Shadrack Kipchirchir took the top honors at the USATF Cross Country Championships that was held on Sunday (9) at Mission Bay Park in San Diego.
The race took off with 13 men forming the lead back through the first two kilometer loop. As expected, the pace would soon pick up, as Sam Chelanga started to push the pace, with training mates Benard Keter and Leonard Korir on his shoulder. The shift in pace caused the men’s lead pack to quickly fall to seven runners.
Chelanga would throw in surges throughout the next five kilometers of the race; with 2019 champion Kipchirchir running off his shoulder throughout.
Little changed until there was one kilometer to go, as Keter was dropped off the pace, and it was a battle to the finish. Maggard and Chelanga took turns pushing the pace, with Kipchirchir and Korir just behind. The foursome kept rolling along, pushing the small undulations on the course.
With 100 meters to go, Kipchirchir and Dillon Maggard separated themselves just enough from Chelanga and Korir to make it a two-man race to the finish. Kipchirchir gave a kick of his lifetime to dash past Maggard and claim his second USATF Cross Country Championship title, with a time of 30:32.
“You know I’m glad to finally be at the start line,” Kipchirchir said in his USATF.tv interview. “I got injured right before the Olympic Trials. I was frustrated, but I held on to a lot of hopes that I was going to come back.” He also announced that he and his wife, Elvin Kibet, were expecting a child later this year.
Maggard, who placed fourth at the 2020 Championships, crossed the line in second in 30:34, with Chelanga closing the first three podium finishes in 30:34.
Korir and Keter came home in fourth and fifth place in 30:37 and 30:49 respectively.
USATF reigning champion Leonard Korir lived to his expectations as he increased his tally after clinching the USATF 20km Championships held on American runners Labor Day.
Korir did not allow the warm and humid weather to dampen his victory with the temperature hitting near 80 degrees at race start, with 90 percent humidity, both the men’s and women’s race got off to conservative starts, as runners gaged how the conditions would challenge them throughout the 12.4 mile race.
The race started with the U.S. Army contingent of Korir, Haron Lagat, Samuel Kosgei and Elkanah Kibet grabbing the lead and setting the tone.
As the men’s field, containing a dozen runners passed through the 5 km mark in 14:59, it was the Flagstaff duo of Kiya Dandena and Aaron Braun, along with USATF Running Circuit veteran Ahmed Osman, leading the charge. As quickly as those three made the race, things shifted when Korir and Lagat took over around 8 km.
Korir put in a surge that would ultimately break the other two runners, while Braun tried valiantly to hang on in fourth, putting nearly 40 meters on both over the next half mile.
The 31 year Kenyan born- American hanged on for another big USATF Running Circuit victory, securing the win, his second in three years when he cut the tape in 1:00.17.
Lagat battled for the second place when he crossed the line in 1:00.29 with Dandena closing the podium three places 1:00.34.
Osman edged out Kibet to finish in fourth and fifth in1:01.43 and 1:01.44 respectively.
Korir’s victory gives the reigning USATF Running Circuit overall champion the lead in this year’s standings, surpassing Sam Chelanga with 73.5 points to Chelanga’s 55 points. Hehir’s eighth place finish moves him past Scott Fauble for third, 31.5-28.5. Kosgei’s sixth place finish adds another 7.5 points to his total on the season, his 26.5 points placing him fifth in the overall standings.
Reigning USATF running overall champion, Leonard Korir will be targeting to increase his points at the USATF 20 km Championships that will be held on American runners Labor Day morning.
The USATF 20 km Championships, hosted by the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race, are the seventh stop on the 2018 USATF Running Circuit.
Seven of the top ten finishers from 2017 are back and ready to contend for the title. Last year, Korir finished one second behind race champion Galen Rupp, but with no Rupp entered, Korir will seek to earn his second USATF 20 km title after winning the race in 2016.
In addition to vying for the victory, Korir seeks to take over the lead in the USATF Running Circuit. He currently sits four points behind leader Sam Chelanga, 55-51, and Chelanga is not racing.
Korir will be running both with and against his U.S. Army teammates in New Haven. In what’s become a familiar sight in the USATF Running Circuit, Korir is joined by a trio of other U.S. Army teammates and fans can expect them to run a large portion of the race together up front.
Elkanah Kibet, Samuel Kosgei and Haron Lagat are each having terrific 2018 seasons. Kibet, who is preparing for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, placed fourth at the USATF 20 km Championships in 2016, while earning a fifth place finish at the USATF 25 km Championships earlier this season and a third place finish in the 10,000m at the USATF Outdoor Championships.
