Interviews with Andrew Bumbalough, Molly Huddle, Ammar Moussa, Hannah Valenzuela, Craig Lutz, and Blake Russell Before 2011 World XC

By  XCNation.com
February 23, 2011

TeamUSA.jpg

 

Part one 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

 

Part I Spotlight: Andrew Bumbalough, Molly Huddle, Ammar Moussa, Hannah Valenzuela, Craig Lutz, and Blake Russell.

QUOTE.jpgIn the historic remaking of the USA menís hockey team ďMiracle on IceĒ, coach Herb Brooks broke down the mental barriers that had been preventing the United States from defeating the unbeatable Sovietís. In that inspirational speech Brooks states, ďGreat moments are born from great opportunity. And thatís what you have here tonight, boys. Thatís what youíve earned here, tonight. One game. If we played Ďem ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with Ďem. Tonight, we stay with Ďem, and we shut them down because we can! Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey playersóevery one of ya. You were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their timeóis done. Itís over. Iím sick and tired of heariní about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw Ďem! This is your time!! Now go out there and take it.Ē

 

That night team USA won, removing that mental block they went on to claim a Gold medal.

Great moments are born from great opportunity. Founded in 1890, the USA National Cross Country Championships is the longest running national championship. Originally entitled the USA Winter Cross Country Championships the event is the nationís premier distance running event. Following that race 24-Americanís find themselves poised to represent their nation and the hopes and dreams of everyone who aspires for USA winning a Gold Medal at the World Cross Country Championships.

Team USA has assembled to begin a renewed quest to claim a World Cross Country Team Gold medal. The State of the Union for Team USA Cross country, for the women the last World Team Championship came in 1987 following a run that preceded four team championships in five years. The men have not produced a team championship though finishing second on multiple occasions. The junior women have never won but have medaled and the junior men havenít won a world title since 1981. We have had the athletes but rarely has America assembled the best team. So we begin anew with an inspired group of over achievers who want to win. A team of dreamers who want to inspire you to want to win. A team of dreamers who will represent their nation in a quest to become the greatest cross country runners in the world.

The Kenyanís and the Ethiopianís have become the elite of the world. Much like the Soviet hockey dominance of the 60ís, 70ís, and 80ís, many feel entering any competition that they are unbeatable. We submit, they can be beaten but it will begin with one thought, one decision, and then action. We must believe we can win against all odds. This sport is not for the biggest, strongest, or most talented; it is for the most committed, hardest working little guy who at times is the only one believing that what shouldn't happen will happen.

Athlete Spotlight Part I: We asked each team member five questions. Part I features womenís team members Molly Huddle and Blake Russell, menís junior team members Ammar Moussa and Craig Lutz, menís team member Andrew Bumbalough, and womenís junior team member Hannah Valenzuela. These are their responses.

Team USA Member: Molly HuddleMollyHuddle.jpg

 

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

(MH) World cross is important because for a distance runner (or anyone!) it is one of the hardest races you can run all year, against one of the best fields you will face all year. It simultaneously toughens you up and puts you in your place, and makes you appreciate the track a lot more. To be a great distance runner you should want to race the best in the world and this is a great chance to do it!

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

(MH) From the prep level on up, distance running has been getting better again and it is exciting to watch let alone be a part of that. I think a lot of factors are responsible but some main reasons may be the internet making results and training methods more readily known to everyone, but also I think people are training harder and going back to that old school mindset of higher mileage and harder work in general (but now with the added help of some more modern scientific knowledge of how to avoid over training, etc.)

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

(MH) I have a realistic view and a lot of respect for what it would take for a team to win a world cross gold medal. We have a great team going but to win the meet you may very well need to have your top four women taking the top four places!  The Kenyan team would be very hard to beat especially, as they pride themselves at being great at cross country and have such a deep pool of talent to work with! I definitely think a medal is a goal for team USA this year though.

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

(MH) My goal is to run as hard as I can and be tougher than last year and finish higher than last year, preferably top 15. As a team, I want to be a part of getting on the podium again, maybe upgrade to silver!

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

(MH) If we won a world XC medal, we would all be bringing great confidence to the track in the summer because we would have beaten Olympic and world champions!  I am not sure people outside the serious running fans and athletes would realize how big of an upset that would be as well- it would be like if a Jamaican bobsled team.....well never say never I guess!

