Source: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport, Thanks to Tom Liu for photo edit

Big names to battle in men's race at USA Cross Country Champs

For the first time in many years there is no clear-cut favorite in the open men’s race of the USA Cross Country Championships.  Defending champion Dathan Ritzenhein, who many consider to be America’s best cross country runner, is out with an ankle injury, allowing a number of other distance stars to duke it out over the 12 kilometer course.

2008 Olympian Matt Tegenkamp shook up the dynamics of the race with his entry into the race Tuesday.  Saturday’s race will also serve as his season opener.  The sub-13 minute 5k runner had an injury plagued 2010 that saw him run only a few track races.  Tegenkamp hasn’t run a cross country race in five years but can surely handle the distance given the vast amount of strength training done under coach Jerry Schumacher.

Very few Americans have as much cross country success as Reebok-sponsored athlete Jorge Torres.  During his collegiate days at Colorado, Torres was the 2002 NCAA cross country champion and has continued upon that success as a professional with two runner-up finishes at USA Cross in 2005 and 2008.  His top placing at World Cross Country was 19th in 2008, a few months before qualifying for his first Olympic team in the 10,000 meters.

Torres’ 10k Olympic teammate Abdi Abdirahman is making his first USA Cross Country appearance since 2006.  Abdirahman struggled with injuries throughout much of last season, forcing him to pull out of the Chicago Marathon.  Also known as the Black Cactus, the University of Arizona grad’s 10k personal best of 27:16.99 is the fourth fastest in American history.

At the young age of 24, Mammoth Track Club member Scott Bauhs is already a cross country veteran having qualified for two World Cross Country teams.  Bauhs has raced more than most this winter, setting a half marathon PR in December and racing twice in January in Europe.  For more on Bauhs and his lead up to this race, see our pre-race interview with him here.

Among others in contention is Ben Bruce.  The San Diego native is not only a 8:22 steeplechaser, but was fourth at last year’s USA Cross Country champs and won the Bay Area Cross Challenge three weeks ago. recently caught up with Bruce and his girlfriend, newly minted 2:29 marathoner Stephanie Rothstein.  That interview can be found here (Bruce’s portion of the interview begins around 1:08:10).

Villanova grad Bobby Curtis had a tremendous breakthrough in 2010.  He set a massive personal best of 27:33.38 run at the legendary Payton Jordan Invite 10k as well as a 5k PR of 13:18.97.

Ed Moran has consistently been among America’s top runners on the track, roads, and in cross country.  He will seek to make his third World Cross team on Saturday.

Ryan Vail has qualified for the past two World Cross teams, including in 2009 while still a collegiate at Oklahoma State.  Vail ran the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last week and may still be fatigued from that effort.

Andrew Bumbalough excelled his senior season at Georgetown, placing third in the 5000 meters at both the NCAA and USA outdoor championships.  He joined the Nike Oregon Project and has been training this fall with the likes of Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky.

For more on the USA Cross Country Championships, visit our coverage index page here.

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