For Kosgei, Monday’s race is another chance to move up the USATF Running Circuit standings. Currently sitting sixth overall, Kosgei finished sixth at the USATF 20 km Championships in 2017. Using that experience, along with the momentum built from fifth place finishes at the USATF Half Marathon Championships and USATF 25 km Championships earlier this season, Kosgei should be in the top three as the race enters the closing stages.
For Lagat, he’s stepping up in distance. The experience steeplechase runner on the track finished sixth in the event this summer at the USATF Outdoor Championships, while earning a runner-up finish at the USATF 10 km Championships. If he can hold form with his teammates until the final stages of the race, his superior speed could prove crucial to earning a top three placing.
Not to be overlooked, Martin Hehir, who recently joined former Syracuse teammate Justyn Knight and coach Chris Fox in a new Reebok-sponsored training group, enters Monday’s race sitting fourth in the USATF Running Circuit standings, only 1.5 points behind third place Scott Fauble. Hehir showed success earlier in the season at the USATF 15 km Championships, where he placed third, and is ready to challenge for another big finish.
Other notable returnees include USATF Running Circuit veterans Christo Landry and Tim Ritchie. Landry placed fourth at the 2017 USATF 20 km Championships, which came off a third place finish in 2016. Ritchie captured fifth place in both the 2017 and 2016 editions. Both runners haven proven expertise on the course and if fully healthy could very well push for another top five finish.
Similar to others in the field, Aaron Braun is using Monday’s race as a tune-up to the Chicago Marathon, as are Kiya Dandena and Jonas Hampton, who finished seventh and eighth at the USATF 20 km Championships in 2017.
Ahmed Osman, who placed tenth in 2017, Olympian Donn Cabral, USATF Running Circuit veteran Fernando Cabada, Oregon Track Club runner Luke Puskedra and Braun’s HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite teammate Futsum Zienasellassie also have a chance to vie for top five finishes.
Bernard Lagat won the USATF 10k Championships while competing in the AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, setting a new benchmark for Masters runners.
The 43-year-old clocked a time of 28:45 to finish first against an impressive field of top American road racers, including Haron Lagat, Tyler Pennel, and Sam Chelanga. This is his 15th national championship but first on the roads. Lagat is the oldest athlete to ever win the USATF 10K Championships title.
Now in its 17th year, USATF’s Athlete of the Week program is designed to recognize outstanding performers at all levels of the sport. USATF names a new honoree each week and features the athlete on USATF.org. Selections are based on top performances and results from the previous week.
When Sam Chelanga was growing up in the village of Kabarsel, just north of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, Paul Tergat would stop by the house as Chelanga tended to the animals on his family’s farm.
In a country known for its distance runners, Tergat is one of Kenya’s greatest ever — a two-time Olympic medalist, five-time world cross country champion, and former world record holder in the marathon. Tergat was a training partner of Chelanga’s brother, Joshua (a 2:07 marathoner), and treated Chelanga like a younger brother — he’d give him 1,000 shillings in pocket money, and in return Chelanga would ferry around the runners in Tergat’s group and drop off water on training runs in Tergat’s Toyota Land Cruiser.
“He would never let anyone [else] drive but he said, ‘Hey Sam, come drive my truck,’” Chelanga says.
Sometimes Tergat would ask Chelanga what he wanted to become when he grew up. Chelanga’s answer was always the same: a lawyer. Chelanga’s home village was poor and lacked reliable access to safe drinking water and hospitals. Chelanga hoped that a law degree would help him to deliver social justice.
But a law degree requires going to college, and college costs money. Tergat told Chelanga that there was another route to college: running. Reluctantly, Chelanga took up the sport, setting in motion a 13-year journey that included a decorated collegiate career at Liberty University and professional stops in Eugene, Ore., Hanover, N.H., Tucson, Ariz., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
On Thursday, one day after finishing 4th at the USATF 10k Championships at the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, Chelanga, 33, announced that he has retired from professional running in order to enlist in the U.S. Army. On July 29, he will report to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for basic training; once he completes that, it’s off to Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia, beginning October 15. Chelanga would like to specialize in military intelligence.
Even though Chelanga says he grew to love running, he was never motivated by medals or glory. As he went on to win four NCAA titles at Liberty and five U.S. titles on the roads as a pro (he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2015), many things drove him: a college degree, helping his family and home village back in Kenya, representing the United States, supporting his wife, Marybeth, and their two sons, five-year-old Micah and one-year-old Noah. But he wasn’t the guy who went to bed every night dreaming about Olympic gold. When he and Marybeth started dating, Chelanga never spoke about running. When I ask him what his proudest accomplishment in running was, he tells me that it wasn’t a race, but instead the moment when he realized he was actually going to graduate with a college degree “because that is why I started running.”
