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U.S. XC Championships Returning to Boulder

Organizers are hoping to recreate the huge success of the 2007 event.

Organizers are hoping to recreate the huge success of the 2007 event. 

The U.S. cross country championships are returning to Boulder, Colo., in 2014 and 2015, and the organizers are hoping to recreate the huge success the last time the event was staged there in 2007.

The races will be held on a similar course at Flatirons Golf Course, says event director Sean Nesbitt, who was part of the race organization that put on the USATF Cross Country Championships in February 2007 under the direction of Peter Julian.

Those races drew more than 500 runners in six U.S. championship races in the masters, juniors and open divisions and a crowd that was estimated as large as 10,000 spectators. Alan Culpepper won the men’s 12K race in 37:09 (outrunning fellow University of Colorado alums Adam Goucher, Dathan Ritzenhein and Jorge Torres, who finished 2-3-4, respectively.) Deena Kastor dominated the women’s 8K race, running 26:47 to beat Shalane Flanagan by more than a minute.

RELATED — Destination: Boulder, Colorado

The 2014 championship will be held on Feb. 15, while the 2015 event will likely be held on Feb. 14. The races will be managed by BX Race Management in conjunction with Boulder Road Runners and Bolder Insurance.

Nesbitt hopes to make the races as community-oriented as possible. A kick-off event is being planned for late summer to drum up volunteers and spread the information about the races.

“One great thing about this sport is how close you get to the action … and it’s free,” says Nesbitt, who is the director of facilities planning at Metropolitan State University in Denver, where he formerly served as head track and cross country coach. “The goal is to bring in as many people as we can to see the event, so they can be on the sidelines and feel the mud and the sweat.”

Nesbitt is a former collegiate runner at Eastern Oregon University who ran in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. He ran in the U.S. cross country championships four times, finishing as high as 23rd in 2003.

“The bar was really set in 2007 and I don’t think it’s been matched since. But if any place can do it, it’s the Boulder community,” he says. “I know what Colorado endurance sports fans are like. The Boulder event in 2007 and the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge the last two years had a carnival atmosphere and excitement about them, and that’s what we want. It’s extremely exciting to be a part of that, and it really helps get the youth into the sport.”

Boulder is also hosting the U.S. Cyclocross National Championships on Jan. 8-12.

Nesbitt says he’s received a lot of support from the City of Boulder and from the management of the city-owned golf course.

He hopes to have at least $35,000 in prize money for the 2014 race, and $50,000 for the 2015 race, but says the organizing group will put additional money into the prize purse if all race production costs are covered.

“One great selling point cross country is that it brings the best milers, the best 10,000-meter runners and the best marathoners all to one playing surface,” Nesbitt says. “It’s a time of the year that runners are all working on their strength training, so it’s a good test of where they’re at in their base training. It’s a lot of fun to have everyone competing out there in that kind of setting.”

Boulder is situated at 5,430 feet above sea level, but the success of the races in 2007 helped make that a non-factor in the bid process, Nesbitt says. Plus, Boulder is an especially attractive venue for the 2015 race because it will serve as a qualifying race for the U.S. team that will race in Guiyang, China, which has an elevation of 4,180 feet.

“I think USATF was more than impressed with the way we put on the race and the outcome in 2007 and were excited we put in a bid,” Nesbitt says. “We did a very diligent job and proving altitude wouldn’t be a factor, making the course as flat as possible and getting letters of approval from some of the top training groups in the U.S.”

The local organizing group’s advisory committee for the championships includes, among others, Culpepper, a two-time U.S. Olympian who is now a race director for the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, John Supsic, the head cross country and track coach at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Don Janicki, the elite athlete coordinator for the Bolder Boulder 10K and a former 2:11 marathoner, Leif Steiner, a former 1:47 800-meter runner at Penn State, and Benji Durden, runner-up at the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, as well as members of the Boulder Road Runners.

The group behind the 2007 U.S. championships explored the possibility of bringing the IAAF championships to Boulder, but it didn’t pan out.

“If I had won the Power Ball on Saturday, I’d love to bring worlds to Boulder,” Nesbitt says.