Flanagan, Ritzenhein dominate at USA Cross Country Championships

SAN DIEGO-2004 Olympic team members Shalane Flanagan (Pittsboro, N.C) and Dathan Ritzenhein (Eugene, Ore.) each scored convincing victories at the USA Cross Country Championships at Mission Bay Park in San Diego on Saturday.

Flanagan, fresh off a stint of altitude training in Mexico, cruised to a 70-second victory over runner-up Renee Metivier Bailie (Boulder, Colo.) over the eight-kilometer distance, running 25:26 under picture perfect conditions, with temperatures in the mid-60s.

Flanagan took matters into her own hands early, daring any of the runners in the field to go with her.

Following Metivier Bailie and earning spots on Team USA for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships were Emily Brown (Minneapolis, Minn.), who ran 26:37, followed a second later by Katie McGregor (Saint Louis Park, Minn.).

Recent Notre Dame graduate Molly Huddle (Elmira, New York) finished fifth in 26:52, while world cross country team veteran Blake Russell (Marina, Calif.) nabbed the final team position, running 26:54.

In the men's twelve-kilometer race, Ritzenhein, Jorge Torres (Boulder, Colo.) and US Olympic Team Trials-Men's Marathon champion Ryan Hall (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) pulled away from the chase pack early and ran together. As the trio entered lap three, Ritzenhein asserted himself over the duo, and opened up a thirteen-second lead over Torres at the end of that lap.

By the end of lap three, Torres had a twelve-second lead over Hall, with Josh Rohatinsky (Beaverton, Ore.) closing on the duo.

Ritzenhein, the runner-up to Hall in November's US Olympic Team Trials-Men's Marathon, eventually opened up a 26-second gap over Torres, crossing the line in 35:03, with his former University of Colorado teammate finishing in 35:29.

Rohatinsky finished in third, running 35:41, with Edward Moran (Williamsburg, Virginia) fourth in 35:42. Hall faded to fifth, eight seconds back of Hall.

James Carney (Boulder, Colo.) finished sixth in 35:56, while the Oregon Track Club Elite duo of Max King and Ryan Bak (Eugene, Ore.) finished seventh and eighth, in 35:57, and 35:59. Jorge's twin brother Edwardo (Boulder, Colo.) earned the final men's position, running 36:01.

California prep stars ruled the day in the two junior races, as defending champion Jordan Hasay (Arroyo Grande, Calif.) and German Fernandez (Riverbank, Calif.) held off collegiate competitors Alexandra Gits (Edina, Minn.) from Stanford University, and Ryan Sheridan (Melville, N.Y.) from Iona.

Hasay was pressed for most of the race by Gits, before opening up a lead on the final lap to win her second straight USA junior cross country title, running 20:32 for the six-kilometer distance. Gits finished in the runner-up position, running 20:45.

Georgia high schooler Emily Reese (Dunwoody, Georgia) placed third, in 21:26, followed by a trio of college freshmen, led by Notre Dame's Marissa Treece (South Bend, Ind.) in fourth, running 21:33, followed by Duke University's Emily Schwitzer (Durham, North Carolina) in 21:34, and the University of Washington's Lauren Saylor (Clovis, Calif.) garnering the final junior team position, running 21:36 for sixth.

Fernandez, the third place finisher in last fall's Foot Locker national championships, used a strong finishing kick over the last 400 meters to hold off the challenge of Iona College freshman Ryan Sheridan in the junior men's eight kilometer contest, running 24:18, with Sheridan second in 24:19.

University of Virginia freshman Emil Heineking (Chardon, Ohio) finished third in 24:34. Bobby Moldovan (Fort Wayne, Ind.) was fourth in 24:38, while Kevin Williams (Lakewood, Colo.) finished fifth in 24:39. Benjamin Johnson of Albuquerque garnered the final spot, crossing the line in 24:41.

Sean Wade (Houston, Texas) dominated the masters men's eight-kilometer race, crossing the line in 25:15. In the women's race, Jody Hawkins (Frisco, Texas) emerged victorious, running 29:06. Pete Magill (South Pasadena, Calif.) and Kathryn Martin (Northport, N.Y.), the USATF masters runners of the year, won the age-graded titles.

The 2008 USA Cross Country Championships will be televised in association with the AT&T USA Indoor Track & Field Championships February 24, from 5-7 p.m. on ESPN 2.

For more information on the USA Cross Country Championships, please visit www.usatf.org.

Athlete Quotes

Jody Hawkins-The course was good. For the old body it's going to be tough. It's a fair course. I'm glad that spectators can be everywhere. The hills were fair.

Sean Wade-I figured I could run 5-minute pace. I didn't want to leave it to a kick from Peter Magill. I ran how I felt. I knew they were not far away, as I could hear their spikes on the mat. I felt that I could outsprint them in the last 100. I was trying to estimate how much slower this course is as opposed to a road course. I didn't wear spikes, so I felt that I was at a bit of a disadvantage, but I didn't want to wear spikes one time and be out for six months.

Jordan Hasay-I went out a little fast at the Foot Locker championships in San Diego, so I played it a little conservative. I still have to make a decision on whether or not to go. I knew that I had something left at the end. On the last lap, the hills got to me a little bit. It was a little bit easier today than in Boulder.

German Fernandez-I'm looking forward to going overseas. It was a real good race, and my dream came true today. I wanted to qualify, then go for the win, and that's what I did.

Shalane Flanagan-I had my husband telling me how much of a lead I had. I think that training at altitude agrees with me. I'm excited to start the season with a win. This course played to my strength. If we get conditions like this every time at nationals, you can bet that I'll be coming every year. I was within myself, but I stayed aggressive the entire race. I needed to practice that mental toughness for Beijing today. The thought of Beijing is constantly on my mind.

Dathan Ritzenhein-I really didn't expect to pull away by this much today. When I noticed a bit of a hesitation from the field, I decided to go ahead and go. I liked the course. It reminded me of racing on a golf course. I just kept pressing until the last 400 meters. This field was incredible, with a lot of guys who have been national champions, All Americans, and Olympians. We could have one hell of a team for Edinburgh.