10 Storylines At The 2013 USATF National Club Cross-Country Championships

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

(12-Dec) — On Saturday, December 14, the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships will be held in Bend, Ore., featuring a number of top American athletes. Race Results Weekly previews the meet by providing ten things to look out for as competitors race 10 km for men and 6 km for women at River’s Edge Golf Course. All previews are based on the most recent start lists as of Wednesday morning.

1. Seeking to successfully defend their individual titles are 2012 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships winners Jake Riley and Mattie Suver. Last year, Riley was the only athlete to clock under 30-minutes (29:58.4) for the challenging 10-kilometer course at Masterson Station Park in Kentucky. Suver, 26, defeated Boulder Running Company/adidas teammate Brianne Nelson en route to her 6-kilometer victory in 20:12.930.  Both Riley and Suver enter Saturday’s competition coming off rough outings at the inaugural .US National Road Racing Championships last month, where they finished 17th and 16th, respectively. That race had come two weeks after Suver was 17th in 2:41:18 at the ING New York City Marathon. Look for both to bounce back and be competitive towards the front come Saturday.

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2. Interestingly, a number of 1500m/mile specialists are entered for Saturday’s Men’s 10 km and Women’s 6 km races. Among them are two-time IAAF World Championships medalist Matthew Centrowitz, 2008 and 2012 Olympian Shannon Rowbury, and American mile record holder Alan Webb. Of the three, Webb is the only one to have raced any cross country this fall, finishing 24th at the Bill Dellinger Invitational, then winning the Stumptown XC Series/USATF Oregon Cross Country Championships on November 9.  According to Race Results Weekly’s yearly database, Centrowitz hasn’t raced since closing out his track season in August at the Weltklasse in Zürich 1500m (12th in 3:36.70). Rowbury hasn’t competed since joining Alberto Salazar‘s Oregon Project in late September. It will be interesting to see how the athletes take to the longer distances, and if they show any rust in their returns to competition.

Hasay came up just short in her last xc race at the 2012 NCAA Champs. *More 2012 NCAA XC Photos

Hasay came up just short in her last xc race at the 2012 NCAA Champs. *More 2012 NCAA XC Photos

3. Another fellow Oregon Project athlete, Jordan Hasay, is entered in the women’s race. Hasay had a great track season that saw her place second in the 10,000m at the USA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, then subsequently finish 12th at the IAAF World Championships (with a 31:46.42 time-trial in between). The 22-year-old has a stellar cross country background, finishing third at the NCAA Cross Country National Championships in 2012 and 2010, and second in 2011. This will be her first post-collegiate cross country competition.

4. Saturday’s race will be held at the River’s Edge Golf Course in Bend, something that race director and elite distance runner Max King is using to his advantage. Talking to Beau Eastes of Bend news outlet “The Bulletin,” King noted that he intended to make the course challenging, muddy, and fun, complete with hay-bale obstacles. It sounds like a European-style course that could prove to be an equalizer. Not to mention Bend is slightly at altitude, roughly 3,623 feet (1,104m).

5. When it comes to team competitions, Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project has always seemed to do well. Last year, the men’s team won with a score of 50 points, led by individual champion Jake Riley. In 2013, Hansons-Brooks brings both a strong men’s and women’s team to Bend. Riley, Ethan Shaw, Mike Morgan, Brendan Gregg, and Robert Scribner all return from last year’s winning team, while Neely Spence Gracey, Corey Conner, Katie Kellner, Shauna Mcniff, and Melissa White make up the women’s squad. They look to be the favorites, though could be challenged by Boulder Running Company/adidas.

6. In the last month, a number of racers have found success on the roads, including Laura Thweatt and Tyler Pennel. At the .US National RoadRacing Championships on November 17, both Thweatt, who runs for Boulder Track Club, and Pennel, a member of Reebok’s Zap Fitness, were surprise third-place finishers. Two weeks later, the latter placed third once again at the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving Day.  Thweatt has been busy racing as well, running a leg on America’s Hanji Aoki Cup/2013 Chiba Ekiden team in Japan, then taking runner-up honors at the Fort Collins Thanksgiving Day 4-Mile. Both Thweatt and Pennel must enter the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships riding a wave of confidence.

7. At the USATF Club Track & Field Championships last June, Club Northwest’s Rose Wetzel had a meet for the ages. Wetzel won the 800m and 5000m, and anchored her team to podium finishes in the distance medley relay, 4x400m, 4x800m and sprint medley relays. Tabbed as “Wonder Woman” by her teammates, Wetzel left the championships having earned a whopping 54 points. While Saturday’s Cross Country Championships boast a stronger field than their track counterpart, Wetzel could make some noise.

8. During the men’s 10 km, many eyes will be on former Oklahoma State standout and current Nike athlete German Fernandez. Fernandez, 23, has had an up and down 2013. The Jerry Schumacher-coached athlete has raced some cross country this year –a third place finish at the low-key Stumptown Cross Country Series Race #3 in Portland, Ore.– and was 25th (14:54.4) at the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5-K.

9. Though the meet is in Bend –some 87 miles East of Eugene– it is shaping up to be a University of Oregon reunion of sorts. Among the many notable Duck alums taking the line are Matthew Centrowitz, Jordan Hasay, Danny and Diego Mercado, Bronwyn Crossman, and Trevor Dunbar. Though they are now all competing for various clubs, it will be interesting to see if any of the former Oregon standouts find themselves battling alongside a former teammate.

10. There could be a hometown advantage for the Picky Bars crew. Co-founder Lauren Fleshman is entered, as is Ben Bruce, husband of fellow co-founder Stephanie Rothstein Bruce. Bend is the home location of Picky Bars, a natural performance training snack that is gluten & dairy free. The company will be hosting a gathering the evening of the race, and encourage participants to come out and enjoy the city they call home.