Part II: Interviews with Brent Vaughn, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, Erik Olson, Molly Grabill, Justin Vilhauer, Ryan Poland, Scott Bauhs, Chris Barnicle and Aisling Cuffe Before 2011 World XC

By  XCNation.com
March 1, 2011

TeamUSA.jpg

Editor's Note :Part two of a four part series leading to the World Cross Country Championships to be held March 20, 2011 in Punta Umbria, Spain by XCNation.com reprinted with permission..

Part 1: Interviews with Andrew Bumbalough, Molly Huddle, Ammar Moussa, Hannah Valenzuela, Craig Lutz, and Blake Russell Before 2011 World XC
Part 2: Interviews with Brent Vaughn, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, Erik Olson, Molly Grabill, Justin Vilhauer, Ryan Poland, Scott Bauhs, Chris Barnicle and A Cuffe
Part 3: Legends Craig Virgin, Thom Hunt, Greg Meyer, Ed Eyestone, Steve Plasencia, George Malley

XC is one of the most physically demanding sports. There are no breaks in the action; no walking periods; no recovery time; A XC runner is constantly in motion, pushing, urging their bodies onward. It hurts! Every day XC runners have to ask themselves WHY am I doing this. It's not easy to be a runner. But in the process of training and racing the individual is transformed. The failures and successes we go through on a daily basis build character; build determination; build confidence. XC runners are some of the most CAPABLE individuals in all of sports.” ~Gerry Lindgren

Before the records, the championships, the wins Gerry Lindgren was told he was too small, to wimpy, and weak. His demeanor did not exude confidence and his appearance was not imposing. Through all his accomplishments and accolades at the end of the day he was human but he was also a dreamer. If you met Gerry Lindgren today one of his key words of wisdom would be to Dream an Enormous Dream. As Lindgren states, “Runners have an opportunity to change the world. Be a role model of courage and determination to everyone you pass. To create a wake that can be felt by everyone. To Dream an Enormous Dream.”

An example of when an American was not expected to win came against the Soviets in a US verses USSR met held in Los Angeles the summer of 1964. Prior to that event the American’s had never defeated the Russians and few thought an American could. As Lindgren states, “Leading into the 1964 Russian meet in Los Angeles the head coach told me that I was not there to win the race. He said he knew these were the best runners in the world and I couldn’t win. I decided to erase the image we were lazy American’s and when the Soviet’s sprinted I would go with them the final mile and compete with them. I remember it being said, there is no way I could win, I was untested, and that no chance existed. I went out and I ran with them and when they went, I went, until finally I made the decision to do something that had never been done before, to run so hard and so fast that I was the only one left standing. I won that day. This win was a highlight of my entire life, that win I feel changed the American distance runner’s perception. Before that we were on a national level and not an international level. When I won I think we believed as a nation we could win against the world.”

Double Brace: Today we are trying to win a race. Somewhere along the way we forgot to dream. We added logic to the picture. Before the running revolution we just ran, since the revolution we have become logical. We write books and look for what we can and can’t do. We have come up with so many things we can’t do that it would seem we have become our own worst enemies. Logic is the bain of the distance runner; we dream small dreams of winning a single race rather than going for what’s impossible. Running
is not a win lose proposition, we runners do things differently, and we affect people with our courage. The dream is making a difference; we do something that has never been done before. If this were football we would be there already because we are a football country. The World Cross Country Championships is something we just haven’t taken seriously. If our team of underachievers were to win, I could see that passion reflecting positively on America. We must dream the impossible before we do the possible. ~Gerry
LindgrenThe prognosticators are many, the dreamers are few, and so it is with the American distance runner. “They” have said we are behind; perhaps we are too wimpy, too weak. “They” have said we don’t have the depth, talent, or commitment. “They” have said we lack the fire to win. “They” have said we are too divided, individualistic and lack national pride. “They” have said we don’t train properly. “They” have said many things about the American distance runner. In some cases “they” are true, but in many ways America is the home of dreamers who stare boldly into the “They’s” of this world. We are a country of dreamers, the young boy and girl who watch the Olympics and “dream an enormous dream” that they will someday compete there. Who then grow to fulfill that dream. The dream to break records, to set records, to aspire for more to believe that what shouldn’t be possible can be possible begins with an idea, a thought. Today, that enormous dream which few even among our own think is possible is to compete to win a World Cross Country Team Championship.

