Canada swept the U20 races but the USA bounced back with the senior titles at the NACAC Cross Country Championships at Queens Park Savannah in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday (16).
The men’s 10km senior race came down to a sprint finish, where Abbabiya Simbassa found the extra edge to successfully defend the title he won two years ago at home in Boca Raton, Florida. The 25-year old completed the distance in 31:49, two seconds ahead of his countrymen Frankline Tonui and Reid Buchanan, who were second and third, respectively.
Two years ago, Simbassa made his debut on the USA team with gold and followed with a fourth place finish at the 2018 Pan American Cross Country Championships. Evans Kirwa made it a perfect score for the USA in the team standings, followed by Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, to the delight of the home crowd.
In the women’s 10km contest, the Canadian trio of Jessica O'Connell, Natasha Wodak and national champion Genevieve Lalonde led the proceedings during the early part of the race, closely followed by Mexico’s 2015 Pan American Games 10,000m gold medallist Brenda Flores. The USA quartet remained in contact with the front as the race progressed.
Breanna Sieracki, who wore a national team kit for the first time, bided her time before overtaking O'Connell in the final stages to claim the victory. The race marked the first time the 10km distance was contested for women at the NACAC Cross Country Championships.
It was a much stronger showing for the 23-year-old Sieracki, who had finished 19th two weeks ago at the USA Cross Country Championships. She finished the five-loop course in 36:34, three second ahead of O'Connell. Her teammate Jessica Tonn claimed bronze another three second adrift.
The United States narrowly beat Canada in the team division, 18 to 20. Mexico finished third.
On a hot and sunny day, Taryn O'Neill led off the proceedings for the land of the maple leaf in the women’s U20 6km race, which she won in 22:08 to lead a Canadian medal sweep, a repeat of their finish at the Pan American Cross Country Championships in El Salvador last year.
Charlotte Wood crossed the finish line two seconds later. Makenna Fitzgerald (22:14) and Anne Forsyth (22:36) followed her home to secure the team victory for Canada, ahead of the United States and Puerto Rico.
The younger Canadian men replicated that success with another strong showing in the U20 8km race. Seventeen-year-old Evan Burke savoured his first international win after a 27:20 effort. The youngest member of the Canadian team finished fourth in the 3000m at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires last year, where he set a national U18 record of 8:14.99.
Nicholas Mota (27:30) and Andrew Davies (27:37) secured a second consecutive podium sweep for Canada, which also dominated the team standings over the United States and Puerto Rico.
Athletes from Jamaica, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Bahamas also took part. A community 2km run was held earlier in the day.
Some of the athletes present, especially from the Canadian squad, took the event as preparation for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019, to be held 30 March.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF