The cross country season wrapped up months ago with Foot Locker Nationals concluding, however, a handful of the best prep harriers in the country will fly over the Atlantic Ocean this weekend to take part in the World Cross Country Championships. German Fernandez (CA) (pictured left), Kevin Williams (CO), Ben Johnson (NM), Emily Reese (GA) and Laurynne Chetelat (CA) are apart of the strong USA Junior National Team that should run well over the challenging Edinburgh, Scotland course.
IAAF World Cross Country Championships
Edinburgh, Scotland - Sunday, March 30
Five high school distance stars travel across the Atlantic this weekend to take part in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland. German Fernandez (Sr., Riverbank, CA), Kevin Williams (Sr., D'Evelyn, CO), Ben Johnson (Sr., Albuquerque Academy, NM), Emily Reese (Sr., Chamblee, GA) and Laurynne Chetelat (Sr., Davis, CA) are all apart of the USA Junior squads. Fernandez, Williams and Johnson will compete over an 8k layout, while Reese and Chetelat will test their fitness over a 6k course. The course in the Scottish capital is supposedly tough as nails, but each of these five prepsters seems up to the challenge.
Leading the way for the Junior Men is Fernandez. After winning the USATF Cross Country Championships race, he continued to prove his ability levels last week when he accomplished one of the best set of distance results seen in some time at the WAC/TVL Challenge. Fernandez opened his day running a 4:23 1600m, followed that up with a 1:58.40 800 effort, then ran one of the fastest 3200m times in the country this season with an amazing 8:53.60. To top it off he ran a leg on his team's 4x400m relay in 53.9. With such a performance it is easy to speculate a top five performance at Worlds is within reach, however a US Junior runner hasn't seen that type of finish since 2001 when Dathan Ritzenhein finished third and Matt Tegenkamp finished fifth. Regardless, Fernandez will take his running career one step further when he steps on the course Sunday against some of the best in the world.
Meanwhile, Williams and Johnson (pictured left) finished in the last two qualifying spots at the USATF Cross Country Championships and both enter the competition with modest expectations. Johnson was diagnosed with a slight hip injury after the February championships, but has made a solid recovery. His coach Adam Kedge said recently,
"Following the US Junior Trails, BenJo experienced some hip pain that limited his training for nearly 3 weeks. We believe it was due to a muscle imbalance in the glutes medius. During his recovery he was doing physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around his injured hip. The injury limited him to about 15 miles a week. During that time frame he has been very diligent about cross training on the bike and in the pool. He been back to training for about 10 days now. His overall fitness level was set back some, but he has recovered well and should be ready for the World XC Meet."
While Johnson has been nursing an injury, Williams is running well. A few weeks back the Colorado star ran 9:13 for 3200m, one of the better times ever run in the state. Williams also indicated that he has run 4:23 for 1600m at a relays meet, while focusing on his team's 4x8 and 4x4 relays as well.
On the Junior Women's side, Emily Reese and Laurynne Chetelat (pictured right) add a solid blend of strength and speed to the squad. Jordan Hasay (Jr., Mission Prep, CA) won the Junior Women's race, and would have been a great addition to the team, however, she chose to focus on her track season. Hasay's focus all along was to keep up her volume in training through the USATF Cross Country Championships, use the race as a tune-up of sorts, then focusing her attention on the outdoor track season and the Olympic Trials.
Reese and Chetelat are on a different path than Hasay, focusing their entire winter training base towards this weekend's competition. Reese had a disappointing end to her fantastic fall by not qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals, while Chetelat placed second at the Foot Locker West Regional and sixteenth at Foot Locker Nationals. At the USATF Cross Country Championships, Reese placed a very impressive third amongst some great college competition and Chetelat placed seventh overall, earning a spot on the squad after Hasay opted out.
Tough conditions and intense competition will challenge these five athletes this weekend. While the East Africans tend to dominate the competition, this year's U.S. squads are strong and with athletes like this leading the way a top five team finish is not out of the question. Go Team USA!
Junior Men Team USA(School, State Athlete is From), Bold = High School Athlete - German Fernandez (Sr., Riverbank, CA) - Ryan Sheridan (Iona College, NY) - Emil Heineking (U.Virginia, OH) - Bobby Moldovan (North Carolina State U., IN) - Kevin Williams (Sr., D'Evelyn, CO) - Ben Johnson (Sr., Albuquerque Academy, NM)
Junior Women Team USA(School, State Athlete is From), Bold = High School Athlete - Alex Gits (Stanford University, MN) - Emily Reese (Sr., Chamblee, GA) - Marissa Treece (U. Notre Dame, MI) - Emily Schwitzer (Duke University, MN) - Lauren Saylor (U. of Washington, CA) - Laurynne Chetelat (Sr., Davis, CA)