Weekend Preview: Newbury Park Chases Immortality, Geoffrey Kamworor Chases a Marathon PB, & Conner Mantz (Maybe) Chases the Half Marathon AR
By Jonathan Gault
December 2, 2021
December 4 Update: Conner Mantz confirmed to us via text he is racing the USATF Half Marathon Champs, but said he is not targeting the American record. See: Update: Conner Mantz is not targeting the American record at the US Half Champs on Sunday but is racing
December is usually the quietest month on the running calendar, but this weekend is set to be one of the busiest of the entire year — and that doesn’t even include the USATF Annual Meeting, which began today in Orlando. From coast-to-coast in the US and overseas in Valencia, on the track, road, and trail, there will be some big-time racing this weekend, with Geoffrey Kamworor, Lawrence Cherono, Weini Kelati, Drew Hunter, Whittni Orton, Conner Mantz, and the Newbury Park boys all in action.
It’s a lot to keep track of, so that’s where we come in. Here’s your viewing guide to this weekend’s action in chronological order.
Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships (Saturday)
Location: Huntsville, Ala.
Time: Girls’ race at 11:45 a.m. ET, boys’ race at 12:30 p.m. ET
How to watch: Live on FloTrack (requires subscription)
With Nike Cross Nationals — the traditional US high school XC championships — cancelled for the second consecutive year, the folks at RunningLane have stepped up once again in their place. It’s not quite on par with NXN — Saratoga Springs (N.Y.), the consensus top girls’ team in the country, will not be there — but it’s as close to a team national championships as we are going to get in 2021. And many of the top teams will be in attendance, particularly on the boys’ side where they’ll have the opportunity to race Newbury Park (Calif.) — the greatest boys’ high school XC team of all time.
Newbury Park is the storyline surrounding this meet, and there are two big questions, which I’ll tackle below.
1) How many points will Newbury Park score?
Both the DyeStat rankings and Tully Runners’ speed ratings have the NP trio of Colin Sahlman, Leo Young, and Lex Young as the top three runners in the country this year. The possibility of a 1-2-3 sweep is very much real. NP’s #4, Aaron Sahlman, is 11th in DyeStat’s rankings and 10th by speed rating, and Newbury Park coach Sean Brosnan told MileSplit their goal is to go 1-2-3-4. Tully Runners’ projection has Newbury Park scoring 26 points at RunningLane, which would be 51 points better than the lowest boys’ score ever at NXN by Loudoun Valley (Va.) in 2018 (though this field won’t be quite as strong), and 1 point better than what the Fayetteville Manlius girls scored in 2010 at NXN.
2) Will anyone break Dathan Ritzenhein’s 14:10.4 5k national record?
(Note from LRC Upper management: We don’t like Jonathan writing too much about times in cross country as it’s very hard to compare times across courses as some courses are short, etc. But hey, he does good work so we’ll let this stand.)
Dathan Ritzenhein, who won two Foot Locker titles and a bronze in the junior race at World XC during his decorated career at Rockford (Mich.) High School, is regarded by many as the greatest American high school boys’ cross country runner ever. So it’s fitting that he also holds the record for fastest 5k ever in a high school cross country race — his 14:10.4 at the 2000 Michigan state meet at Michigan International Speedway.
That mark has stood for two decades but could tumble on Saturday as the RunningLane course is very fast. Last year, the winning boys’ time was 14:26, with 32 boys breaking 15:00 (the most ever in a HS race). On the girls’ side, Jenna Hutchins ran a national record of 15:58 to become the first HS girl ever under 16:00. At the California state meet last weekend, Newbury Park’s Colin Sahlman, Leo Young, and Lex Young all ran 14:30 or faster for 5k at Woodward Park. On an even faster course this weekend (Tully Runners has RunningLane at 15-20 seconds faster than Woodward Park), all three could threaten Ritz’ unofficial national record.
Boston University Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener (Saturday)
Location: Boston, Mass.
Time: 3k races begin at 2:55 p.m. ET; 5k races begin at 4:40 p.m. ET
How to watch: Live on FloTrack (requires subscription)
Yes, indoor track is already starting, and the first big meet of the season is the Boston University Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener. Or, if you prefer, the equally unwieldy “BU Meet Where Everyone Uses Their Residual XC Fitness to Nab an NCAA Indoor Qualifier.”
