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Winners beat out strong fields, warm temps at USATF Cross Country Championships


BOULDER -- Despite unseasonably warm temperatures for a Colorado February, both junior and masters athletes utilized a drier-than-expected course at the Flatirons Golf Course Saturday at the 2015 USATF Cross Country Championships in Boulder, Colorado.

Juniors athletes were vying for a spot on Team USA for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China. Strong performances by junior women’s and men’s winners Kaitlyn Benner (Superior, Colorado) and Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah) highlighted a gorgeous day in Boulder.

For Benner and CU teammate Valerie Constien (Edwards, Colorado), the course wasn’t as easy as it looked. While Flatirons is her home cross country course, Benner has had to sustain her training while handling winter, high altitude and drastically changing tempatures in Boulder. Running alongside Constien for much of the 6 km race, Benner kicked in the home straight to seal the victory and punch her ticket for Guiyang in 21:48, while Constien crossed in 21:54.

“I was really hoping Val or I would win today,” Benner said. “It means so much to make Team USA here in Boulder, where we train and compete. It’s so exciting to share this with her and I can’t wait for the experience in China.”

On the men’s side, it was a battle between Mantz and Oklahoma State’s Cerake Geberkidane (Denver, Colorado). Geberkidane is coming off a stellar performance at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country meet in January, turning in a runner-up finish individually and earning a gold medal for Team USA’s junior men.

For Mantz, Saturday was a race of redemption as injuries kept him sidelined for six weeks of training during his high school cross country season and left him unsatisfied in his final performances of senior year. Keeping his mind on unfinished business, Mantz stayed close to Geberkidane for much of the race and made his move on the final lap of the 8 km course, crossing in 25:12. Geberkidane took the runner-up spot, finishing in 25:37.

“This year was really tough for me with being injured during cross country season,” Mantz said. “I missed six weeks of training and didn’t perform well at states or Foot Locker Nationals. The thing that kept me going and gave me hope was that I could redeem myself (in Boulder). I can’t wait to wear USA across my chest.”

The masters races were equally impressive, as overall winners Colleen De Reuck (Boulder, Colorado) and Jacques Sallberg (Pasadena, California) took home the titles Saturday. For four-time Olympian De Reuck, it was business as usual, as she looked strong and confident at Flatirons and took advantage of the cooler temps in the morning.

De Reuck looked comfortable throughout the 6 km race, navigating the course with ease and utilizing her training in Boulder to adjust to the conditions. De Reuck crossed in 22:26 and credited runner-up and fellow Boulder resident Melody Fairchild for pushing her to the finish, as Fairchild closed on De Reuck to cross in 22:29. Fairchild’s Boulder Mountain Warriors teammate Maureen Wrenn (Boulder, Colorado) finished in 22:52 for the third podium spot.

For Sallberg, his masters cross country debut proved to be golden, taking home the overall men’s 8 km masters crown in 26:29. Though noting the altitude could be punishing at times, he credited his performance to arriving to Boulder a week early, as well as the motivation from the young team he coaches back in Pasadena.

“I’ve been having a bit of nagging tendonitis and I wasn’t sure how it was going to hold up here,” Sallberg said. “There were times where I would try to go and I couldn’t tell if it was the altitude or if it being a bit banged up, but I’m so grateful to get this win. I’m not really a cross country guy. My true love is the steeplechase, but to come out here in my first masters cross country race and win…it means a lot.”

Bowerman Track Club’s Gregory Mitchell (Portland, Oregon) took the runner-up spot in 26:44, while local athlete Simon Gutierrez (Boulder, Colorado) of Boulder Running Company crossed in 27:00.

Full official results, including individual, age-graded and team, can be found at The next USATF Championship event is the Masters 8 km Championships on Sunday, Feb. 22 in Brea, California.


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