March 25th 2009
USA FIND STRENGTH IN DEPTH
A large number of USA team athletes will make their international debuts this weekend at the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan (Saturday 28th March).
Not only that, but for many, it will be the first time they have travelled to compete outside of America. “It’s cool being here,” says USA Cross Country Championships bronze medallist Bobby Curtis who will make his senior international debut and also his first competitive outing outside of his home country. “We’re visiting the Dead Sea and Petra, so hopefully we’ll get the whole experience.” The event, to be held at Bisharat Golf Course in Amman, is being billed as Jordan’s biggest ever and represents the opportunity for US athletes to compete in a team with genuine medal potential. A sum of US$280,000 in prize money will be paid by the IAAF for the two senior races.* In recent years US distance running has been dominated by a limited number of individual superstars, but over the past decade there has been a gradual progression towards a consistently higher level of performance in a greater number of athletes. “Going back to the early 2000s we had Olympic medal winning athletes in Meb Keflezighi (men’s marathon silver medallist in 2004) and Deena Kastor (women’s marathon bronze medallist in 2004),” says USA Team Leader Jim Estes. “As a result of that there was a real collective effort in the US to set up unique training groups with different coaches across the country, and they’ve now raised the game.”
“We’re missing a couple of guys, but we’ve still got a strong team here in Jordan. That’s the nice thing, for a while we only had one or two athletes who were really competitive in international races, and they were a point of inspiration, but now we’ve really strong teams as a whole, so it’s been a nice progression for us.”
The potential of the 2009 USA junior men’s team goes some way to demonstrating this.
Individually, German Fernandez, two-time USA Junior Cross Country Champion who earlier this year ran the fastest ever indoor mile by a junior (3:56.50), is the USA’s biggest medal hope. He finished 25th in Edinburgh in 2008 and has demonstrated top ten potential, but it’s the team medal opportunity which excites Estes most.
Fernandez leads a quartet including Chris Derrick, runner-up in the recent USA Cross Country Championships, Luke Puskedra, who finished third and Ryan Hill, in addition to Syracuse University team mates Patrick DuPont and Francisco Medrano, who repeatedly race at a high level together. “I think it’s going to be a really good team dynamic,” he says. The senior athletes on the team are equally positive about their chances.
“I think this team is just as strong as it was when we finished sixth in Edinburgh,” says Ed Moran (senior men). “We are less experienced with a lot of first timers, but we have a lot of guys who have come out of successful collegiate careers and have stepped up well – I’m fairly confident we can perform well.”
“This is my fifth World Cross in five years,” adds Kathy Newberry (senior women). “Last year we finished fourth team and we packed really well. This year we have a young team but there are a lot of really fit, talented, first timers. They’re doing a heck of a job.” More than 700 athletes from 63 countries are expected for the event which gets underway on Saturday with the Opening Ceremony at 1.30pm, followed by the junior women’s race – the first race of four - at 2.30pm. Entry is free.