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Cross Country Nationals Highlight A Great Running Weekend

The 2001 racing season gets into full swing this weekend.  Highlighting the weekend is the U.S. cross-country nationals in Vancouver, Washington outside of Portland, Oregon.  LetsRun.com will be there with daily stories and photos.  The XC Nationals are plenty enough in their own right to make a great weekend of racing, but in addition there is some great action on the roads (showdown between Paul Tergat and Khalid Khannouchi over 10k) and the track (Marla Runyan American Record attempt).  A brief preview is below:

US Cross-Country Nationals
The cross-country nationals are actually not one race anymore, but 8. But the attention centers upon the 6 races (men's and women's 4k, women's 8k, men's 12k, and junior boys and girls races) that serve as qualifying for the IAAF World Cross-Country championships in Dublin, Ireland next month.

The cross-country nationals have existed since 1890 for the men and their longevity can be attributed to the special place cross-country has with distance runners.  The nationals get very little press coverage, there is very little prize money, yet nearly all of America's top runners will be there competing in perhaps the truest test in distance running.  Cross-country is the one time of the year where runners of different distances converge to race each other over a single distance.  Now that the men's and women's championships each consist of 2 different race distances, this is no longer the case, but the winner of the world championship long-course cross country race is still often regarded as the best runner in the world.

Saturday will be the women's long course race (8k), the men's short course race (4k) and the junior girls race.  All three races should be wide open, especially with defending men's champion Adam Goucher out with injury and women's champ Deena Drossin coming back from injury.

On Sunday, the men race the long course (12k), the women the short course and the junior boys get their shot.  The men's race awaits the anticipated return of Bob Kennedy, America's best distance runner the past decade.  Kennedy is the favorite, but he has been upset before in cross-country.  Alan Culpepper runner-up last year could give him a challenge.  In the women's race, don't count out Deena Drossin for a double win despite her protestations that she is just trying to qualify for the worlds.  No one is tougher than her at cross-country. Dathan Ritzenhein, the high school champion gets his first test against some college aged competitors in the junior race.  We're expecting great things from him.

World's Best 10k
This race in Puerto Rico used to be held only every 4 years, but now is an annual event.  This year features the unbelievable matchup of Khalid Khannouchi, the world record holder in the marathon and Paul Tergat, 5 time World XC champion and world record holder in the half-marathon.  Khannouchi won last year's race and is the course record holder, but the favorite is Tergat, the silver medalist at this distance at 10k. This is a rare matchup on the roads for these two greats and don't miss the live coverage of the race on the internet Saturday afternoon (6pm).

American Record Attempt in the 5k
Marla Runyan, the legally blind Olympian at 1500m, for the United States obviouslly would have some trouble racing over the jagged terrain of a cross-country course.  So she is skipping the nationals, to go after the indoor American record at 5k at the Armory in New York City.  Expect her to get the record.

Austin Motorola Marathon
Both the women's and men's fields are very strong for this race as it creeps up the ladder in American marathoning.  But of the biggest interest to Americans in the attempt by 40 year old Eddy Hellebuyck to qualify for the U.S. team in the marathon for the World Championships.  The  course in Austin is extremely fast, Hellebuyck has been running well of late and is the veteran of all veterans in marathoning so expect him to take one of the 6 spots.  (All of the spots will be based solely on marathon bests according to time over the last year)

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