So the opportunity presents itself at the World Cross Country Championships. Will the American distance runner follow the lead of the rest of the competitive world competing to win at every championship event or simply standing by and waiting every four years to try to make our mark? As the world sends their best to win the World Cross Country Championships the question remains, when will America send her best to win the World Cross Country Championships? It begins with a decision to be great in ALL things both collectively and individually. The measure of a champion is in the ability to stand ready when your moment of opportunity comes. Here it is.

Team USA has assembled to begin a renewed quest to claim a World Cross Country Team Gold medal. We have had the athletes but rarely has America assembled the best team. While the women are poised to medal once more within this year’s men’s team you will find No Bernard Lagat, No Chris Solinsky, No Dathan Ritzenhein, No Galen Rupp, No Ryan Hall, while the “top” guys who should be setting the example are noticeably missing from Team USA what you will find are a team of dreamers. So we begin anew with an inspired group of over achievers who want to win. Team USA is team of dreamers who want to inspire you to want to win, to want to run World Cross. A team of dreamers who will represent their nation in a quest to become the greatest cross country runners in the world.

Athlete Spotlight Part I: We asked each team member five questions. Part I featured women’s team members Molly Huddle and Blake Russell, men’s junior team members Ammar Moussa and Craig Lutz, men’s team member Andrew Bumbalough, and women’s junior team member Hannah Valenzuela. Team USA, The Journey to Gold (Part 1 of 4)

Athlete Spotlight Part II: We asked each team member five questions. US Men’s Champion Brent Vaughn, women’s team member Magdalena Lewy Boulet, men’s junior team champion Erik Olson, women’s junior team member Molly Grabill, men’s junior team member Justin Vilhauer, men’s junior team member Ryan Poland, and prior World Cross Country team USA qualifiers Scott Bauhs, and Chris Barnicle.

scottbauhs.jpgFormer Team USA Member: Scott Bauhs

(XC Nation) Why is World Cross Country important to American distance running success

(SB) Any chance to run against the best athletes in the world is important for American runners. World Cross-Country will humble most who attempt it but it inspires you to come home and start working harder than ever because if you are like me... you realize that you really aren't that good.

(XC Nation) What do you think are the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level?

(SB) The answer to this question goes back to Bob Kennedy and Todd Williams and anyone else who went up against the African runners and didn't care how fast they were running and just went with it. They showed that anything was possible and got the ball rolling and now everyone is really hungry and fearless. It takes a lot of work but in the end all it takes is maximizing your potential and hopefully your potential is on the same level as the best in the world.

(XC Nation) Do we have the talent to win?

(SB) Last year the women got the bronze medal but they were a long way from winning. Both Ethiopia and Kenya had all 4 scoring runners in before our top runner, Shalane who ran well to get 12th. This year, assuming all of the women that qualified choose to go the team will be very good but to win would require unbelievable races from the USA women and several of the best women in the world having bad races... and those women don't have a lot of bad races.

The women are probably closer to winning than the men. The race is a lot deeper on the men's side and we are a lot further from getting our best guys together on the same team. There are 4 guys in the US that have broken 13 and haven't retired and any dream of a team winning World Cross would probably require all 4 of these guys having one of the best races of their lives on the same day maybe one of these guys could be replaced by Ryan or Meb or Galen but that’s about it. Getting 4 of these guys healthy and peaked all at the same time would be challenging enough but getting them to race out of their mind will probably never happen.

Getting a dream USA team together for World Cross as another issue altogether. If you look at the winners from past World XC races a lot of the winners not named Bekele often have fairly disappointing seasons following the big show. By peaking for World Cross you are significantly risking the rest of the year because runners can't peak over and over throughout the year. To get the 6 best that our country has to offer to go to the World Cross-Country Championships and compete to the very best of their ability means that they will be putting in jeopardy the rest of their year. This is a tall request for a race that they probably still don't have much of a chance at winning, receives hardly any attention outside of hardcore distance fans, and pays next to nothing.

