Huddle, Mecheso Race to USA 20 km Championship Titles

Huddle, Mecheso Race to USA 20 km Championship Titles

Provided by USATF

INDIANAPOLIS – Molly Huddle won her second consecutive USA Running Circuit title Monday morning at the USA 20 km Championships in New Haven, Connecticut, hosted by the New Haven Road Race. The Olympian and U.S. 5,000m record holder set the pace early and never looked back, while Girma Mecheso used a furious finishing kick to upset the men’s field and win his first U.S. title.

The USA 20 km Championships are the ninth stop on the USA Running Circuit, which concludes this fall with the .US National Road Racing Championships. The top ten finishers at each race on the circuit qualify to compete in the 2014 .US National 12k Race which takes place Sunday, November 16 in Alexandria, Virginia.

From the gun, Huddle (Providence, Rhode Island) pushed the field, hitting the first 5k split in 16:41, trailed only by Lindsey Scherf (Fayetteville, North Carolina) and Providence teammate Amy Hastings. The chase pack laid off the early pace, allowing Huddle to make enough of a break that by mile four Huddle and Hastings were 50 meters up on the field and extending their lead with every step.

Huddle and Hastings would run stride for stride until mile 7, when Huddle pushed the pace, hitting the next mile in 5:00 to put a 20 meter gap between herself and Hastings. While Hastings maintained her pace, Huddle stretched the lead to nearly 50 meters by mile 10 and never looked back. Into the final stretch, Huddle soaked in the ardent crowd of supporters, crossing the finish line victoriously in 1:08:34, twenty seconds up on runner-up Hastings.

While Huddle and Hastings dominated from start to finish, fellow Olympian Blake Russell (Pacific Grove, California) ran a tactical race and put space between herself and the chase pack over the back half of the race, pulling away over the final miles to place a somewhat surprising third in 1:10:38. Russell edged out USARC veteran Brianne Nelson (Fort Collins, Colorado), who also dipped under the 71-minute barrier with her 1:10:54 finish.

Huddle’s win gives her another 15 points in the USARC standings, placing her fourth overall with 30 points. While Sara Hall (46 points) of Flagstaff, Arizona, and Mattie Suver (37) of Colorado Springs, Colorado, remain 1-2, Kellyn Johnson Taylor (Flagstaff, Arizona) ran to a fifth place finish in New Haven, finishing in 1:11:46 to earn a big six points and now sits a single point behind Suver in third.

Rounding out the top ten, veteran road racer Clara Santucci (Dillner, Pennsylvania) finished sixth, leading a relatively tight pack of talent in 1:12:34, while fellow top ten U.S. marathoner Becky Wade (Dallas, Texas) placed seventh in 1:12:42, just ahead of Wendy Thomas in eighth with a mark of 1:12:52. Scherf slid back to ninth overall in 1:13:02, while Iowa resident Samantha Bluske (Ames, Iowa) placed tenth in 1:14:45.

On the men’s side, a comfortable early pace kept over a dozen runner in the lead pack through the first 5k split, as Matt Llano (Flagstaff, Arizona) pushed the group through in 15:15. By mile five, Llano upped the pace, running mile four and mile five in 4:52 and 4:50, whittling down the lead pack to eight.

The group of eight remained in tact for the next few miles, as Llano, Girma Mecheso (Lilburn, Georgia), Luke Puskedra (Beaverton, Oregon) and USARC standings leader Christo Landry (Ann Arbor, Michigan) traded leads. Just after the 9 mile mark, Mecheso started to push the pace, as Llano and Ahmed Osman (Flagstaff, Arizona) dropped off the back.

As the pace continued to quicken, Sean Quigley (Boulder, Colorado), who had been sitting at the back of the pack, started to drop off, leaving Mecheso, Puskedra, Scott Bauhs (Mammoth Lakes, California), Diego Estrada (Flagstaff, Arizona) and Landry to duke it out over the final 5k. Heading into the mile 11 split, Mecheso’s torrid pace dropped Estrada and Bauhs, leaving Landry and Puskedra as his only followers.

Into the final mile of the race, Landry made a move to take over the lead, hoping to break Mecheso and Puskedra, a move he’d used throughout the USARC season, the main reason he leads the circuit in commanding fashion. While Puskedra started to fade, Mecheso hung stride for stride and in the final 200m overtook Landry and sprinted away to victory, 1:01:26-1:01:27. Landry’s runner-up performance adds 12 more points to his USARC lead, giving him 76 points on the season.

Behind Mecheso and Landry, Puskedra finished strong to place third in 1:01:32. Puskedra’s been fairly quiet on the racing front over the past few months and a return to action bodes well for further fall racing. Puskedra gained a solid 10 points in the USARC standings, moving into a tie for third place overall with Mecheso and Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon) with 27 points a piece.

Estrada showed improvement on his season with a fourth place effort in 1:01:41. The 2012 Olympian continues to learn how to race on the roads, as he turns his focus for the USA 5 km Championships later this month. Bauhs rounded out the top five, hanging tough over the final miles to finish in 1:01:56.

USA 7 Mile Champion Quigley placed sixth overall in 1:02:05, as his effort pushed him into second place in the USARC standings with 29 points. Llano, who’s preparing to debut in the marathon, finished seventh in 1:02:17, pulling ahead in the final miles from Osman, who finished eighth in 1:02:48. New pro Jared Ward (Kaysville, Utah) finished ninth overall and experienced veteran Fernando Cabada crossed tenth.

The USA Running Circuit moves into the final stages of this year’s series, as the USA 5 km Championships take place September 21 in Providence, Rhode Island.

About the USARC

The USARC is a USA Track & Field road series featuring USA championships from one mile through the marathon and consistently attracts the best American distance runners with more than $500,000 to be awarded in total prize money. A total of $43,000 in prize money was awarded at the USA 20 km Championships.

The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.

The mission of the USARC is to showcase, support and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $7 million to U.S. distance runners.

Contributed by Scott Bush