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6 Storylines Ahead Of The USA 5K Championships

Molly Huddle is the favorite to win on the roads of Providence, R.I., where she lives and trains.

Molly Huddle is the favorite to win on the roads of Providence, R.I., where she lives and trains.

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

In advance of Sunday’s CVS Health Downtown 5K, Race Results Weekly breaks down seven storylines going into the annual fall showcase in Providence, R.I. In its 25th year, the CVS Health Downtown 5K will once again play host to the USA National 5K Championships.

Hometown Advantage For Huddle

Molly Huddle has been a model of consistency on the roads of Providence, the city where she lives and trains. Winning national titles in 2010, 2012 and 2013 at the CVS Health Downtown 5K, Huddle has established her dominance at the distance.

Huddle not only has experience on her side, but she also is coming off a supreme year of racing. In 2014, the Notre Dame alum has set personal bests from the mile through the half marathon, including a national record 14:42.64 for 5000m on the track.

In April, Huddle won the BAA 5K in a personal best of 15:12 and most recently was third at the New Balance Falmouth Road Race in 36:15. She has to be the odds-on favorite entering the race.

Of note, the only woman to have won more U.S. 5K national titles than Huddle is Lynn Jennings, who claimed six wins between 1990 and 1998.

Bumbalough Returns

Like Huddle, reigning men’s champion Andrew Bumbalough returns to Providence seeking to retain his title. Last year, the Nike Bowerman Track Club member earned his first national title by winning in 13:45.9 ahead of Aaron Braun and Matt Tegenkamp. It will be interesting to see how Bumbalough responds to a disappointing 5000m at the IAAF Continental Cup in Morocco last weekend, where he was seventh in 14:51.36, more than 1:20 behind winner Isiah Koech of Kenya.

Bumbalough has a season’s best of 13:13.67 on the track for 5000m; his lifetime best for 5K on the roads (13:45.9) came at this event last year.

RELATED: Huddle On Breaking American Record And More

Nike Oregon Project Lineup

Four athletes coached by Alberto Salazar as part of the Nike Oregon Project will take to the roads for a late season 5K here. The decision to race a road 5K this far into the season came because of workouts the team had aced in recent weeks at their base in Portland, Ore.

Matthew Centrowitz, Jordan Hasay and Mary Cain are all coming off of the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile last week, where they finished sixth, eighth and 10th in their races, respectively.

“I’m going to rest up and finish up strong [in Providence],” Hasay told Race Results Weekly following her race in New York, pleased with the effort and excited for the upcoming competition.

Tara Erdmann is also scheduled to race; her last competition came at the Falmouth Road Race, where she was 10th in 38:04.

Infeld Aiming For Gold

According to the Race Results Weekly yearly database and respected statistics website Tilastopaja, Emily Infeld has only raced twice this year: a sixth place finish (second among Americans) at the New Balance Falmouth Road Race last month and a fourth-place showing at the Wharf to Wharf 6 Mile in July. Not racing much over the course of the summer could play into Infeld’s hands, as numerous athletes entered are coming off long, grueling summer track or road racing seasons.

Infeld does have experience in her corner: last year she finished runner-up to Huddle, crossing the line a mere 1.2 seconds behind the champion in 15:30.8. Also, she’s been training with Shalane Flanagan, a two-time champion of this event, while Flanagan prepared for the BMW Berlin Marathon.

Can Mecheso Make It Two In A Row?

Girma Mecheso surprised some at the USA 20K Championships (held in conjunction with the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race), out-dueling Christo Landry and Luke Puskedra on a hot, steamy and muggy Labor Day. The win marked the first national title for the Ethiopian-born Mecheso, a graduate of Oklahoma State University. Dropping down to 5K from the 20K distance is drastic, but Mecheso has shown promise at shorter races: he holds a 13:34.83 personal best on the track and led a majority of the first 5K at the AJC Peachtree Road Race on July 4.

RELATED: Huddle Edges Rowbury In USA Outdoors 5K

Deep Fields

A number of other Americans look to be in the mix come Sunday. Road race ace and proud new father Ben Bruce returns to New England, where he was fourth overall and the top American at the New Balance Falmouth Road Race. German Fernandez, Miles Batty, Trevor Dunbar, Diego Estrada and Joe Stilin lead a young contingent all seeking the coveted national title and the $5,000 first-place prize.

Among the women, Sara Hall and Amy Van Alstine have a knack for doing well at national championships, while Neely Spence Gracey continues her comeback from a knee injury.

Jen Rhines, Elaina Balouris and Katie Matthews comprise a strong Boston Athletic Association team, while Meghan Peyton leads Team USA Minnesota.

Although a citizen of New Zealand, Providence College alum Laura Nagel will race in a city she knows very well, having been part of the Friars’ National Champion cross-country team of a year ago.

Race notes: Event records stand at 13:20 for men (Ismail Kirui of Kenya in 1997) and 15:06 for women (Asmae Leghzaoui, a convicted doper, of Morocco in 2002). … The fastest time ever clocked by an American man at a USA National 5K Championship is 13:37, set by Tim Broe at this event in 2004. Lynn Jennings holds the fastest women’s time with her 15:24 performance at the Freihofer’s Run for Women in 1995. … The CVS Health Downtown 5K had 3,403 finishers in 2013.