Adam Goucher (USA) on the way to his sixth place finish in the men's short race (Mark Shearman) © Copyright
General News Fukuoka, Japan

USA benefits from a little planning

If the point needed demonstrating at all, Team USA showed in the last ever IAAF World Cross Country short race men's race (Sat 1 April) what can be achieved with a little bit of forethought and planning.

Led home by a buccaneering run from a resurgent Adam Goucher, who placed sixth, the Americans claimed fifth place in the team event.

"When you say something, you hope it happens," said 31-year-old Goucher.

"I was looking at the start list and I said to myself to run my race, and let it unfold, because people will die, and I just kept running hard."

"I felt good out there, especially when running against the fastest guys in the world. This was just awesome."

Goucher announced himself on the international cross country scene six years ago when he managed to win both the 4km and 12km races at the United States trials.

Goucher also won the 5000m race at the 2000 US Olympic trials, but the intervening years have not been kind to Goucher, who has struggled with injuries.

His return to form has coincided with a move to Oregon where he is now coached by Alberto Salazar, the past winner of the New York and Boston Marathons who, 24-years-ago when these championships were staged in Rome, won the silver medal over 12km behind Ethiopia's Mohammed Kedir.

Thus Goucher was able to borrow from his coach's experiences of mixing it with the Africans. And to good effect.

The Americans have also made this meeting something of a family affair. Goucher's wife, Kara, races in the women's 4km event today Sunday, together with Sara Hall, the wife of Ryan Hall.

>>UPDATE: Kara Goucher finished 21st, and Sara Hall was 26th<<

Following Adam Goucher's lead on Saturday, Ryan also managed to place in the top-20 over 4km, although he will not be so well placed to watch his wife racing, since he is also entered for the men's 12km event later in the day (Ryan Hall finished 43rd). In the 4km event, Jorge Torres (27th) and Daniel Lincoln (28th) closed in for the US men's team, which opted to target its better runners at the short race on this occasion.

"I wanted to double in order to get some experience running at this level," said Hall, the winner of the Chiba International race earlier in the cross country season.

"I am not thinking too much about the 12k, but rather the 4k, especially with that team as strong as it is."

The Americans also seemed to find the switchbacks of the Seaside Park course to their liking. "It's fast, as advertised," Goucher said. "It's a beautiful course and I really like it.

"It is a smooth, flowing course. It's not a bang-your-body-up type of course, but there are spots where it's a bit bumpy. It feels like a fast, grass track."

Hall agreed. "This is a course where you're gonna have to get out fast with the narrow spots. If you get stuck behind, it's going to be hard to make up ground."

Goucher's performance here suggests he will have his best track season for six years. "I feel like I am in the best shape I've ever been in. I feel confident in where I am in my training."

Steven Downes for the IAAF

(With thanks to Paul Merca, USATF)