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Derrick, Thweatt Take Home Titles at USATF Cross Country Championships


BOULDER – Chris Derrick ran away from the field late to take the men’s race for the third consecutive time, while local favorite Laura Thweatt put on a clinic over the final mile of the race, as both runners took home top prize at the USATF Cross Country Championships Saturday in Boulder, Colorado.


The USATF Cross Country Championships are the second stop on the 2015 USATF Running Circuit. The top 15 finishers at each race on the circuit qualify to compete in the 2015 .US National 12K, which takes place in November in Alexandria, Virginia.


The early stages of the men’s race saw a large pack running tightly together. Andrew Wacker pushed early, then after the first mile Augustus Maiyo and Patrick Smyth took over for much of the next two miles.


At the 5k mark, Derrick moved to the lead, with rivals Dathan Ritzenhein and Ben True hanging on his shoulder. Bobby Curtis and Stanford All-American Maksim Korolev ran fourth and fifth. As Derrick continued to set the tone, he picked up the pace a tremendous amount at 6k, gapping the chase pack, ultimately creating a gap his competition could never cover.


Derrick ran by himself for the entire second half of the race. The defending national champion looked smooth and at ease leading and with still over two miles to go, it was clear Derrick was on his game. Derrick crossed the finish line in 36:18, winning his third straight USATF Cross Country title.


Behind Derrick, True led the chase pack for the next two miles, until Ritzenhein took over, along with Curtis. True faded a bit, while Curtis and Ritzenhein showed great early season fitness, eventually finishing second and third respectively in 36:48 and 36:51.  


Rounding out the top six finishers, Portland-based Ryan Vail ran a strong second half to finish fourth overall in 36:55 while early front runners Smyth and Korolev finished fifth and sixth in 37:01 and 37:03.


In the women’s race, the leaders went out fairly conservatively, as Brianne Nelson, Thweatt and Sara Hall led a large pack for much of the first two miles. With 15 other runners in tow, it remained wide open as each runner vied for a top six finish.


As the lead pack passed the halfway point of the 8k course, Thweatt took over the lead and immediately started to push the pace, breaking up the field and immediately losing a few runners off the back.


Thweatt continued to push the pace and by 5k it was a three-woman race, as Hall and Neely Spence hung off the shoulder of the leader. No matter how much Hall and Spence pushed, Thweatt continued to hammer the pace, eventually dropping Spence.


Just past the 21-minute mark, Thweatt put in another surge and pulled away from Hall, pushing the pace enough to put a large gap between herself and second place with a mile to go. As Thweatt entered the final homestretch, the Boulder crowd cheered on their local hero, as she crossed the line victoriously in 27:42.


“I can’t believe it’s real,” Thweatt exclaimed afterward. “I can’t believe that just happened.”


Behind Thweatt, Hall faded badly over the final half mile, as Colorado-based runner Mattie Suver and Olympian Jennifer Rhines passed Hall to finish second and third in 28:23 and 28:21, while middle distance standout Brie Felnagle closed well to finish fourth in 28:23.


Hall placed fifth in 28:26, while Rhines’ Boston Athletic Association teammate Elaina Balouris rounded out the top six in 28:29.


The top six finishers in both races automatically qualify to compete for Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, which take place March 28 in Guiyang, China.


About the USATF Running Circuit

The USATF Running Circuit is a USA Track & Field road series featuring USATF championships from one mile through the marathon and consistently attracts the best American distance runners with nearly $700,000 to be awarded in total prize money.


The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USATF Running Circuit race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series. For Super Circuit events, scoring is set as 22.5 for first, 18 for second, 15 for third, 10.5, 9, 7.5, 6, 4.5, 3 and 1.5. Runners who finish in the top 15 at USATF Running Circuit races qualify for the .US National 12K, the culminating event of the USATF Running Circuit featuring $100,000 in prize money.


The mission of the USATF Running Circuit is to showcase, support and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USATF Running Circuit and its races have provided over $9 million to U.S. distance runners.


Contributed by Scott Bush

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