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Huddle Dominates, Chelanga Wins Narrowly at .US National 12K


ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – For the third year in a row, Olympian Molly Huddle took home top prize at the .US National 12K Sunday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, running away from the field early, while men’s champion Sam Chelanga used a late kick to the finish to edge Tyler Pennel for the title.


As expected, Huddle set a very fast pace from the gun, passing through the first mile in 5:10, already three seconds ahead of the competition. The Providence-based standout continued to press in miles two and three, building a lead of over 100 meters before the turnaround point.


Despite the large lead, Huddle charged on, running calm and in control as each mile clicked along. With the finish line in sight and a lead of nearly 30 seconds over the rest of the field, Huddle coasted home for her third straight .US National 12K title in 38:26.


In addition to her race win, Huddle also earned her third straight USATF Running Circuit overall title. Accumulating another 30 points, to go along with her four additional USATF Running Circuit race wins in 2015, Huddle surpassed the 100 point mark for the season, finishing with 105 total points.


While Huddle ran away from the field, a tight chase pack formed and ran stride for stride much of the way, only breaking apart over the final mile. Teammates Brianne Nelson and Alisha Williams led the way, with Sara Hall, Kim Conley and Alexi Pappas pushing the pace just behind.


The group maintained pace until the runners emerged back in downtown Alexandria, when Williams and Hall took off. With the finish line in sight, Williams tried gamely to break Hall, but the versatile Hall charged back, overtook Williams and hung on to finish second in 39:02. Williams finished third in 39:05, while Conley finished well in 39:11, just ahead of Nelson in fifth in 39:17.


Nelson’s fifth place finish added an additional 12 points to her USATF Running Circuit total, solidifying her runner-up finish in the final standings with 78 points. Conley’s performance moved her into third place with 57.5 points, while Hall finished the season fourth overall with 55.5 points, just ahead of Laura Thweatt’s fifth place 51 point total.


As the main chase pack runners streamed past the finish, it was USATF Running Circuit veteran Mattie Suver finishing sixth overall in 39:28, just ahead of 24-year old Sarah Pagano, who placed seventh in 39:33. Suver’s finish pushed her a half point ahead of Neely Spence Gracey for sixth in the final USATF Running Circuit standings with 41.5 points,


Liz Costello held on at the end to place eighth overall in 39:40, while Pappas finished ninth in 39:46 and former NCAA champion Emma Bates rounded out the top ten with her strong finishing effort of 39:50.


While Huddle dominated from the gun, the men’s race was tightly packed from start to finish. Through the first mile, the men passed through in a very conservative 4:52, with a pack of nearly twenty men in contention. While former BYU teammates Jared Ward and Jason Witt led early, few shifts in pace occurred until the back half of the race.


At the sharp turnaround point, Chelanga, Jim Spisak, Ward and Pennel started to push the pace, stringing out the lead pack for the first time Sunday. As the four continued their break, Shadrack Kipchirchir, defending champion Brian Shrader and Aaron Braun each positioned themselves near the front.


With less than two miles to go, Ward and Chelanga started to push the pace, only to be passed by Spisak and Pennel. The jostling up front would continue until the final mile of the race, when Pennel shot to the lead with one final drive to the finish.


Chelanga hung on Pennel’s shoulder, taking over the lead with less than a quarter mile to go. Just when it looked as though Chelanga would run away to victory, Pennel crept back up on Chelanga’s shoulder and the two battled all the way to the finish. Chelanga just held off Pennel, with both runners crossing the finish in 34:35.


Kipchirchir held off Spisak for third, as both runners crossed the line in 34:37, while Shrader picked up a fifth place finish in 34:39, three seconds ahead of the sixth place Ward, who ran 34:42. Ward’s performance wrapped up a tremendous season, one in which he won three USATF Running Circuit titles and easily won the overall circuit title with a total of 92.5 points.


For Chelanga, his victory not only earned him his second USATF title since becoming an American citizen earlier this year, but the 30 points pushed the Tucson-based runner into second place in the final USATF Running Circuit standings with a total of 71.5 points.


Pennel’s runner-up performance earned him another 24 points towards his final total, as he edged out Dathan Ritzenhein for third in the final standings, 53-50. USATF Marathon Championship runner-up Matt Llano finished fifth overall for the year with 37 points.


Rounding out the men’s top ten Sunday, Diego Estrada ran a strong second half of the race to finish seventh in 34:46, three seconds ahead of Trevor Dunbar’s 34:49 eighth place performance. 27-year old Jonathan Grey crossed the line ninth in 34:51, while veteran Braun hung on to finish tenth overall in 34:53.


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 more than $500,000 to be awarded in total prize money. A total of $100,000 in prize money will be awarded at the .US National 12K.


The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USATF Running Circuit race. For the .US National 12K, scoring is set as 30 for first, 24 for second, 20 for third, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 and 2, with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.


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 $7 million to U.S. distance runners.


Contributed by Scott Bush

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