03 FEB 2011 General News Indianapolis, USA

Flanagan set to defend women's title, Tegenkamp leads men's field for USA Cross Country Championships

Another national cross country title for Shalane Flanagan (Kirby Lee)Another national cross country title for Shalane Flanagan (Kirby Lee) © Copyright
Olympic bronze medallist and American record holder Shalane Flanagan and 2008 Olympian Matt Tegenkamp lead the fields at the 2011 USA Cross Country Championships scheduled for Saturday (6) at Mission Bay Park in San Diego, Calif. Flanagan will be seeking her fifth USA Cross Country title.

In addition to the national titles up for grabs in San Diego, open and junior men and women will qualify to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships on 20 Marchin Punta Umbria, Spain.

In the women's race Flanagan, whose 12th place finish at the World Cross Country Championships last year in Bydgoszcz, Poland, led Team USA to a third place team finish and a spot on the podium, will face training partner and NCAA 10,000 meter record holder Lisa Koll; American Record holder at 5000m Molly Huddle and 2007 World Championships bronze medallist at 10,000m Kara Goucher.

Flanagan's 2010 World Cross Country teammates Renee Metivier Baillie and Magdalena Lewy Boulet will be in the hunt for a Team USA spot, along with 2009 champion Emily Brown and 2006 champion Blake Russell.

On the men's side, Tegenkamp, one of only five U.S. men to break 13 minutes for 5000m, leads a field that includes Olympians Abdi Abdirahman, Jorge Torres and past Team USA harriers Scott Bauhs; Bobby Curtis; Ben Bruce; Ryan Vail; and Bobby Mack. Veterans Max King and Matt Gabrielson will both be seeking to make their fourth Team USA Cross Country squad.

The championships will consist of six Cross Country championship races for men's and women's categories with national titles on the line for junior, masters and open divisions. The nation's premier Cross Country event, the Championships will feature $38,000 in prize money.

Junior women -

In the women's junior race, all eyes will squarely be on Cornwall Central High School (Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York) senior Aisling Cuffe, who returns to San Diego two months after destroying the field at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships at Balboa Park.

At the fabled Balboa Park course, Cuffe, who plans to attend Stanford University this fall, clocked the sixth fastest time, running 16:52 for the 5 km distance.

The University of Washington's Katie Flood, who won the 2009 Nike Cross Nationals race and was the Pac-10 cross country newcomer of the year in 2010, will perhaps be Cuffe's main challenger.

Among Cuffe's chief competitors include Syracuse University freshmen Julie Jablonski; Ashley Smolinka; and UCLA freshmen Amber Murukami and Caitlin Schmitt. University of Washington freshmen Chelsea Orr, Mackenzie Carter, and Liberty Miller will also be in the mix for the spots to Punta Umbria for the World Championships and the NACAC championships in Trinidad in two weeks.

Junior men -

Ammar Moussa of Arcadia High School is perhaps the one to watch in the men's junior 8 km race. Recently named the Gatorade High School cross country runner of the year in California, Moussa led his school to the Nike Cross Nationals title in December, and won his second USA Junior Olympics national cross country title.

Moussa is aiming for his second straight USA junior team, as he finished sixth in Spokane last year, running 24:28. Moussa finished 66th in the 2010 junior world championships, running 25:00.

Among Moussa's key competitors are high school senior, Craig Lutz of Marcus HS in Flower Mound, Texas. Lutz won the 2009 Nike Cross Nationals individual race and finished third in December, one spot ahead of Moussa.

Jim Estes (USATF) for the IAAF