March 24, 2013
Heading into the final 2km loop (1950 meters) of the 2013 Women’s World Cross Country Championships, Hiwot Ayalew of Ethiopia had a clear lead on the field (6 seconds when the lap started) and appeared to be well on her way to a dominant victory. If this had been 2010 when the race was last held here and there was no large hill on the course, she would have held on for victory. However, it’s 2013 and she had to go up the giant hill on the course one more time and she paid the price. The winner from 2010 -Kenya’s Emily Chebet – reeled in Ayalew in the roughly 200-300 meter sprint for home after the hill to become a two-time world champion. Neely Spence finished in 13th place to lead the American women to a fourth place finish, as they just missed out on repeating as team bronze medallists. US Olympian Kim Conley, who was the top finisher at the 2013 US Champs in St. Louis of all of the Americans competing today (Shalane Flanagan didn’t compete as she’s focused on preparing for the 2013 Boston marathon), went out in the top 12 but faded to 30th.
The IAAF recap of the women’s race is here and we’ve got our analysis below with post-race reaction from the Americans.
QT1: Emily Chebet is a two-time world champion.
Chebet had not done a lot since winning the World Championships in 2010. She wasn’t even named to the Kenyan team to defend her title in 2011. However, now she’s a two time world champion. Very few people can say that. The Kenyan selectors might want to pencil her for the World squad no matter what next time. She was only fourth at the Kenyan Trials this year.
When asked the pre-race press conference why she’s been far from dominant on the track (or road as well even though that wasn’t mentioned – she was runner-up at Falmouth last year), Chebet responded that in her eyes cross country is much different than track.
QT2: All Hail The Kenyan Women.
While we’re praising Emily Chebet we should also praise the Kenyan women. In the senior race they had 4 of the top 7, and 6 of the top 11 and the individual champ and the team title. They did the exact same thing in the junior race – 4 of the top 7, and 6 of the top 11. Kenya is a male dominated society, but the Kenyan women have been saving Kenya’s ass on the track and cross country the last few years.
QT3: Respect the course.
One of the most intriguing things about cross-country is that the runners are not only racing each other, but also the course. On the track, the best athlete is usually going to win. Not so much so in cross country as the course can be a great equalizer.
Heading into the last lap, 9:09 steepler Hiwot Ayalew was way clear of the field and appeared to have this thing wrapped up. However, she had one more trip up the huge hill. Next thing you knew it was all over for Ayalew as she tied up big time and that let Emily Chebet get world title #2.
QT3: Neely Spence Shines (as does the IAAF)
Neely Spence had a great run to finish 13th and was rewarded with an “A” qualifier for the World Championships on the track in the 10,000m (the IAAF recently started giving out “A” qualifiers to the top 15 finishers here which is a good way to induce participation).
Spence ran a smart race. She got out solid, but not too fast, then pushed herself and challenged for the top 10, before fading just a tad at the end to finish 13th. Afterwards, Spence told us (interview below) she exceeded her own expectations as she was simply hoping for a top 20 finish. Neely finished one spot ahead of Fionna Britton of Ireland, which meant that Neely also got all the ____ (you can fill in the word yourself) attention that goes with being the top non-African.
Neely Spence Exceeded Her Own Expectations
QT4: Mattie Suver runs well in her
first second international time in a USA singlet. (It was pointed out to us that Suver won a bronze medal for the US at the Bupa Edinburgh XC race and was an alternate for the US Chiba Eikieden team that went to Japan.)
Suver got onto her
first third US team thanks to Shalane Flanagan declining the spot to focus on Boston, but she certainly took advantage of the opportunity. She executed a nearly perfect race to finish in 26th as the 3rd US scorer. She got out in 49th, but slowly moved up throughout the race. She finished 11 seconds behind 25th, so she really did all she could do.
QT5: Kim Conley of the US went for it and paid the price.
Conley was 15 seconds up on Suver at the end of the first lap, 21 second up at the half way point, yet she finished 4 seconds behind Suver. Nothing for Kim to be ashamed of as after making the Olympics last year, Conley should be thinking she can finish top 15, top 10 on a great day.
Kim Conley Wanting a Better Finish:
QT6: 40 year old (or should we say young) Deena Kastor is a beast.
Kastor ran the LA marathon last week (incidentally Deena called it one of her favorite marathons ever when we talked to her pre-race) and world cross country this week, all at age 40. Afterwards, Deena said in two years she hopes to come back to World XC in two years more as an advisor or a coach.
We hope somehow she makes the team as a runner. And while we’re praising master greats, does anyone else remember that Colleen De Reuck ran a 2:30:51 at age 46, three years ago? We were talking about her with her husband Darren De Reuck, the US junior boys team manager, and he reminded us of that. He didn’t tell us Colleen also ran LA last week and ran 2:41:24 for 5th at nearly age 49.
Qt7: Anyone know what happened to Shitaye Eshete of Bahrain on the first lap?
If so email us as she was only 27th at the end of the first lap and ended up in 4th at the end. It’s very rare for someone to go from the second page of split times to near the podium. We wonder if she fell on the first lap.
QT8: Former Georgetown star Emily Infeld competed well in running’s version of March Madness.
Emily Infeld, an NCAA champ last year for Georgetown, is now part of Jerry Schumacher’s group with Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher. Her Hoyas first round loss ruined some of our NCAA basketball pools on Friday, but Infeld didn’t let that affect her here. She was a very solid 21st.