(XC Nation) What was your experience at World Cross?

(SB) My two experiences at World Cross were amazing and I would love to go back and simply have a race that I look back at and think I couldn't have done much better. That hasn't happened yet

(XC Nation) What will happen to the American Distance Runner when we win?

(SB) It is more of a question of what has happened to the American Distance Runner when we win because for us to win we will have 10-15 or so active sub 13/27/60 guys in our stable and we will be able to compete in any race, because world cross is the hardest race in the world.

brentvaughn.bmpTeam USA Member: Brent Vaughn

(Photo by Mike Scott) 

(XC Nation) Why is World Cross Country important to American distance running success?

(BV) I think world cross is good for guys to compete against some of the best runners in the world.

(XC Nation) What do you think are the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level?

(BV) I think guys are training harder and the groups emerging around the country are allowing athletes to get in a pack in training and hang on.

(XC Nation) Do we have the talent to win?

(BV) We do but I think we would have to take some guys that aren't running.

(XC Nation) What is your goal at World Cross?

(BV) I would like to be in the top 20

(XC Nation) What will happen to the American Distance Runner when we win?

(BV) IF we win it would be great for distance running in this country. Guys are already starting to believe we can compete with the east Africans over long distances and that would give Americans even more confidence.

:boulet_magdalena-rotterdam10.jpgTeam USA Member: Magdalena Lewy Boulet

(Photo by Vic Sailor, PhotoRun.net)

(XC Nation) Why is World Cross Country important to American distance running success?

(MB) World Cross Country not only gives us the opportunity to race the toughest athletes in the World, but it also provides an opportunity to represent your country and compete alongside your American teammates for a team medal.  For me personally, training for XC was a big part of my breakthrough in the marathon last year.  Sometimes changing things up a bit can help get you to that next level when you hit a plateau in your performances. 

(XC Nation) What do you think are the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level?

(MB) I think the exchange of information is a big part of it.  Athletes and coaches can have more access to training programs and philosophies that have worked for others in places far away.  I also think people aren't as afraid of high mileage today as they were 10 or 15 years ago. 

(XC Nation) Do we have the talent to win?

(MB) As a country, up front we have the talent to have one or two in the top 10. At the World Champs, you have 6 runners, 4 of whom score.  The chances are that one or two will have great races, one or two will have a bad race, and the rest will have an average race.  I think if we all have great races, we have a chance to win.   

(XC Nation) What is your goal at World Cross?

(MB) My goal is to improve upon my place from last year.  I finished 20th.  Having been there once and raced many of these ladies throughout the year, I think that's realistic.  I'd also like to come home with another team medal.  Hopefully it will be a different color medal than last year. 

(XC Nation) What will happen to the American Distance Runner when we win?

(MB) I think it would be a big boost of confidence for all American Distance runners if we win. It would show that our best can compete with anybody on any given day. 

erikolson.bmpTeam USA Member: Erik Olson

(XC Nation) Why is World Cross Country important to American distance running success?

(EO) World Cross Country is important to American distance running success because it increases the popularity of the sport. For example, for me the first time I really started focusing on running was when I heard about the whole World Cross Country event. It really motivated me and created a long term goal to eventually qualify for World Cross and to be given the chance to represent my country.

(XC Nation) What do you think are the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level?

(EO) I may be biased, but I feel like the running boom really started my freshman year in high school. That was when guys like Jager, Centro, and Heath where seniors and really challenging each other at national level meets. At this same time at the pro level, Webb and Lagat where tearing it up. With all these successes, it seemed to bring out a competitiveness that has resulted in a resurgence of running from high school all the way up to the pro's. Just look at the high school times these past years, so impressive, and then at the pro level with Solinsky, Lagat, and Rupp breaking American Records, running is definitely in an upswing.

(XC Nation) Do we have the talent to win?

(EO) In a championship meet anyone has the chance to win. So much can happen under the stresses of a championship so really anyone and any team can pull out the win. So yes I think we have a good enough chance to win as everyone else in the race has.

(XC Nation) What is your goal at World Cross?

(EO) My goal for World Cross is to compete and just put myself out there to try to give myself the chance to place well.

