KAMPALA, Uganda—Team USA rolled into Kampala with hopes of bringing back to the United States a team medal of any color at this coming Sunday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships at the Kololo Independence Grounds.
A return to the podium by either the senior men’s team or the women’s senior squad would mark the first time since the men did it at the 2013 championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland when the team earned a silver medal, and the first since 2011 for the women’s squad in Punta Umbria, Spain.
Adding to the intrigue is the first mixed relay featuring teams of two men and two women who will run a two-kilometer loop, in any order. The runners will pass a wrist band that serves as the baton through the 20-meter exchange zone.
Team USA’s mixed relay team is led by Paul Chelimo (left/photo by Paul Merca), the reigning Olympic 5000 meter silver medalist from Rio, who recently won the USATF indoor two-mile title in Albuquerque in a time of 8:28.53. He will be joined by Ohio State grad Cory Leslie, best known as an 8:19.12 steeplechaser, along with University of Washington alum Eleanor Fulton, who was seventh in the 1000 meters at the USATF indoor championships, and Marisa Howard, who was an NCAA scorer in the steeplechase in 2015 at Boise State.
Reigning USATF Cross Country champion Leonard Korir enters these world championships with an undefeated record so far this year. Korir started 2017 off with a victory at the Great Edinburgh X-Country race, defeating Great Britain’s Callum Hawkins in a thrilling finish, running the 8K course in 24:03. He then won the USATF title in Bend, Oregon last month by running the 10k course in 30:12.
The 2016 Olympian at 10000 meters will be joined on the team by second place finisher Stanley Kebenei; Korir’s 2016 Olympic 10000m teammate Shadrack Kipchirchir; former NCAA cross country champion Sam Chelanga; University of Oregon alum Trevor Dunbar, who has world cross country championship experience as an Under-20 athlete; and University of Portland grad Scott Fauble.
Multi-time USATF champion Aliphine Tuliamuk leads Team USA into Kampala, after her victorious romp over the snowy River’s Edge Golf Course in Bend, where she clocked 34:24 to win by 48 seconds.
Joining Tuliamuk are fifth place finisher Sarah Pagano, formerly out of Syracuse University; Pagano’s Boston AA teammate Elaina Balouris, who returns to the world cross country championships after finishing 64th in this meet two years ago in Guiyang; seventh place finisher Stephanie Bruce; ninth place finisher Emily Pritt, who ran in this meet in Amman, Jordan as an under-20 athlete; and, Texas A&M alum Natosha Rogers.
Paul Roberts from Division II Colorado State University/Pueblo returns to the national team after winning the men’s Under-20 title by four seconds over Isaac Harding, a freshman at the University of Michigan. Roberts is the only athlete on the Under-20 squad with world cross country championship experience, as he placed 59th two years ago in Guiyang.
Also on this all-college freshman team are third place finisher Hamza Ali from the University of Minnesota; fourth place finisher Gavin Parpart from the University of Washington; fifth place finisher Aidan Reed from Southern Utah University; and seventh placer Alec Haines from Oklahoma State University.
The Under-20 women’s team is led by Oklahoma State freshman Michelle Magnani, who earned a hard fought 5-second victory in Bend over Northwestern freshman Aubrey Roberts.
Fourth place finisher Logan Morris from Clemson; fifth place finisher Megan Murray from Tennessee; sixth place finisher Kristen Garcia, the lone high school athlete from Sedro Wooley, Washington; and, seventh placer Madison Fruchey from Indiana University/Purdue University at Fort Wayne, round out the Team USA squad.
The coaching staff for Team USA is: Ed Eyestone (senior men’s coach); Dena Evans, a former state track champion from Mercer Island (senior women’s coach); Steve Placencia (Under-20 mens’ coach); and Melody Fairchild (Under-20 women’s coach).
At the last world cross country championships two years ago in Guiyang, China, the senior women finished fifth, while the senior men were seventh. Team USA’s Under-20 men were sixth, and the Under-20 women were eighth.
The state of Washington is represented in Kampala by: Eleanor Fulton (Washington alum), Gavin Parpart (current Husky), and Kristen Garcia from Sedro Wooley HS. University of Washington incoming freshman Shona McCulloch is competing for Team Canada in the U20 women's race.
The IAAF World Cross Country Championships will be aired on a delayed basis on Universal HD online from 11:30am to 12:30pm, and broadcast from 9pm to 10pm, also on Universal HD.
Follow along with #USATF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using #Kampala2017.
NOTE: This post was originally published on the USA Track & Field web site. paulmerca.blogspot.com publisher Paul Merca is in Kampala working as the press officer for USA Track & Field.