Former, Current and Future Buffs Shine
BOULDER - Former, current and future members of the University of Colorado cross country teams shined here Saturday in front of the home crowd at the 2015 USATF Cross Country Championships at Flatirons Golf Course.
"It's an advantage for an elevation runner to run at elevation," CU head cross country coach Mark Wetmore said. "Technically this is not a home course because this course only exists for a couple of days a year; we didn't step foot on it until yesterday. If you look at the results, you will notice that a lot of people from elevation did well, so it is a bit of an advantage."
Freshmen Kaitlyn Benner and Val Constien put on a show for the local fans as they recorded an impressive 1-2 finish. Around the halfway mark of the 6-kilometer race, the duo pulled away from the pack and just kept going. They were running shoulder to shoulder until the final half mile, at which point Benner surged ahead and took home the victory by a margin of just six seconds. Benner's winning time was 21:48, while Constien had an impressive time of 21:54.
"I told all of our runners today that they weren't running together, that they needed to be selfish, but after two laps, there was Kaitlyn and Val running side by side," Wetmore said. "It was a happy accident that they pulled away from the field. Kaitlyn was a good high school runner, but a five-star recruit like they like say for football, and Val was really, really under the radar. So I think the two of them were a big surprise."
"I felt really good out there," Benner said. "It was nice to have it here in Boulder at the altitude we train at; I think that was definitely an advantage. The field was great and really pushed us. Having Val right there beside me was amazing.
"We've been working a lot on speed, especially with the track season coming up, so that definitely helped me in the last 200-300 meters."
Benner and Constien outraced the rest of the field by over 16 seconds with Katie Rainsberger (Colorado Springs, Colo.) crossing third overall in 22:11.
"We both came into the race just wanting to do our own thing and hoping that both of us would make it [to the world championships]," Constien said. "There was an opportunity for me to help Kaitlyn out a lot and I think pushing the pace like that was really important."
The top six finishers earned a trip to the IAAF World Championships, which are on March 28 in Guiyang, China.
Another CU freshman, Mackenzie Caldwell, also competed at the championship, finishing 14th overall in 23:36.
In the men's junior 8k race, CU freshman Paul Miller punched his ticket to China with a fifth-place finish in 25:53. Another Buff, Ryan Forsyth, was just out of the top six, taking seventh in 26:10. Connor Mantz (Smithfield, Utah) took home top honors in 25:12.
"Paul was a good local runner a year ago, but not a five-star recruit," Wetmore said. "I think a lot of good collegians are scratching their heads right now wondering who he is. Ryan Forsyth missed by one spot, but he had a very nice race."
Forsyth might still have a chance to compete at the world championships despite finishing outside of the top six. He had dual citizenship with the United Kingdom and according to Wetmore is being considered for their team which is a selected team.
Wetmore was also very happy with a future Buff, John Dressel, who finished third overall in the men's junior race.
"In third place was John Dressel, who is about 5-11 from the state of Washington." Wetmore said. "He is going to be a Buffalo next year. He is one of the best high school kids in the country. For him to come to this elevation and perform so well bodes well for the future of our program. We can't wait to have him here."
Luke Sheesley, a transfer from Western State, ran unattached in the meet and placed 17th (27:13).
There were several former CU runners who also raced. Laura Thweatt recorded her first USA XC Championship, winning the women's race in 27:42. She defeated the runner-up, Mattie Suver (28:13), by over 30 seconds.
"Laura has had excellent post collegiate development," Wetmore said. "She is training with Lee Troop and he has done a wonderful job with her. She was a good college runner for CU, but she is has had remarkable improvement that wouldn't have been predicted. I'm glad to see her win. She is one of my favorites."
Another former Buff great and Olympian, Dathan Ritzenhein, did quite well, finishing third overall in the men's open 12k (36:51).
"It was great to see Dathan back," Wetmore added. "He was here in 2007 when the former CU guys went 1-2-3-4."
After Saturday, one future, three current and two former Buffs have earned the right to advance to the world championships, doing so in front of a very excited home crowd.
2015 USA XC CHAMPIONSHIPS
Flatirons Golf Course (Boulder, Colo.)
WOMEN'S JUNIOR 6K RESULTS
1. Kaitlyn Benner, 21:48; 2. Val Constien, 21:54; 14. Mackenzie Caldwell, 23:36
MEN'S JUNIOR 8K RESULTS
(1. Connor Mantz, 25:12) 3. John Dressel II, 25:39; 5. Paul Miller, 25:53; 7. Ryan Forsyth, 26:10
WOMEN'S OPEN 8K RESULTS
1. Laura Thweatt, 27:42; 39. Rachel Gioscia-Ryan, 31:32
MEN'S OPEN 12K RESULTS
(1. Chris Derrick, 36:18) 3. Dathan Ritzenhein, 36:51; 41. Martin Medina, 40:07; 60. Christian Thompson, 42:01