AndrewBumbalough.jpgTeam USA Member: Andrew Bumbalough

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

(AB) I believe that cross country in its essence is an outlet for distance runners to compete during their base building phase for track. That being said the base phase during the fall and winter is where athletes can make their biggest gains in fitness from year to year. Cross country is an important part of this process and gives us, as athletes, an opportunity to test ourselves, see how far we've come over the past months, and give us confidence going into the track season.

Competing on the World stage in XC is an important part of the development of US distance running... if we can start to compete for medals over 12k on grass than surely we can start to close the gap on the track as well!

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

(AB) This 'resurgence' is most due to a shift in mentality. Five to ten years ago 13:20 (a world 'A Standard') was a very, very good mark for an American. In the last couple years we've had a handful of guys break 13 minutes! When you are training with and competing against guys who challenge the very best in the world this shift in mentality is a natural thing.

Even at the prep level you see kids breaking 9 min for 2 miles all the time. Back in my day (2001-2005) that was a huge accomplishment. I ran 8:49 and it was a huge deal - but now kids are running low 8:40s (and under) all the time! I think that technology (namely the internet and social media) can also be linked to the resurgence at the HS level. Kids can compare performances, watch others race to impressive times on flotrack, runnerspace etc. If you are the #1 runner in the country and you watch your record get crushed on flotrack I think the natural reaction is to get out there and train your butt off to try and regain your form- success breeds success.

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

(AB) I believe that our country certainly has the talent to win World XC at some point. If you throw ALL of our top talent in the mix, eventually I believe we could do it. It's just a matter of shifting that mentality and people believing that itís possible.

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

(AB) I don't really have a tangible goal in mind in terms of time/place etc. This is my first time racing for Team USA so my major goal is to go out there and represent our country well, compete as hard as I possibly can, and that, I'm confident, will yield a result I'll be proud of.

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

HannahValenzuela.JPG(AB) As in any sport, the winner immediately becomes the target for the next competition. When our country is able to put together a team capable of winning, we will have to continually up our game, continue to progress our training, and never become satisfied. I guarantee that is the mentality that our competition is taking.

Team USA Member: Hannah Valenzuela

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

(HV) World Cross Country is important to American distance running success because competing on foreign soil and getting to represent one's country in international competition is the highest honor and accomplishment and athlete can receive.

 

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

(HV) I think the reasons behind the resurgence of the American distance runner at the prep and international level is due to all of the amazing coverage on the internet and in magazines.

 

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

(HV) I think that the U.S team definitely has the talent to win and is very capable of making it happen if everyone goes out there on race day confident and runs a smart race.

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

(HV) My goal at World Cross is to be a point scorer for the U.S. team, and do the best that I possibly can.

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

AmmarMoussa.jpg(HV) When we win World Cross, the American distance runner will be inspired and we will continue to inspire a new generation of runners.

Team USA Member: Ammar Moussa

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

(AM) Well, I feel distance running starts with Cross Country. You can't be a good track runner without the strength the XC gives you. So I feel that XC is definitely very important for all distance running.

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

(AM) I feel that people are starting to realize that there is no special "secret" to being successful. I think people are realizing that what the Kenyans and Ethiopians, and east Africans, and Japanese, and all the successful running countries have on us is just simple hard work. They just run out the door and run for miles on end. Also, I feel that the less people are afraid of high mileage, the more success we'll have. People are scared to run high mileage at a younger age because of "burn out" and all that. Frankly, I think that's just a bunch of bull. High mileage gives you strength and a base that constant intervals can't and if done right, you won't get hurt.

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

(AM) We have the talent. We have the potential. We have way too much talent in this country to not be able to do it. We just need to get our guys training for it.

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

(AM) Top 3 as a team and top 30 as an individual.

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

BlakeRussell.JPG(AM) It won't be a lost cause. Becoming an distance runner will start to become prominent again. There is a reason that distance running was so big during the time of Pre and Frank Shorter, and Gerry Lindgren and Steve Scott. We were successful. We were winning Olympic medals. We had great track personalities that gave the media a story to write about. We had vicious rivalries with the USSR. We can have that. I want that to be the case again and hopefully when the USA starts winning distance medals again then we'll get that back.

