CROSS COUNTRY TO HAVE STRONG PRESENCE AT USA CHAMPIONSHIPS
BOULDER - Cross country runners Billy Nelson, Natalie Florence, Peter Janson and former Buff All-Americans Molly Austin, Jorge Torres, Ed Torres, Adam Goucher, Clint Wells, Steve Slattery and Carrie Messner will vie for national titles and spots on the national team at this weekend's USA Track and Field Cross Country Championships, Feb. 7-8, in Indianapolis.
The top six finishers in six races will make the team to represent the United States in Brussels, Belgium March 20-21 at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
"I think a sizeable percentage (of U.S. team members) could be CU athletes," said CU head coach and U.S. Junior Men's Team Leader Mark Wetmore.
Florence and Austin are entered in the open women's 8k to be decided Saturday as is the open men's 4k where Goucher, Wells and Slattery are entered. 2003 Junior Men's National Champion Billy Nelson, the Torres brothers and Goucher and Wells are entered in the open men's 12k Sunday while Janson (junior men's 8k) will run Sunday, as will Florence and Austin who are currently entered to double and run the open women's 4k.
A year ago in Houston, Nelson, Austin, Ed Torres advanced to the World Championships in Lusianne, Switzerland. Nelson was the top finishing American, eighth overall, in his race.
"Each year we try to take any 19 year old (junior) who has a chance of making the team. While Peter's credentials out of high school were as a miler, with a well-run race, he has a chance to go to Belgium."
If Nelson makes the team, it will be his third straight trip to a world championship race.
"Billy will be in a much stiffer field than the one he ran in a year ago as a junior, and given the success of the season and in this race, while he'll be a long shot, it will be fun to try while both women's races will be deeper than a year ago."
In addition to the national cross country championships, former CU All-Americans Alan Culpepper, Scott Larson and Shawn Found will be running for one of three spots on the 2004 Olympic Marathon Team when the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials are decided Saturday, Feb. 7 in Birmingham, Ala.
Culpepper goes into the race the heavy favorite with a field-leading and American marathon debut record time of 2:09.41 (Chicago, 2002), ahead of Meb Keflezighi (2:10.03) and Dan Browne (2:11.35). Larson, who finished fourth in this race in 2000, enters the race with a time of 2:15.26 and Found, 2:18.29.
"Alan and Meb have separated themselves from the rest of the field, and if Meb is compromised in any way, there's little chance of beating Alan. Behind those two it's anyone's race. Scott and Shawn have the same odds as the rest of the field."