(XC Nation) What will happen to the American Distance Runner when we win?

(EO) When we win World Cross I believe that the competitiveness will increase even more. The trials to make it to Worlds will be even more competitive since everyone will want to make it on a team that has the chance to make the podium again.

Grabill%20088.jpgTeam USA Member: Molly Grabill

(Photo by Gabriel Santana)

(XC Nation) Why is World Cross Country important to American distance running success?

(MG) World Cross Country is important to American distance running in that it is continually raising our standards and race times. The ability to compete against the best in the world is an amazing opportunity and encourages all athletes to improve. Many times races are against the same competition in America, so World Cross Country is a great chance to broaden horizons and take on new challenges.

(XC Nation) What do you think are the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level?

(MG) American distance running has become increasingly more competitive. There are also great programs and events to get kids involved in the sport.

(XC Nation) Do we have the talent to win?

(MG) We have an amazingly talented team which I am really proud to be part of. Hopefully we will be able to represent the United States with a win!

(XC Nation) What is your goal at World Cross?

(MG) My goal at World Cross is to have fun competing against the best and hopefully help the team win.

(XC Nation) What will happen to the American Distance Runner when we win?

(MG) What will happen to the American Distance Runner when we win?
I feel that distance running will become better known and supported more by the general public.

young_j.jpgTeam USA Member: Justin Vilhauer

(XC Nation) Why is World Cross Country important to American distance running success?

(JV) I feel that it shows we can also compete against the best on other surfaces then the track.

(XC Nation) What do you think are the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level?

(JV) The training, due to the higher level of training the results show for themselves. For example when Bob Kennedy went and trained with the Kenyans and came back and broke 13, it showed the American distance running populations that there is a whole other level of training that needed to be reached.

(XC Nation) Do we have the talent to win?

(JV) I think that in the years to come we do have the ability to win. We are getting so close when it comes to the track with now many elite Americans under 13 and Solinsky with his sub 27 performance, it shows we are getting very close to not only competing but winning against the best.

(XC Nation) What is your goal at World Cross?

(JV) My goals from world cross are to hopefully be in the top 30 along with finishing no less than 2 on the team.

(XC Nation) What will happen to the American Distance Runner when we win?

(JV) I think the resurgence will grow even more and we will see many more athletes competing at a higher level and everyone will believe they can compete and beat the best in the world.

poland.jpgTeam USA Member: Ryan Poland

(XC Nation) Why is World Cross Country important to American distance running success?

(RP) I think that it's important for American distance running because it is a good barometer of where we stack up against the best runners in the world. I think that it's important to show the rest of the world that there is another great wave of American distance runners, and we are doing all we can to compete with the Africans.

(XC Nation) What do you think are the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level?

(RP) I think compared to ten years ago; we have a lot more depth. There are guys like Solinsky, Tegenkamp, and Lagat that are competing with the Africans on a consistent basis. The US is really starting to be able to compete with the powers of distance running and I think the high school kids are starting to notice.

(XC Nation) Do we have the talent to win?

(RP) I think that are starting to get the talent to compete with the African powers. I don't think that we have the kind of "young" firepower that the African nations do.

(XC Nation) What is your goal at World Cross?

(RP) The goal would be to improve on my performance at USA's.

(XC Nation) What will happen to the American Distance Runner when we win?

(RP) If we win a world title I think we will see some of the elite athletes that America has to offer start choosing track and cross country over the more traditional sports. I think that bring that kind of talent to distance running would be great for the sport.

barnicle.jpg

Former Team USA Member: Chris Barnicle

(XC Nation) Why is World Cross Country important to American distance running success?

(CB) The World Cross Country Championships have become more important than ever now that they are every other year. While the individual crown in both the men and women's races are great honors the team titles may hold greater significance as they represent the depth of a country. When looking at the dominance of countries like Ethiopia and Kenya and their numerous team titles it becomes obvious that these countries have great respect for the sport of cross country and have worked tremendously hard to bring pride to their homeland.

(XC Nation) What do you think are the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level?

