Leo Young Leads USA U20 Men’s Team to First World XC Medal Since 1982
February 18, 2023
For the first time since 1982, the United States’ junior men’s team left the World Cross Country Championships with a medal. It was a bronze thanks to Leo Young (Newbury Park High School) finishing 16th, Marco Langon (Villanova) 19th, Max Sannes (Air Force) 21st, and Kole Mathison (the Cross Champs winner from Carmel, Ind.) 25th.
Kenya edged Ethiopia, 22 to 23, for the team title as they dominated the race along with Uganda. All three countries put all of their runners before anyone other country in the field. The problem for Uganda. who had medalled at four of the last 10 World XC races, was their team had visa problems, so they only had three runners, and thus didn’t have a team score (World XC scores four athletes). The US more than took advantage of the opportunity as they finished 34 points ahead of South Africa in fourth.
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The US also benefitted from the fact that Eritrea, which has medalled in 5 of the last 10 World XC U20 races, didn’t enter a single runner. Morocco, the only other country to medal in the last 10 years besides the Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda or Eritrea, was just 7th today with 151 points.
Up front, four men broke away on the final lap and battled it out for the three medals. 13:26 5000 man Ishmael Kipkirui took the lead on the turn as they entered “the Chicane” with the tires on the course and never relinquished it, becoming the first Kenyan boy to win since Geoffrey Kamworor in 2011. He won in 24:29 with World U20 1500 champ Reynold Cheruiyot (3:34/7:38/13:33) second in 24:30 as Ethiopia’s Boki Diriba, who recently ran a 60:22 half marathon in New Delhi, was third in 24:31. Uganda’s 13:19 man Dan Kibet was the odd man out of the medals in fourth in 24:36.
QT: The US executed a great race
The US team was super excited to get the bronze and credited coach Dave Smith for coming up with a strategy and helping them believe. The US ran very smart and started conservatively. They were in 9th place as team after one lap, 6th after two laps, but had moved into 3rd after three of the four laps. Leo Young did much of the same as he was 50th and the last American at the end of one lap (four of the six Americans, including Leo, were essentially in a pack at that point).
Dave Smith had quite a 24-hour period as on Friday in the US (but Saturday morning in Australia), his Oklahoma State men shattered the NCAA DMR record by running 9:16.40.
You want to see pure joy? Watch the video below.
But the US U20 men weren’t the only one’s making history as the women’s U20 team got bronze as well.
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Reynold Kipkorir CHERUIYOT
Sergio DEL BARRIO
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