Emmanuel Bor & Ednah Kurgat Dominate 2023 USATF XC Championships
January 21, 2023
MECHANICSVILLE, Va. – U.S. Army runners Emmanuel Bor and Ednah Kurgat each won their first national titles in dominant fashion on Saturday at the 2023 USATF Cross Country Championships at Pole Green Park outside of Richmond. The top six finishers in each race earned a berth at the World Cross Country Championships in Australia, which will be held on February 18.
Quick recaps, analysis, and interviews from both races below. A recap of the U20 races, where high schoolers Leo Young and Irene Riggs were victorious, can be found here.
Men’s 10k: Bor blasts away from the field
The 34-year-old Bor had a career year in 2022, taking 2nd at USA Indoors in the 3,000, 5th at USA Outdoors in the 5,000, and running 13:00 for 5,000 indoors – #2 all-time by an American. Yet despite those performances, he entered 2023 unsponsored. Perhaps that will change after today as Bor took the lead at the 3k mark and was not challenged the rest of the way. Bor’s lead grew as big as 11 seconds at 7k, and though it would shrink towards the finish as the chase pack kicked it in, Bor was a convincing champion by four seconds in 28:44.
Behind Bor, there was a wild battle for the other five spots on Team USA as six men were together in the home straight. On ZAP Endurance’s Andrew Colley separated slightly for second in 28:48, but the next five men were all given the same time, 28:49 (the live results had a gap of just 0.8 between 3rd and 7th). Anthony Rotich, Leonard Korir, Sam Chelanga, and Dillon Maggard earned the final four spots with Reid Buchanan the unlucky 7th-placer (though he would be in line to go if one of the top six declines their spot). Three-time US steeple champion Hillary Bor, Emmanuel’s younger brother, was 8th in 28:57.
Quick Take: A well-deserved US title for Emmanuel Bor
Last year, Bor qualified for World Indoors in the 3k but didn’t get to go as he did not receive permission from the Army to travel to Serbia for the meet. He then came super close to making the outdoor Worlds team in the 10,000 – he looked assured of a spot with 50 meters to go only to run out of steam and fade to 8th. Assuming the Army grants him permission to travel, this will be Bor’s first time representing the US since he finished 68th at World XC in 2019. Bor said he was injured when he ran that race and is hoping for top 10 in Australia. He’s very confident in his fitness and said he believes he is in 58-minute shape for the half and wants to break 13:00 on the track.
Bor is in a somewhat interesting situation as he is still in the Army but no longer part of the World Class Athlete Program (he trains with coach Haron Lagat as a member of Peak Running Elite). That means Bor is looking for a sponsor. Shadrack Kipchirchir was also unsponsored when he won USA XC last year but signed a deal with Puma later in the year. Today’s run certainly didn’t hurt Bor’s chances of securing a contract.
The bad news for Bor is a top 15 showing at World xc no longer gives you a 10,000 qualifier for the Worlds on the track – something he and his coach didn’t know. World Athletics recently changed the rules – the top 12 in the World Athletics xc rankings – who wouldn’t be going otherwise – will now go. Theoretically, that makes it WAY easier than being top 15 at World XC, but the bad news for Bor is unless he finds another xc race, he won’t have a World xc ranking as you need three xc races for a ranking.
Can we just say it’s disgraceful that USATF didn’t reach out to all of the country’s top 10,000 runners and let them know of the rule change? Bor is in amazing shape and skipped Sound Running’s 10,000 so he could run this meet and Worlds. He belongs at Worlds on the track as well. End of story.
Regardless, he’s set himself up for potentially an epic 2023. Win US xc, break 13:00, make your first worlds team in track and then potentially break the US Half marathon record at the end the year in Valencia.
Quick Take: Andrew Colley was the surprise of the day
Andrew Colley hasn’t run USAs on the track since 2017 and hasn’t finished a marathon since 2019, so it was easy to forget about the 31-year-old NC State grad. For him to finish second today was something of a surprise considering the three men directly behind him – Anthony Rotich, Leonard Korir, and Sam Chelanga – were all multi-time NCAA champions. But Colley had a solid fall, running pbs for 5k (13:41) and 10 miles (46:47) on the roads. More importantly, he’s finally healthy and has always been a great cross country runner. He finished 15th, 16th, and 7th in his final three NCAA XC meets for the Wolfpack and had made two prior World XC teams – the junior squad in 2010 and the senior team back in 2015. He ran a great race today in his home state of Virginia and will be heading back for another World XC in 2023.
Women’s 10k: Kurgat destroys the field
Going in, we expected a former NCAA XC champion from New Mexico to dominate the women’s race and that’s exactly what happened – except it was Ednah Kurgat, not her former UNM teammate Weini Kelati, doing the dominating.
By 4k, the top six (Kurgat, Kelati, Emily Durgin, Emily Lipari, Katie Izzo, and Makena Morley) were clear of the field and by 7k it was clear they would comprise your team to Australia as the gap to Allie Buchalski in 7th was 19 seconds. But there was still a US title to be awarded, and Kurgat made clear she wanted it badly, taking the lead as she began the final of the course’s five 2k laps. Within a kilometer, she had put 12 seconds on the field and would cruise to her first US title in 32:07, winning by 17 seconds over runner-up Morley.
Kelati came in as the favorite after a terrific fall season, but her coach Stephen Haas mentioned to LetsRun before the race that she had been dealing with some aches and pains leading into the race. That may explain why she was off her game today in fifth place but the good news is she’s on the team and has a month to get back to full strength for World XC.
Quick Take: Ednah Kurgat’s “dream comes true” and she is “living the dream”
Kurgat became a US citizen in 2021 but had not come particularly close to making a US team in the past. She was 11th in the 10,000 at the 2021 Olympic Trials and was 14th in the 5,000 and 16th in the 10,000 at USAs last year on the track. Now she’s a US champion in cross country. Clearly she is better on the grass as she was also an NCAA champion in XC but never finished higher than second in eight NCAA finals on the track.
She was super excited to make her first US team, “It’s unbelievable. I’m so grateful,” said Kurgat on what it means to make her first US team. “It honestly feels good when a dream comes true so I’m living the dream now.”
Quick Take: Half of the USA women’s team is coached by Terrence Mahon
Mahon coaches Emily Durgin, Emily Lipari, and Katie Izzo, and while they’re based out of three different locations (Durgin in Flagstaff, Lipari in Hawaii, Izzo in San Diego), the three will occasionally gather for training camps. Now they’re teammates on Team USA, and Mahon is excited for his athletes to get a chance to take on the world’s best.
“If what you want to do is be one of the best in the world, I think you have to experience World Cross Country,” Mahon said. “We did that with Deena [Kastor] and Jen [Rhines] back in the day and I think it helped shape their track careers.”
Mahon also believes it’s possible for top athletes to run World XC and come back for a successful spring marathon or summer track season if their training is managed properly. He noted that in 2003, Deena Kastor earned a silver medal at World XC and ran an American record in the marathon two weeks later in London.
Durgin said that she didn’t decide to race USA XC until 20 days ago and Lipari didn’t decide until 10 days ago, but Mahon was more than happy for them to try to make a team.
“I’m not one for skipping races,” Mahon said.
Quick Take: None of the top six finishers have ever run at a senior World Champs for the US before
With some of America’s top distance runners like Elise Cranny, Alicia Monson, and Karissa Schweizer skipping USAs, there was the opportunity for some new names to make the team today and that’s exactly what happened as none of the top six finishers had ever made a US Worlds team on the track, roads, or in XC. Another interesting side note is that five of the top six finishers won an NCAA XC team title in college:
Emily Lipari (2010 Villanova)
Weini Kelati, Ednah Kurgat (2017 New Mexico)
Makena Morley (2018 Colorado)
Katie Izzo (2019 Arkansas)
Keira D’Amato is hoping to reclaim the American marathon record from Emily Sisson
D’Amato lives in Richmond and was on the course to do handle post-race interview duties on the USATF.TV broadcast. She said she’s just starting to get into shape again after taking a well-deserved break following four marathons in 2022, but is still dreaming big. “I have some unfinished business now in the marathon thanks to Emily Sisson,” said D’Amato.
Talk about the 2023 USATF XC Trials on our world-famous fan forum /messageaboard:
- 2023 USA XC is Saturday and it’s LOADED (in the jr races). Official discussion thread
- Leo Young: 4th National XC Champion for Newbury Park!
- Yes! Leo Young is super pumped to be on Team USA
- How good is Irene Riggs?
- Nico Young’s Mom Places 33rd @ USATF!
Jr Race Recap: High Schoolers Leo Young and Irene Riggs Win USATF U20 Cross Country Titles in Impressive Fashion Leo Young got sweet redemption after blowing up at NXN and Irene Riggs continued her dominant XC form.