Thursday, March 26, 2015

Team USA Preview--IAAF World Cross Country Championships...

Chris Derrick/photo by Paul Merca
GUIYANG, China—Three-time USATF Cross Country champion Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon), who has won the last two races run this season, leads Team USA into Saturday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships with hopes of returning the squad onto the medal podium.

Derrick finished tenth two years ago at the world cross country championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland to help Team USA earn a surprising silver team medal, the first return by an American squad to the podium since 2001 in Ostend, Belgium, and the first sliver earned since the 1984 squad turned the trick in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

He won his season opener on January 10th in Edinburgh, winning the Great Edinburgh Cross Country meet in Scotland, cruising over the 8k course in 25:31 to lead the USA to the team title.

A month later, Derrick ran away from the field to take his third national title in Boulder, Colorado, winning over the 12k distance in 36:18, 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Bobby Curtis.

Returning to the 2015 team is Ryan Vail (Portland, Oregon), who was a part of the silver-medal winning squad two years ago. Vail was fourth in Boulder, and was 17th in Bydgoszcz.Runner-up Bobby Curtis (Rochester, Michigan), and Patrick Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah) both have world cross country experience. Curtis was 37th in 2009. and 47th in 2010, while Smyth was 35th in 2009. Andrew Colley (Lenoir, North Carolina) does have world cross country experience, running as a junior in 2010, while Maksim Korolev (Stanford, California) recently won the APA Pan American Cup last month in Colombia.

The USA senior women’s squad is led by national champion Laura Thweatt (Boulder, Colorado), who pulled away from the field late to win by 41 seconds in Boulder. While Guiyang marks Thweatt’s inaugural showing at the world cross country championships, she’ll have alongside her three women who have prior experience at this meet, including runner-up Mattie Suver (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Olympian Jen Rhines (Boston, Massachusetts), who finished third at the national championships, and fifth place finisher Sara Hall. (Flagstaff, Arizona).

Suver finished 26th in Bydgoszcz two years ago, while Rhines has a career best 12th place finish in 2002 in her four appearances at the world cross country championships, and owns a team silver medal from 2002. Hall, who ran at the Los Angeles Marathon a few weeks ago, has two world cross country championships appearances in 2002 as a junior, and in 2006 in the now-defunct short cross race.

Brie Felnagle (Seattle, Washington), who is primarily a middle distance specialist, and Elaina Balouris (Brighton, Massachusetts), who is Rhines’ training partner, round out the six women representing Team USA in the senior women’s race.

The junior teams will be led by national champions Kaitlyn Benner (Superior, Colorado), a freshman at the University of Colorado, and Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah), a senior at Sky View HS.

After winning the national junior title, Mantz traveled to Barranquilla, Colombia on February 22nd and finished second at the APA Pan American Cross Country Cup, while Benner won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation 5000m indoor title on February 27th.

Here are the rosters for the two junior squads:

Team USA women’s junior roster: Kaitlyn Benner (Superior, Colorado), Valerie Constien (Edwards, Colorado), Lauren Gregory (Fort Collins, Colorado), Katie Rainsberger (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Kelsey Schrader (Fayetteville, Arkansas), Shaelyn Sorensen (Lake Elmo, Minnesota).

Team USA men’s junior roster: Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah), Cerake Geberkidane (Denver, Colorado), John Dressel (Colbert, Washington), Eric Hamer (Monument, Colorado), Paul Miller (Fort Collins, Colorado), Paul Roberts (Boulder, Colorado).

The coaching staff for Team USA are: James Li (senior women’s coach), Thom Hunt (senior men’s coach), Carmen Ayala-Troncoso (junior women’s coach), and Ed Eyestone (junior men’s coach).

At the last world cross country championships two years ago, the USA senior men’s team earned a silver medal. The USA senior women’s team finished fourth, and the junior women were sixth. Team USA’s junior men were fourth.

NOTE: This report was originally published on the USA Track & Field web site.  Paul Merca is serving as a correspondent for USA Track & Field in Guiyang, China.

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