Competitor Magazine is reporting the USA Cross Country Championships will be returning to San Diego’s Mission Bay Park on February 5, 2011. Races will be held on the same 2,000 meter loop that played host to the meet in 2008, when Dathan Ritzenhein and Shalane Flanagan won the senior men’s and women’s races, respectively. A link to the article is located here.
This is exciting news for me since I go to school in San Diego and will be able to attend this meet. However, in recent years, few of America’s top distance runners have bothered to attend. And even if they do run at USAs, many do not attend the World Cross Country Championships, instead opting to prepare for spring marathons or summer track seasons. Much has been discussed in recent years about the revival of American distance running, but how can we show the improvements our athletes have made without sending the best team possible to the Worlds?
The U.S. women set a good example in 2010 when a number of top-tier athletes chose to run at the World Championships in Poland and came home with a team bronze medal. Among those who ran were Shalane Flanagan (12th), Molly Huddle (19th), and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet (20th). Especially remarkable was Lewy-Boulet’s performance given that she ran a PR at the Rotterdam Marathon just two weeks later. These women proved to the world that America is among the world’s best distance running nations and should serve as an inspiration to their male counterparts.
Imagine if the U.S. actually sent their best six men to the 2011 Worlds in Punta Umbria, Spain. Guys like Ritz, Rupp, Solinsky, Tegenkamp, Meb, Hall, Torres, and Abdi could duke it out in San Diego for the right to represent their country. The most fit would then face the masses of East Africans and the best from other countries for a chance at team medal in Spain. A good performance there would unequivocally prove that the United States is up with Kenya and Ethiopia as one of the world’s best distance running nations.