Chelanga’s retirement announcement prompts several questions. The most obvious: why now? Chelanga, who has trained with Scott Simmons‘ American Distance Project in Colorado Springs since 2016, was the top American finisher at last year’s World Cross Country Championships, finishing in 11th place. This year, Chelanga ran a half marathon personal best of 60:37 in Houston in January, finished 14th at the World Half Marathon Championships in March (again, he was the top U.S. finisher), and won the U.S. 25K title in May. He has plenty left in the tank.
Which is precisely why Chelanga felt it was important to join the Army now.
“I’ve done everything that I wanted to do in running,” says Chelanga, who achieved personal bests of 13:04 in the 5,000m and 27:08 (still the collegiate record, set in a very famous race where Chris Solinsky ran 26:59 and Galen Rupp 27:10) in the 10,000m. “I’ve got more than I asked for when I came in…I don’t want to wait until I’m old or something. I feel young, I feel fresh, I feel like I have a lot of energy and I want to take this job when I’m going to serve at the best level of my ability.”
There’s also this fact: Chelanga no longer has an endorsement contract, as his Nike deal expired at the end of 2017 (Nike did offer to renew it, but Chelanga turned them down).
Chelanga, who considered joining the Kenyan Air Force as a teenager, has always been inspired by men in uniform. He was also born with a desire to serve, and that desire was not being met as a professional runner.
“I left running because I wanted to do something [where] every morning, I wake up and feel fulfilled,” Chelanga says.
Chelanga’s path to the Army is untraditional, especially when contrasted with the journeys of his training mates in Colorado Springs. Several of them, such as Shadrack Kipchirchir, Leonard Korir, and Paul Chelimo, joined the Army as a way to acquire U.S. citizenship and continue their running careers representing the United States. Chelanga had to wait five years to become a naturalized U.S. citizen and decided to join the Army three years later.
Chelanga says that former Army WCAP coach Dan Browne did try to recruit him to join the Army while he was in college, but Chelanga says he was told by a recruiter that he could only enlist if he was a U.S. citizen or was in possession of a green card. That was not actually the case — the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program under which Chelimo and others gained their citizenship was established in 2009 — but regardless, Chelanga signed a contract with Nike when he exhausted his eligibility in 2011 rather than attempt to enlist in the military.
Chelanga has not forgotten his home village back in Kenya. During his professional career, Chelanga sent water filters back to Kabarsel so that every family had access to clean drinking water. Recently, he heard about the death of a neighbor, who passed away at the same hospital where Chelanga’s father died and hopes that one day he may be able to help upgrade it.
“I’ve always wanted to do something about that hospital,” Chelanga says. “It’s the only hospital in my district and it’s not even good.”
But Chelanga has other priorities, too. He’s a grown man, a family man, and believes he must do right by the country that has given him so much.
“I got into running with the mindset that I was going to help my community back in Kenya,” Chelanga says. “But now I have two kids, and those kids are going to grow up in the United States. This is their new community, this is my new community…Leading young men and women for the United States in the Army, it’s the biggest honor I would have ever asked. Not that I underestimate that what running has done or can do, but I just feel in my heart that this is a calling for me.”
Five-time Olympian, Bernard Largat made history as he became the oldest-ever athlete to win the USATF 10Km championships, that was held on Wednesday (4) at AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta.
The 42 year-old ignored the early breakaway attempt of Augustus Maiyo of the U.S. Army team, stayed tucked in the pack after Maiyo was caught just past the 5-kilometer mark, then sat at the back of a five-man group of Haron Lagat (no relation), Lopez Lomong (the recently-crowned national 10,000m champion), Tyler Pennel, and Sam Chelanga in the final stages of the race. Lagat took advantage of this and went on to cut the tape in 28:42.
“I hung in as much as I could and waited patiently until the last minute,” Lagat said in a text message to Race Results Weekly.
Chelanga was the first to crack in the final kilometer, then Pennel, then Lomong. The taller Haron Lagat tried mightily to hang on his namesake, but the five-time Olympian’s sizzling drive to the finish left his rivals gasping behind him in Atlanta’s warm and sticky air.
“I want to come back again, and I want to win this,” Lagat said, recalling his mindset. “So I trained so hard. I decided not to race in the other race before this. My last race was in March. From March until this, there’s a lot of races I missed. But I thought it was worth the sacrifice.”