While time, not place, is the only thing that matters on Saturday, the times could be pretty darn fast. Here are some of the key entrants:
Women’s 3000 (2:55 p.m. ET)
Ceili McCabe, West Virginia (3rd NCAA XC)
Anna Camp, unattached (NCAA 1500 champ, 12th NCAA XC)
Katelyn Tuohy, NC State (15th NCAA XC)
Men’s 3000 (3:28 p.m. ET)
Athanas Kioko, Campbell (13:13 5k pb, 3rd NCAA XC)
Lucas Bons, BYU (3:55 mile)
Women’s 5000 (4:40 p.m. ET)
Whittni Orton, unattached (NCAA XC champ)
Katie Izzo, adidas (4th NCAA 10k, 15:13 pb)
Courtney Wayment, BYU (NCAA 3k/DMR champ)
Kelsey Chmiel, NC State (6th NCAA XC)
Joyce Kimeli, Auburn (NCAA indoor 5k champ)
Maddy Denner, Notre Dame (9th NCAA XC)
Kayley DeLay, Yale (10th NCAA XC)
Men’s 5000 (6:00 p.m. ET)
Wesley Kiptoo, Iowa State (2nd NCAA XC, NCAA indoor 5k champ)
Abdi Nur, NAU (7th NCAA XC)
Casey Clinger, BYU (8th NCAA XC)
Nico Young, NAU (11th NCAA XC)
Olli Hoare, On Athletics Club (11th Olympic 1500)
Matt Baxter, HOKA NAZ Elite (13:27 pb)
Geordie Beamish, On Athletics Club (13:31 pb, 2019 NCAA mile champ)
The last time this meet was held, in 2019, NCAA XC champ Edwin Kurgat ran 13:24 to win the men’s race and Taylor Werner ran 15:11 to win the women’s race and similar times should take place this year. The USTFCCCA is reporting the 3ks will be rabbitted for 7:50/8:52 and the 5000s for 13:25/15:20. So the times should be fast, and pros Hoare and Beamish will be targeting the Australian (13:36.41) and New Zealand (13:27.61) indoor records.
USTFCCCA Weekend NCAA track Preview: College track begins in earnest and the BU meet in Boston should be fast
Cross Champs (Saturday)
Location: Mt. SAC, Walnut, Calif.
Time: Women’s race at 5 p.m. ET, men’s race at 6 p.m. ET
How to watch: Live on pay-per-view, $5.99
What’s this you ask? A pro cross country race in the US? Yes indeed.
A few hours after Mt. SAC’s famed cross country course hosts some of the country’s top high schoolers at the Eastbay West Regional, it will welcome the pros for the inaugural Cross Champs, staged by Sound Running. Both the men and women will race 10k — two loops of the high school course.
The men’s race is led by US 5k road champ Drew Hunter and steeplechase Olympian Mason Ferlic, while Weini Kelati will try to make it four wins in four this fall after victories at the Boston 10K for Women, US road 5k champs, and Manchester Road Race.
Fukuoka Marathon (Saturday Night US/Sunday Afternoon Japan)
Location: Fukuoka, Japan
Time: 10:10 p.m. ET Saturday (12:10 p.m. local on Sunday)
How to watch: Not sure but Japan Running News will have info soon.
The 75th and final Fukuoka Marathon will take place on Saturday night (US time). Fukuoka used to be the unofficial world champs so this is a big deal. Brett Larner has produced a documentary “Inside the Outside – When the World Came to Fukuoka” that gives you 75 stories from the people who made the 75 Fukuoka races great. We’re sure this last one will be special.
Valencia Marathon (Sunday)
Location: Valencia, Spain
Time: 2:15 a.m. ET
How to watch: Live on FloTrack (requires subscription)
Valencia 2021 can’t rival the depth of Valencia 2020, when the cancellation of most fall marathons led to one of the greatest fields we’ve ever seen. Still, when you’ve got half of the 2019 World Marathon Major champions on the start line, you should still get a fast, compelling race.
In terms of pb, the fastest guy in the field is Lawrence Cherono, who has been on a tear the last three years. In 2019, he won Boston and Chicago, last year he ran a big pb of 2:03:04 to finish second in Valencia, and four months ago he came just two seconds shy of an Olympic medal in Sapporo.
His top competition figures to be Geoffrey Kamworor, who will be running his first marathon since winning New York in 2019. Kamworor, who took some time to get back to running following a June 2020 accident in which he injured his head and fractured his tibia, looked brilliant earlier this year in running 27:01 for 10,000 (at altitude) to win the Kenyan Olympic trials. But a foot injury kept him out of the Olympics. Will he be back to full fitness on Sunday?
Fans of the sport will hope that he is. Kamworor has run nine marathons in his career and been one of the world’s best distance runners for seven years now, but his marathon pb still dates to his debut in Berlin in 2012 when he ran 2:06:12 as a 20-year-old. How hasn’t a guy who has run 58:01 for the half and won three World Half titles never run faster than 2:06 in the era of supershoes?
