SAN DIEGO - Olympic Bronze medalist and American record holder Shalane Flanagan (Portland, Ore.) dominated the women's field to win her fifth USA Cross Country title, while Brent Vaughn (Blackhawk, Colo.) surprised the men's field to win his first USA title Saturday at the 2011 USA Cross Country Championships.
In addition to the national titles up for grabs in San Diego, open and junior men and women qualified to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships March 20 in Punta Umbria, Spain.
In the women's 8 km, Flanagan took an early lead and never looked back. Leading by more than 10 seconds after the first 2 km loop, Flanagan steadily increased her lead over Molly Huddle (Providence, R.I.), who had a small lead over a chase pack that included Lisa Koll (Portland, Ore.), Olympic marathoners Magdalena Lewy Boulet (Oakland, Calif.) and Blake Russell (Pacific Grove, Calif.), with Zap Fitness standout Alissa McKaig (Blowing Rock, N.C.) hanging on.
After 6 km, Flanagan led by 40 seconds while Koll pulled even with Huddle. As Flanagan cruised to a 41-second win, Huddle pulled away from Koll to claim the runner-up spot in 26:31 as Koll took third in 26:41. Rounding out the Team USA qualifiers, Boulet took fourth in 27:02, with Russell fifth in 27:06 and McKaig taking sixth in 27:07.
In the men's 12 km, a large pack ran together through 6 km before Vaughn made his move, opening a nine-second lead over a chase pack that included Ed Moran (Williamsburg, Va.), Matt Tegenkamp (Portland, Ore.), Ben True (Hanover, N.H.), Brian Olinger (Westerville, Ohio), Max King (Bend, Ore.) and Andrew Bumbalough (Portland, Ore.).
Over the final two laps, Bumbalough, Tegenkamp, Moran, True, King and Olinger gave chase, closing the gap on Vaughn. Going into the final lap, Vaughn looked to have the win secured but waited until the final meters to celebrate his six second win, finishing in 35:46. Bumbalough, who made the 2006 world cross country championship team as a junior member, claimed the runner-up position in 35:52, while Moran took third in 35:54. Tegenkamp finished in fourth, and True and Olinger rounded out the Team USA qualifiers in 36:03 and 36:05 respectively.
Cuffe powers to convincing win in junior women's race
Much as she did two months ago at the Foot Locker National Championships across town, high school senior Aisling Cuffe (Cornwall On Hudson, N.Y.) steamrolled past her opposition to decisively win the junior women's 6 km championship.
Cuffe opened up a substantial gap on the field early, and was never challenged for the victory, crossing the finish line in 21:13, a 26-second gap over runner up Molly Grabill of nearby Poway, California.
In the battle for second, Grabill, a senior in high school, tussled with University of Washington freshman Katie Flood (Des Moines, Iowa), before Grabill inched forward and opened a four second gap at the finish over Flood, who crossed the line in 21:43.
Sierra Vega (Santa Ana, Calif.) finished fourth in 22:00, while Julie Nacouzi (Santa Rosa, Calif.) of the Buffalo Chips Running Club took fifth in 22:17. Hannah Valenzuela (Apple Valley, Calif.) took the final spot to Punta Umbria with a sixth-place finish in 22:17, four seconds up on University of Washington freshman Chelsea Orr (Sammamish, Wash.).
Olson wins junior men's title
Stanford University freshman Erik Olson (Novato, Calif.) bided his time over a closely bunched group of runners, before powering away for the victory in the junior men's 8 km race.
In a race that had no clear cut favorite entering Saturday's competition, Olson waited until the final lap to put on a surge that broke the field, crossing the line in 24:48, a nine-second win over runner up Maxwell Straneva (Binghampton, N.Y.).
Heralded high schooler Craig Lutz (Highland Village, Texas) took third in 25:06, with Justin Vilhauer (Visalia, Calif.) fourth in 25:09.
Ryan Poland of (Westminster, Colo.) was fifth in 25:16, and in an identical scenario to last year's race in Spokane, high school senior Ammar Moussa (Arcadia, Calif.) grabbed the sixth and final spot to the world championships, finishing in 25:20.
National championships were also decided for masters men and women at 8 km with titles on the line in five-year age groups beginning at age 40 and up.
Masters ace Pete Magill (South Pasadena, Calif.) claimed the overall masters men's title in 26:17 and Colleen De Reuck (Boulder, Colo.) took the women's in 28:47. Magill and Kathryn Martin (Northport, N.Y.) claimed the masters age-graded titles.
Video highlights of the USA Cross Country Championships are available in cooperation with RunnerSpace.com at www.USARunningCircuit.com.
Brent Vaughn: It's gonna be great to put on that USA jersey. It's gonna be hard to put it into words. I'm gonna have a hard time sleeping tonight (after dropping out of the USA half marathon last week) I didn't want to waste this opportunity. I've been working too hard to waste my fitness. I was planning to give Ryan Hall a run for his money, but that didn't happen. I was so disappointed after DNF'ing last week that I thought about quitting and getting a job. I felt bad for everyone who's coached me. I felt like I let everyone down. Coach (Mark) Wetmore taught me at Colorado that you finish no matter what.
I like to race aggressively. When you get the lead and you get a gap, all of a sudden your mind gets pretty strong.
Shalane Flanagan: As soon as I finished, I looked around to see who was finishing behind me. I think we're going to have an amazing team in Spain. I'm really excited about this squad, and I hope that these ladies will commit to going to Spain. I hope to run real fast on the track this summer. Daegu is certainly the center of our training for this year I went out at a fast pace, basically to simulate what I'm going to do in Spain. I was a little more aggressive than I wanted to be, but it all worked out in the end. There's nothing easy about cross country. It callouses your body for the track.
Aisling Cuffe: I'm so excited to go to Spain! I saw some of the Washington girls up front, so I was a little worried. During the race, some of the people on the course started yelling the distance I was ahead, and so I told myself to relax and be confident that you've got the race. I'm going to run my normal indoor season before going to Spain.
Erik Olson: In the last 3k, I tried to drop the hammer. 8K is a pretty long distance so it's hard to lead from start to finish, and having said that, cross country races in college are won in the last 2k. I'm going to do some multi-tasking the next few weeks, and focus on worlds and also try to qualify for the NCAA championships indoors.
Colleen De Reuck: I'm doing half (of the training) that I normally do. I'm training less and working more. This race was age graded, so you just run. Kathryn Martin was really the one to beat. The first K was pretty easy, but the last few were pretty hard.
Pete Magill: Good races feel pretty easy, and it felt that way. I was feeling pretty good until about 30 seconds after crossing the finish line. I was gonna do a little victory dance, then I curled up in the fetal position and started hurling my cookies. I turn 50 in four months, and I am hoping to break 15 minutes in the 5k, but on the roads,
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