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Posted: February 5, 2009  :

(RRW) Athletics: USA Cross Country Championships Set For Saturday

From David Monti

© 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

By Jim Hage

The USA Cross Country Championships will be held on Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood, Md., about 15 miles (24 km) from Washington, D.C. National titles will be contested among masters, juniors and open men and women, with the top open and junior finishers eligible to compete in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan, on March 28.

Whether the best U.S. runners actually go to Amman, however, is another question.

Jordan is not Britain or France, and prospective team members have waxed less than enthusiastic about competing in the Middle East. Defending U.S. champion Dathan Ritzenhein, who scratched on Wednesday due to the flu, said last week he would not have raced in Amman had he qualified for the team. Katie McGregor, who will be attempting to make her seventh U.S. team, and Olympic steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti also said they did not plan on competing at Worlds.

"World competition is so intense, there are so many great runners," Famiglietti said speaking to reporters via teleconference. "We have to pick and choose our battles... For the rest of the world, cross country is a fantastic option. But in the United States it's not a trendy thing. We have a lot of other options."

McGregor maintains a steady presence on the roads –she was second in the 8-K, 15-K and 10-mile national championships last year and ran 2:32:36 at the New York City Marathon in November. This year, she hopes to compete for the Unites States at 10,000 meters in the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Berlin in August. "World Cross is not a priority," said the former University of Michigan star who lives and trains near Minneapolis.

At last year's World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland, the U.S. men finished seventh of 15 teams, and the women were fourth of 12 teams. The top individual performance by an American was Alexandra Gits's 13th place finish in the junior women's race.

Still, competition on Saturday should be spirited, with two-time long-course cross country champion and 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi entering only on Tuesday. Jorge Torres, 19th at Worlds and the top U.S. finisher in the senior men's race there last year, is also entered. Emily Brown, McGregor's Team USA Minnesota teammate, finished third in last year's national race in San Diego and was the top U.S. senior finisher (18th) in Edinburgh.

The men's junior race will feature one of the nation's brightest young stars, Oklahoma State University freshman German Fernandez, who ran the fastest ever indoor mile by a junior (3:56.50) on Jan. 24. Fernandez is the defending junior national champion, and has enjoyed a remarkable recovery from an Achilles injury he sustained at last November's NCAA Cross Country Championships where he had to be carried off of the course. Stanford freshman Chris Derrick, who recently ran 13:44.02 indoors for 5000m, is also entered.

One of America's oldest sports competitions, the first U.S. cross country championships were held in 1890

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