Team USA Member: Blake Russell

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

(BR) It's not too often that US runners get to go head-to-head against the best runners from 20 or 30 different countries in a team format. In fact, once you graduate from college, you rarely even have the opportunity to run XC races other than US nationals. I think most runners would agree that all the aerobic and strength work they did during their xc seasons carried over into a great outdoor track season. Having several months in the fall to really focus on strength verses speed sets you up for the rest of the year. Post-collegiate running is no exception. For many years, I have made the US XC national and World Cross my focus because the training gets you in such great shape- and frankly its fun! In 2008, I only raced US XC Nationals before the Olympic Trials marathon because if fit nicely with a spring marathon and the training was very similar. World Champs are really a great reward for all the months of hard work. It's exciting to be able to bang heads with the best runners in the World and hopefully end up on the team medal stand.

 

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

(BR) I think it just takes one or two runners to raise the bar- whether it's in high school or post-collegiate running. At least in my time, it seems like Alan Webb was the first to really get some excitement back into prep running. I would say Jordan Hasay did the same on the women's side recently with here excellent high-school career. They both set some standards that other athletes are quickly rising to the challenge. It helps that the media, flowtrack, runnerspace, other running website are making it possible to follow athletes and get to know them a little more on the  training and personal level. It is so much easier to see and watch what other people are doing, and try and emulate it. Sadly, I am old enough to have gone through high school with no internet, email...etc. I had not even heard of indoor track until I starting running at UNC Chapel Hill.

I think post-collegiate runners are succeeding for similar reasons. Though the competition is harder on the world scene, athletes that are used to winning will find a way to win again. In my opinion, 2004 seemed to be a turning point in the track and field scene. The IAAF standard for all events got much more difficult in order to keep up with the rest of the world. I remember the women's 5,000 meter Olympic and World Championship standard went from 15:22 to 15:07 from 2000 - 2004. I think it was quite a jump and seemed to light a fire under a lot of athletes that if you wanted to allowed to compete at the World scene you better step it up a couple notches. The men also seem to respond well to the challenge with several under 13:00 minutes and 28:00-all impressive times. There have also been a few key athletes breaking some barriers like Deena Kastor, Shalane Flanagan, and Chris Solinsky to name a few.

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

(BR) I wish I knew. If we have runners that can earn a podium spot at a World Championship or Olympic Games, then I think it is definitely possible. Then again, I watch a guy from Africa run the NB Games 3,000 meters with one shoe and win- and am just blown away. I still believe we can do battle with anyone- we just have to keep raising our expectations and rising to the occasion.

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

(BR) I was 11th the last time I ran World XC in 2006, so my goal going in would be top 15. I think this team has great potential and a great shot at bronze medal or better.

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

(BR) It would be great to have the US excited about running other than every four years when the Olympics rolls around. Unfortunately, unless you are an avid running fan, people only care about who wins. It's hard for them to identify with a foreign athlete winning a big marathon or track event. I would love to have some more excitement about running in the sports world, Europe can pack stadiums full of thousands of people for a huge track meet and the US can't fill a stadium for USA Track Nationals except Hayward. If Americans start winning, hopefully the media will help promote the sport more to the general public and gain some new fans. Seriously...who would not want to watch 25 laps of the 10K on TV?!!!

CraigLutz.jpgTeam USA Member: Craig Lutz

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

(CL) Having teams go to the World Cross Country meet for America is huge to the movement we have going on right now. Itís a great chance for the up and coming to see who and what they will have to face in the near years of our careers. Itís also a way to promote this sport in the younger age groups as they see what we get to experience and hopefully latch on to the momentum of the new American distance program.

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

(CL) The biggest push behind this is the growing amount of knowledgeable coaches. Thereís always been a core group of them but now experience is quickly trickling down into high school programs thus growing membership and creating better runners. I also believe the speed in which information travels has helped a lot also. Facebook being the leader of it; us runners can communicate with each other every minute of the day and miles apart. This grows relationships and allows us to find out race results or what our friends are doing in workouts a lot faster.

 

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

(CL) Just looking at the times from other qualifiers, Iím not sure winning against the Kenyan team would be possible. I hate being a negative nancy, it just seems out of reach. However, I think an awesome goal for the team would be a top 5 finish and the best from North America and Europe. But what do I know; this is only my first year. ;)

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

(CL) My main goal is just grabbing everything out of this experience. As of right now I still have no clue what to expect when it comes down to race time so it is hard to say what I would like to do or accomplish. Though being one of the top white guys would be nice.
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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