US Junior Women Medal for First Time Ever at World Cross Country Championships

February 18, 2023

For the first time ever, the Unites States’ junior women’s team medalled at the World Cross Country Championships, as the American women picked up the bronze (54 points) in a race dominated by Ethiopia (gold with 15 points) and Kenya (silver with 22 points).

The Americans were led by Champs Sports (Foot Locker) runner-up Ellie Shea, who placed 10th. Irene Riggs, who was undefeated in cross country in 2022 and is the USATF junior champ, was 12th, Karrie Baloga, the Champs Sports winner was 13th, and Zariel Macchia (6th at Champ Sports) rounded out the scoring for the US in 19th.

Uganda (75) and Japan (76) were the next teams behind the US.

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QT: Congrats to the American women

The women ran very smart races. Shea fell in the mud pit on the first lap, but didn’t panic and ended up in the top 10. The field wasn’t as deep as it usually is, but the top Japanese woman usually finishes before the US’s #1 and this year the US put three before Japan’s #1.

As good as the American women have been at the senior level it is hard to believe that the US women have never medalled as a team at the junior level, but it took them 28 editions of this race to do it.

The US hasn’t had anyone in the top 20 since 2013 and this is the first time they put a runner in the top 10 since Melody Fairchild earned the bronze medal in 1991. The US should be pretty strong at World XC next year as well, should the members of the team elect to return: Shea is only a junior in high school and Macchia just a sophomore, while Baloga is eligible to run the U20 race again next year (Riggs, who was born on December 28, 2004, can’t run the U20 race next year — she missed the cutoff by four days).

What a great run by the American junior women, and the junior men followed it up with a bronze medal of their own.

Irene Riggs and Ellie Shea talk about their top finishes:

Top 20

1 ETH 20:53 
2 ETH 21:00 
3 KEN 21:01 
4 KEN 21:10 
5 ETH 21:16 
6 KEN 21:17 
7 ETH 21:27 
8 ETH 21:32 
9 KEN 21:46 
10 USA 21:48 
11 ETH 21:57 
12 USA 22:03 
13 USA 22:12 
14 UGA 22:24 
15 UGA 22:36 
16 UGA 22:36 
17 JPN 22:37 
18 JPN 22:46 
19 USA 23:05 
20 JPN 23:07 

Team Scores

1 Ethiopia ETH
2 Kenya KEN
3 United States USA
4 Uganda UGA
5 Japan JPN
6 Great Britain & NI GBR
7 Spain ESP
8 South Africa RSA

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