(CB) I believe there are numerous reasons for the resurrection of distance running here in America but one reason that cannot be overlooked is the return to high mileage. The drought of world class American distance runners in the 90s and up until the turn of the millennium can possibly be linked to the training philosophy of quality over quantity. What astonishes me is to see how this theory was so accepted after the great success of high mileage runners such as Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, and many others. Fortunately, it seems most coaches have accepted once again building strong aerobic foundations and that this is propelling their athletes to great success.

(XC Nation) Do we have the talent to win?

(CB) I believe that without a doubt America has the talent to be world beaters in distance running. Arthur Lydiard said it best when he explained how raw talent is everywhere but coaching is what is lacking. 

Aisling Cuffe: Motivated to Compete

In 1991 two-time Foot Locker National Champion Melody Fairchild ran to a junior bronze medal at the 1991 World Cross Country Championships. Since that race, no American junior women have stood on the medal podium. Not since that 1991 season has American seen the likes of an athlete like Aisling Cuffe.

She has been uncontested in ways that have stood out among the great American prep cross country runners. She ran away from the competition in every major invitational in the nation. The Gatorade Girls National Cross Country Runner of the Year will have an opportunity to show she is not just the best prep in America but possibly the best junior cross country runner in the world. Cuffe leads perhaps the best assemblage of junior athletes to ever represent the USA at the World Cross Country Championships as the women seek a first-ever team medal.

(XC Nation) Why is World Cross Country important to American distance running success?

(AC)  World Cross Country is important to American distance running success because it is another chance for Americans to get a taste for international competition.  For high schoolers and college runners, this taste is a necessity.  We wouldn't really get international exposure without a meet like this.  Getting to run a race that is almost over our heads with the level of competition shows us what we have to do to get better.  For the senior men and women, experiencing international competition is not as much of a rarity, but every chance counts.  The more international races you run, the more comfortable you will be with international races down the road.  World Cross sets the perfect stage.

(XC Nation) What do you think are the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level?

(AC) I feel that there could be many reasons behind the resurgence of American distance running.  First of all, the internet is a big factor.  When something huge goes down in the running world, news spreads fast.  People have always been spurred on by the accomplishments of others, whether it’s been the desire to beat them, or the knowledge that a particular human "limitation" has just been broken.  When more people can find out faster about training methods and race results, people will start to get faster on average.  Another reason for the resurgence is that it could just be America's time to shine again.  The talent and the interest is all coming together at the right time.  Maybe there is a golden era coming in the near future!

 (XC Nation) Do we have the talent to win?

(AC)  America is certainly not your average team attending World Cross.  We are bringing four motivated, talented squads to compete on the world stage.  We have all been successful in our own way over the years, and we all know that doing well is a very good feeling.  Off talent alone, winning would be viewed as tough goal to achieve, as the east African countries have proven to have a lot of talent as well.  Combining our talent and determination, I say anything is possible.

(XC Nation) What was your experience at World Cross?

(AC)  Going into World Cross, my personal goal is to finish in the top 15, but I will be happy with top 20.  I am not sure what to expect when I head out to Spain, but I am definitely going to run as hard as I can.  In setting these goals, I am also being careful about not setting limits, either.  It would be pretty tough to finish up near the top, but stranger things have happened!  For the junior girl’s team, I really feel like we can medal.  I will try to pass as many people as I can in hopes of lowering the team score.

(XC Nation) What will happen to the American Distance Runner when we win?

(AC)  Winning World Cross would be extremely beneficial for American runners.  Heading into future competitions, we would know that we can run with the best in the world, AND beat them too!  This success would carry over to the Olympics and the track World Championships.  Winning would play a part in ending the distance running "resurgence", and start a new era of American Distance running being on top of the podium.

Part 1: Interviews with Andrew Bumbalough, Molly Huddle, Ammar Moussa, Hannah Valenzuela, Craig Lutz, and Blake Russell Before 2011 World XC
Part 2: Interviews with Brent Vaughn, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, Erik Olson, Molly Grabill, Justin Vilhauer, Ryan Poland, Scott Bauhs, Chris Barnicle and A Cuffe
Part 3: Legends Craig Virgin, Thom Hunt, Greg Meyer, Ed Eyestone, Steve Plasencia, George Malley

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