There’s plenty to be excited about this year as the depth of U.S. distance running is on the rise.
Typically the attention paid to top American distance runners fades considerably in the year following the Olympic Games. But the recent rise in the U.S. distance running ranks gives plenty of reason for optimism in the new year. Expect international medal winners Galen Rupp, Jenny Simpson, Matthew Centrowitz, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher and Leo Manzano to continue to make waves this year en route to major road races and the track and field world championships in Moscow later this summer, while a few other American runners continue to establish themselves as top professionals.
Here are 10 up-and-coming U.S. runners worth keeping an eye out for as the 2013 racing season gets underway.
From 2006 through 2008, Fernando Cabada won two U.S. road racing titles and bagged a 2:12:27 debut marathon. After a promising start to his pro career, he spent most of the next three years battling injuries before winning another U.S. 25K title in 2011 and placing seventh at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials last January, where he lowered his personal best to 2:11:53 and finished as the first non-sponsored athlete across the finish line. Now healthy and training in Boulder, Colo., as a member of Newton Running’s Team Alchemy, the 30-year-old Cabada has his sights set on making the Olympic team in 2016. He’ll get his 2013 campaign started in Houston on January 13, where he will line up against a strong international field at the Houston Marathon.
Who can forget Conley’s epic final lap flurry in the 5,000m final at last summer’s Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.? Conley passed five women over the final 400 meters to place third in the race, 0.21 seconds under the Olympic A-standard of 15:20 — good enough to land her on the Olympic team. At the Games, Conley failed to advance to the final, but finished her prelim in 15:14.48, a new personal best. After a breakthrough year in 2012, which finished with a big win at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, the 26-year-old Californian will have a hard time sneaking up on people in 2013. So far this year, the New Balance-sponsored Conley has posted a solid fourth-place finish at the Campaccio Cross Country race in Italy. She’ll be looking to qualify for her first world cross country team next month at the national championships in St. Louis.
The 26-year-old Canaday burst onto the mountain and ultra running scenes last year, turning heads with a dominating win at the Mount Washington Road Race, where he clocked 58:27—the fastest American time in history. He went on to win the White River 50 in course-record time and placed second at the Ultra Race of Champions 100K and top-10 at two world championship events. With his competitive credentials (Canaday is a 2:16:52 marathoner) and off-road adeptness, the Boulder-based Canaday, who now competes for Scott Sports, is poised to become one of the most feared ultra-distance and uphill racers in the world.
The 24-year-old Pritz was not a star runner in college. In fact, she didn’t even run for her college team. But since graduating from Bucknell in 2010, Pritz has blossomed on the roads. In her marathon debut in New York City in 2011, Pritz finished as top American, running 2:31:52. Last year, she lowered her half-marathon personal best to 1:10:45 and won a national championship at the Gate River Run 25K. The ASICS-sponsored Pritz, who is based in Boulder, Colo., was slated to race the New York City Marathon last fall, but shut down her season after the race was canceled. She’s vowed to race more often in 2013 and will open up her season at the Houston Half Marathon in mid-January. If Pritz can stay healthy — she’s dealt with shin issues on more than one occasion — she may be on her way to becoming the U.S.’s next great female marathoner.
Solomon, 28, went into last summer’s 800m final at U.S. Olympic Trials as an underdog to make the Olympic team. The Saucony-sonsored athlete left with a third-place finish, a new personal best of 1:44.65, and a ticket to London. In the Olympic final, Solomon shattered his own personal best, along with everyone’s expectations in what was the fastest race in history, with a fourth-place, 1:42.82 finish that made him the second-fastest American ever behind his coach, the legendary Johnny Gray. Continued success in 2013 will not come as a surprise to Solomon, or anyone standing next to him on the starting line.
Spence comes from good genes, but she’s got some serious skills and work ethic of her own, too. The daughter of Steve Spence, the bronze medalist in the 1991 world championships marathon, Neely followed up a record-setting Division II collegiate career at Shippensburg with a solid professional debut season for the Hansons-Brooks squad in 2012. The 22-year-old Spence was runner-up at last year’s U.S. 5K championships in Providence, and placed third at the 10K championships in Boston. Most recently, she competed as part of the U.S. team at the Chiba Ekiden Relay in Japan this past December, and followed that with a win at the Zatopek 10,000m run in Melbourne, Australia, making her the first American woman to win the event. As much as any young runner in America, Spence seems destined for greatness.
Mack is a man without a shoe contract to start off the new year, but hopefully that changes for him soon. The full-time running store employee in Raleigh, N.C., captured last February’s U.S. cross country title in St. Louis, prevailing in freezing conditions. He was also the national 8K road racing champion in 2011, and competed at the world cross country championships in 2010, where he finished 67th. Last year he broke 28 minutes for the first time over 10,000m, clocking 27:53 at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational. Most recently, Mack posted a big win at the BUPA Great Edinburgh cross country race in Scotland, topping a strong international field. Look for Mack to defend his national cross country title next month in St. Louis.
The 24-year-old Areson had a breakout year in 2012, catapulting herself from a solid college runner at the University of Tennessee to one of the best 5,000 meter runners in the U.S. At the Stanford Invitational last April, Areson slashed a massive 33 seconds off her previous personal best for 5,000m, clocking 15:18.31 to defeat eventual Olympian Lisa Uhl. At the time, Areseon’s performance was the fastest outdoor 5,000m time in the world for 2012. Areson would go on to lower her personal best by another 4 seconds in May, winning the Oxy High Performance meet in 15:14.31 over Uhl and Deena Kastor. The Nike-sponsored Areson, who trains in Houston under the watchful eye of her coach, Steve Magness, won’t catch as many people by surprise in her second year as a professional.
Riley, a six-time All-American at Stanford, enjoyed a solid first professional season as a member of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. He finished 13th in the 10,000m final at last summer’s Olympic Trials, running a personal best 28:08.36, and in December capped off his year by winning the individual title at the U.S. Club Cross Country Championships in Kentucky while leading the H-B squad to the team championship. Most recently he finished 7th overall in 24:50 at the BUPA Great Edinburgh cross country race in Scotland, helping the U.S. to the team title. It will be interesting to see if Riley begins to dabble in more longer distance road races in 2013.
Anderson’s story is nothing short of inspiring, and there’s a few more chapters she’s still planning to write. A two-time cancer survivor, the 26-year-old just missed qualifying for the Olympic team last summer in the 1,500m by one spot and two seconds. After the disappointment of not making the Olympic team, the Brooks-sponsored Anderson packed her bags and took a short tour of the European track circuit, where she posted personals bests in the 800m (2:02.83), 1,500m (4:04.84) and 3,000m (8:43.52). She stepped up in distance this past fall, finishing fourth at the U.S. 5K road championships in Providence. Watch for her this summer as she looks to punch her ticket to the world championships in Moscow.