Here’s why: Kamworor is not solely a marathoner. He likes to run World Half or World XC in the spring and as a result has only run four marathons since the start of 2015, all in New York — a notoriously challenging course.
That looks like it will change going forward. Valencia is one of the fastest courses out there and Kamworor, who turned 29 last week, is now locked in on the marathon.
“I’m no longer focusing on cross country,” Kamworor told World Athletics last month. “I’ll continue to do half marathons as part of marathon preparation, but my focus now is on the marathon. And I really think I can break the marathon world record in the future and run under two hours.”
That sub-2:00 quest begins on Sunday in Valencia. If he’s healthy, expect Kamworor to knock a few minutes off his pb. He’s run 58:01 in the half, and we know he’s a great marathoner (two wins, a second, and a third in New York). On a fast, flat course, he should be able to run at least 2:03, though the wind in Valencia (up to 30 mph on Sunday) could present an issue.
2019 champ Kinde Atanaw (2:03:51) is also entered in Valencia and could challenge Cherono and Kamworor, as could debutant Andamlak Berta of Ethiopia (aka Andamlak Belihu), who has run 26:53/58:54. The women’s race is not as competitive but features a pair of 2:20 women in Ethiopians Guteni Shone (runner-up at 2020 Dubai and 2021 Prague) and Azmera Gebru (6th in Tokyo last year).
USATF Half Marathon Championships (Sunday)
December 5 Update: Conner Mantz confirmed to us via text he is racing the USATF Half Marathon Champs, but said he is not targeting the American record. See: Update: Conner Mantz is not targeting the American record at the US Half Champs on Sunday but is racing
Location: Hardeeville, S.C.
Time: 8:50 a.m. ET
How to watch: There is no live streaming
The final major event of the weekend will be held in little-known Hardeeville, South Carolina, just over the border from Savannah, Georgia. It’s the USATF Half Marathon Championships, and there’s a lot on the line: national titles, $40,000 in prize money, and spots on next year’s World Half Marathon Championships team (the top two men and women qualify).
The race could also be the professional debut of two-time NCAA XC champ Conner Mantz. Mantz has not officially confirmed that he’ll be racing (he did not respond to a text message seeking confirmation on Thursday) but he is listed among the entries and would be the most exciting name in the field, just two weeks after winning the NCAA XC title in Tallahassee.
If Mantz does race, it could be fast. Talking on the LetsRun.com Track Talk Podcast last week, Mantz said he has his eyes on Ryan Hall‘s 59:43 American record from 2007. It’s an ambitious goal, and whether Mantz chases it depends on whether his legs are recovered from an extremely hard effort at NCAA XC. But Mantz — who is the same age as Hall when he broke the record (24) — believes sub-59:43 is possible.
“Super shoes weren’t a thing when Ryan Hall was running…” Mantz said. “I think the half marathon might be, just how my training’s been going and everything, that might be my best distance as of right now. And so I was thinking about it and I was like man… why not just go for it? I think it might be the easiest American record to break right now with super shoes being a thing.”
A Mantz victory is no guarantee, though. Frank Lara, who just ran 61:00 in Valencia, is entered. So are Sam Chelanga (3rd Manchester Road Race), Leonard Korir (59:52/2:07:56 pbs), Brogan Austin (62:26 in Indianapolis last month), and Olympic triathlete Morgan Pearson (62:15 to win he Michigan Pro Half last year). On a fast course, we could see a number of PBs on Sunday.
The women’s field is led by Keira D’Amato, who was fourth at the Chicago Marathon in October in 2:28:22 and last week ran 23:49 at the 4.748-mile Manchester Road Race (she would have set the course record had Weini Kelati not beaten her to it). Erika Kemp and Makena Morley should also be factors after winning the US 20k (Kemp) and 25k (Morley) titles earlier this year.
If that’s not enough action for you, CIM takes place later on Sunday in California.
- A look at the three marathons on Sunday, Dec. 5: Valencia, Fukuoka and Sacramento
- Brett Larner’s Video Feature on Fukuoka Marathon – Inside the Outside – Debuts Tonight “75 years, 75 stories from the people who made Japan’s Fukuoka International Marathon.”
- Weekend NCAA track Preview: College track begins in earnest and the BU meet in Boston should be fast Some of the NCAA xc stars will be lookin to pick up qualifiers. The 3ks will be rabbitted for 7:50/8:52 and the 5000s for 13:25/15:20.