Haron Lagat got second six seconds later and was followed by Pennel in 28:49.
Chelanga and Lomong took fourth and fifth place in 28:56 and 28:57 respectively.
Cool temperatures and an overcast sky led to fast times and competitive races at Saturday morning’s USATF 25 km Championships in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sam Chelanga came away victorious.
The USATF 25 km Championships, hosted by the Fifth Third River Bank Run, are the fifth stop on the 2018 USATF Running Circuit.
From the start of the women’s race, a quartet of Sarah Crouch, Aliphine Tuliamuk, Emma Bates and Belainesh Gebre took to the lead, quickly separating themselves from the rest of the field, while after the first mile, Gebre started to trail the others, mile by mile falling further back.
Tuliamuk, Bates and Crouch would continue to take turns leading over the next ten miles, running an honest pace, distancing themselves from the rest of the field and it seemed as though it would be a dash at the finish – that is until Tuliamuk broke open the race up front with a powerful surge in the eleventh mile.
As Tuliamuk made her move, the two-time defending champion opened up her stride and charged up a small hill, leaving Crouch and Bates well behind. Tuliamuk would continue to grow her lead over the final miles, ultimately crossing the line victoriously in 1:25:34.
Tuliamuk’s win not only marked her third straight USATF 25 km Championship title, but earning 30 points for her win gave her 45 points on the USATF Running Circuit season, moving her from a tie for sixth into first place overall, with a 12 point lead over second place Molly Seidel.
While Bates couldn’t maintain the pace of Tuliamuk, the Boise-based runner held form well enough to easily distance herself from Crouch and take home a runner-up finish in 1:25:55. Crouch finished third overall, just over two minutes ahead of fourth in 1:27:03.
Despite falling back from the leaders early on, Gebre was able to settle in and run her own pace the rest of the way, earning herself a fine fourth place finish in her first USATF championship event since becoming an American citizen. Gebre finished in 1:29:04, while veteran Esther Atkins came in fifth overall in a time of 1:29:33.
Team USA Minnesota’s Katy Moen earned a sixth place finish in 1:29:59, while Kelsey Bruce ran to seventh place in 1:30:34. Allison Mendez-Cleaver took eighth in 1:30:44, Lauren Totten finished ninth in 1:31:02 and Christina Murphy capped off the top ten in 1:32:57.
On the men’s side, an honest early pace strung out the field, leaving a pack of seven men following the lead of HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite’s Scott Fauble. Fauble, along with Sam Chelanga and U.S. Army runner Samuel Kosgei, ran at the front of the pack, setting the tone and keep an even cadence until just past 10 miles.
At 10 miles, 2017 USATF Marathon runner-up Tyler McCandless took over, with the lead group whittling down to a group of six. Another mile later, with Fauble taking back over, the lead group was down to four, with McCandless, Kosgei, Chelanga and Fauble eyeing the finish.
The next two miles saw Fauble and Chelanga pull away from the rest of the lead group and into the final mile Fauble and Chelanga charged, each taking turns trying to pull away from the other.
With the finish coming in sight, Fauble made one more valiant effort to pull away from Chelanga, but the wily veteran used a tenacious kick to outlast Fauble to the finish, winning 1:14:52-1:14:55.
Behind the lead duo, Abinet Adraro ran an impressive final 5 km to nearly catch Chelanga and Fauble at one point, but his charge wouldn’t last, settling for third in 1:15:14. McCandless started his 2018 USATF Running Circuit season with a fourth place showing in 1:15:23, while Kosgei finished fifth in 1:15:26 and Kiya Dandena finished sixth in 1:16:25.
Rounding out the top ten, Nicolas Montanez held on for seventh place overall, having run with the lead pack for much of the race, finishing in 1:17:04. Nathan Martin, who already owned two top ten finishes at the USATF 25 km Championships, placed eighth overall in 1:17:56, while veterans Malcolm Richards and Will Nation earned themselves ninth and tenth place finishes in 1:18:08 and 1:18:23.
With Chelanga’s victory, securing another 30 points towards his USATF Running Circuit total, he now sits only three points behind leader Leonard Korir, 51-48. Fauble’s 24 points moves him up into sole procession of third place with 28.5 points, while Kosgei’s 12 points give him 19 points overall and moves him into fifth place.
The sixth stop of the USATF Running Circuit takes place on July 4, as the USATF 10 km Championships bring together top-notch fields in Atlanta, hosted by the AJC Peachtree Road Race – the largest road race in the United States.