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The women of the Bowerman Track Club and the men of the American Distance Project proved their supremacy in the U.S. distance running ranks by respectively dominating the fields at the USATF XC Championships in Tallahassee, Florida on February 2. BTC went 1-3-5-6-7, led by Shelby Houlihan’s individual title, while Scott Simmons’ ADP men finished 1-2-3-4-5 with Shadrack Kipchirchir earning the top spot. The top six runners qualify to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships on March 30 in Aarhus, Denmark.
On the men’s side, behind Kipchirchir, training partners Emmanuel Bor, Leonard Korir, Hillary Bor and Stanley Kebenei claimed the top five spots for the American Distance Project, based in Colorado Springs. The final 100m saw Kipchirchir beat out Bor, 28:52.5 to 28:53.3 for an exciting finish.
The only non-ADP runner to qualify for the world team was Scott Fauble of HOKA ONE ONE HAZ Elite, who ran 29:20.4 for sixth place. However, he declined his World XC spot so Mason Ferlic of Michigan, who placed seventh in 29:31.7, will go instead.
“We are teammates and we trash talk a lot,” Kipchirchir said to FloTrack after the race of his ADP teammates. “It’s pretty fun to have your teammates [there], they push really hard. I trust those guys.”
“I don’t have an individual aim,” Kipchirchir said of his goals for the World XC Championships. “We’re gonna train together and run as a unit at the World Champs and try to beat as many people as possible and hopefully we podium.”
“Our team training dynamic is one of the factors that so greatly contributes to our global success,” coach Scott Simmons said this week. “The increasing level of intensity of the group continues to elevate our performances. The workouts we are doing now were unimaginable four years ago.”
Houlihan’s victory over a loaded women’s field showcased her impressive range. The 26-year-old is best known for her track prowess; she’s experienced most of her success in the 5K and 1500m, events in which she is the fourth-fastest American woman of all time with a 3:57.34 PB, and the fastest-ever, thanks to her American record of 14:34.45 set last summer.
She had not raced cross country in over four years since her NCAA days at Arizona State, and this was to be her debut over 10K.
Dusting 10K American record holder Molly Huddle by nearly 10 seconds over the final half mile, Houlihan won her eighth straight USATF title in 32:46.8.
“It was hard ground so I really had lot of spring,” she said to FloTrack of her finishing speed.
Huddle, whose main focus right now is running sub-2:25 at the London Marathon in April, ran 32:55.3 to outkick Houlihan’s BTC teammate Marielle Hall for runner-up honors. Hall finished in 32:56.5. Aliphine Tuliamuk of HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite was fourth in 33:03.3, Amy Cragg of BTC was fifth in 33:17.5 and Courtney Frerichs of BTC was sixth in 33:24.6.
To finalize the roster for the world cross team, however, USATF will have to go further down the results list. According to reports, Houlihan, Huddle, Tuliamuk and Cragg have all declined their spots as they are targeting other events in the same time frame. That means Hall and Frerichs will be joined in Denmark by Karissa Schweizer of BTC, Stephanie Bruce of HOKA ONE ONE HAZ Elite, Anne-Marie Blaney of Hansons-Brooks and Sarah Pagano.
Both teams will face what is consistently one of the deepest fields in the world and a tough course with sloppy footing, water and mud crossings, undulating hills and a climb to the top of the grass-covered roof of the Moesgaard Museum.