101 points, followed by China with 122 points.

Despite rain that hit the city overnight, the conditions were fairly mild and overcast with temperatures in the mid to high 50s throughout the course of the day, with little footing issues.

Halfway through the first lap, Hall found herself in about 60th place, with reigning USA national champion Laura Thweatt (Boulder, Colorado) and Eastern Washington alum Mattie Suver (Colorado Springs, Colorado) running up front in the mid 30s or so, before she started picking people off over the next three laps, crossing the line in 28:19.

Thweatt finished in 29th place in 28:49, followed by Suver in 34th place at 29:00.  Brie Felnagle (Seattle, Washington), who trains with the Brooks Beasts group, rounded out the four USA scorers in 45th place in 29:19.  

Veteran Olympian Jen Rhines (Boston, Massachusetts) was 51st in 29:39, and Elaina Balouris (Brighton, Massachusetts) finished in 64th place in 30:14.

In a battle of teenagers, 19 year old Agnes Tirop of Kenya won the senior women’s race in a time of 26:01, over 19-year old Senbere Teferi of Ethiopia, who ran 26:06.  Netsanet Gudeta of Ethiopia was third in 26:11.

For their efforts, Team USA earned $8000 for finishing fifth.


Lightning did not strike twice for Team USA in the senior men’s 11870 meter race, as the team, which finished second in the 2013 championships, finished seventh and out of the money by one place, scoring 131 points, just short of sixth-place Tanzania’s 130.

In yet another close score, Ethiopia defeated Kenya with an identical score of 20.  Under the rules, the team title went to Ethiopia when their fourth scorer, Atsedu Tsegay finished seventh, as opposed to Kenya’s fourth scorer, Philip Langat, who finished 12th.

Reigning USA national champion Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon) was the top finisher, crossing the lin in 36:45.

Ryan Vail (Portland, Oregon) was the next scorer for Team USA, finishing 34th in 37:27, followed by Patrick Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah) in 36th in 37:31, and Bobby Curtis (Rochester, Michigan) in 37th in 37:32.

Maksim Korolev (Stanford, California) was 57th in 38:27, while Andrew Colley (Lenoir, North Carolina) was 90th in 40:24.

Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamwowor won the world title in 34:52, eight seconds clear of countryman Bedan Muchiri.  Muktar Edris of Ethiopia was third in 35:06.

Bahrain was third in the team race with 54 points, followed by Eritrea with 91, Uganda with 92 for fifth, then Tanzania in sixth with 130, just ahead of Team USA.

Mt. Spokane HS senior John Dressel finished 27th in the junior men's race (photo by Paul Merca)


John Dressel (Colbert, Washington), a senior at Mt. Spokane HS, led Team USA to a sixth place finish in the junior men’s 8k race, running 25:25 to finish 27th.

USA junior champion Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah) was 29th in 25:28, followed by Cerake Geberkidane (Denver, Colorado) in 34th at 25:46, and Eric Hamer (Monument, Colorado) rounded out the four scorers in 42nd at 25:58.

Paul Roberts (Boulder, Colorado) was 59th in 26:31, and Paul Miller (Fort Collins, Colorado) was 74th in 26:57.

Yasin Haji of Ethiopia won the junior title in a time of 23:42, but Kenya won the team title with 19 points, followed by Ethiopia’s 33 points, and Eritrea’s 52 points.


The day of racing led off with the junior women’s 6k race, as Caitlyn Benner (Superior, Colorado) finished 27th in 21:45 to lead the American squad to an eighth place finish, scoring 177 points.

Following Benner were Lauren Gregory (Fort Collins, Colorado) in 33rd at 22:01,  Katie Rainsberger (Colorado Springs, Colorado) in 55th at 22:49, and Valerie Constien (Edwards, Colorado) in 62nd at 22:58 to wrap up the scoring for Team USA.

Kelsey Schrader (Fayetteville, Arkansas) was 66th in 23:06, and Shaelyn Sorensen was 68th in 23:10.

Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey led her country to a sweep of the individual medals, running 19:48, and helped her squad win the world junior title with 11 points, followed by Kenya’s 33, and Bahrain’s 52.

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


Senior Women

Sara Hall (Flagstaff, Arizona)—I’m extremely happy with how I did considering the disappointment coming off the Los Angeles Marathon.  I was surprised that I kept moving up.  The record high temperatures in Boulder and Los Angeles (at the nationals and at the marathon) helped me out with the race today.  After LA, I could barely walk, but (US senior women’s coach) James Li encouraged me to give it a day or so to see how it feels.  I thank him for encouraging me to come out here.

I’m looking forward to doing some steeples or 10k races.  I’m excited that the strength gained from the marathon is starting to translate to the shorter distances.

Senior Men

Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon)—I started out in the 20s. There would be a point when I would surge, then I would feel the effects.  This was a very tough course.  There were points in the race where I thought that I could get four or five guys, but in reality I didn’t move. It was very disappointing, but I gave it all I had.  It was a really hard race. I will have to go get the 10000m standard at the Peyton Jordan meet.

Ryan Vail (Portland, Oregon)—I just did the best that I could.  I knew that it was a tough race, and we gave it a shot.  This course was really a lot tougher than it looked.

Junior Men

Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah)—I went out way too hard and I was behind my own teammates. We started super quick & nobody slowed down.  I got hurt right before the Pan Ams & got hurt again two and a half weeks before this.  My parents questioned whether or not I should come here.  I might have run 30 miles this week, including the race.

John Dressel (Colbert, Washington)—I have to give Cerake credit for taking it out and giving us something to aim for.  I had to be patient in trying to catch people.

The experience gained here will help when I go to the University of Colorado in the fall.  It shows I still have a lot of work to do.  I gave it what I could considering it’s the world championships.

NOTE:  USA Track & Field contributed to this report.  Paul Merca is covering the world cross country championships for USATF.

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