Racing season is officially underway! From Bend, Oregon to Marugame, Japan, we had three professional athletes and many more elite athletes in action this past weekend. Chris Derrick, Courtney Frerichs and the Bowerman Elite teams raced on an incredibly sloppy 10 kilometer cross country course, while Amy Cragg battled her way to a new PR in the half marathon. Race recaps are below.
USATF Cross Country Championships – Bend, OR
On a sloppy, what some called “a true cross country course,” Courtney Frerichs made her first cross country appearance since finishing 4th at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in 2015. Saturday also marked the first time Courtney had ever raced longer than 6 kilometers.
The race separated early as Aliphine Tuliamuk broke away from the rest of the field almost from the start. Courtney settled in with the chase pack, completing the first of five 2 kilometer loops in 7th place. Using the strength she has built up as a steeplechaser to trudge through the mud, Courtney found herself moving up through the field each loop.
Entering the final loop 1:24 back of the leader and in fifth place, Courtney was determined to finish strong and move up at least one spot. She closed extremely fast, running the second fastest final 2 kilometer lap time of all athletes. In the process she also picked up a spot, finishing in 4th place in a 10k time of 35:40.
Courtney has had tremendous success in championship races and this success continued on Saturday. Her fourth place finish qualified her for the World Cross Country Championships in Uganda, however she will forego the race to focus on the upcoming track season.
Courtney's top five finish was only the start to incredible day for the Bowerman Track Club. Our Women's Elite team, led by 9th place finisher and World Cross Country Championship qualifier from Emily Pritt, won the overall women's team competition. Carrie Dimoff and Julia Webb finished 19th and 23rd overall to clinch the victory and a 10 point perfect team score. Congrats ladies and we we cannot wait to see Emily represent the red, white, and blue on the world stage!
Unlike the women’s race where there was a lone leader from the gun, the men demonstrated the art of pack running. Seeking his fourth USA Cross Country title, Chris did much of the work at the front of the pack, along with four runners from the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
Chris Derrick was one of about 10 runners in the lead pack. The pace was conservative, as is typical in championship races. Chris said he “felt really good everywhere except when we would hit a really sharp uphill.” Despite lacking some power through the muddy, hilly sections of the course, Chris kept fighting his way to the front of the pack.
Heading into the fourth loop the lead pack had dwindled to just seven runners, including Chris. All seven athletes looked relaxed and capable of winning.
The final loop proved to be the difference, as the four U.S. Army athletes threw in a surge and separated from the rest of the field. Despite not having the legs to cover the strong move, Chris’s final loop time was still the fastest of his previous four. Chris ended up finishing in fifth place in a 10k time of 30:28.
Like Courtney, Chris qualified for the World Cross Country Championships in Uganda, but chose to forego the race to prepare for the upcoming track season.
Our Men's Elite team finished in second, eight points behind the Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite team. Behind Chris Derrick the team had solid performances from Jeremy Freed, Jeramy Alkaim, and Brady Beagley.
Marugame Half Marathon – Marugame, Japan
While Chris and Courtney were crushing it at the USA Cross Country Championships, Amy Cragg was across the Pacific Ocean in Japan preparing for the Marugame Half Marathon. It would be her first race of the year, and one for the personal record books.
The race featured the defending Rio Olympic marathon silver medalist and defending Marugame half marathon champion, Eunice Kirwa. Kirwa was on a mission to break the course record of 1:07:26, as she passed by the 10 kilometer mark at 31:37. Despite being 44 seconds behind Kirwa at the 10 kilometer mark, Amy was still on pace to run 1:08:15 (personal record pace).
As Kirwa slowed throughout the race, Amy started to chip away at the lead. By the 20 kilometer mark, Amy had cut Kirwa’s lead nearly in half. Amy continued to shave seconds off of the lead until the finish.
Amy ran to a comfortable second place finish in a half marathon time of 1:08:27, a whopping 1:23 faster than her previous PR. Congrats Amy!
We will have athletes in action this weekend from coast to coast. Colleen Quigley and Shelby Houlihan race the mile on Friday in Boston, Ryan Hill and Mo Ahmed travel to New York to race the 2 mile in one of the most competitive and exciting indoor track meets of the year at the Millrose Games, and Evan Jager and Matt Hughes will be in Seattle racing the mile at the Husky Invite. Check the calendar for more information and links to stream the races.