Dathan Ritzenhein to Take On Alan Webb at the Central Park Challenge

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    New York, February 20, 2008—Dathan Ritzenhein will take on fellow Olympian Alan Webb in a renewal of one of America’s leading long distance rivalries at the Central Park Challenge on Saturday, March 15. In addition to Ritzenhein, New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg today also announced Olympian Abdi Abdirahman and 2005 USA 8K Championship winner Jorge Torres.

    The event, which will feature the USA Men’s 8K Championship, Women’s Invitational, and NYRR 8000 people’s race, is expected to draw a host of America’s best distance runners from the mile to the marathon. The races will be contested over the 8K (4.97-mile) distance with a total prize-money purse of $70,000—$20,000 of which will go to the top male and female finishers ($10,000 each).

    Ritzenhein holds a 5-2 advantage in races against the previously announced Webb, a 2004 Olympian and the American mile record-holder. The rivalry dates back to 1999 when they were two of the premier high school runners at the Foot Locker National High School Cross Country Championships. In that race, Ritzenhein captured the victory in a course-record 14:29.83; Webb was eighth. The pair has taken turns in the top spot in their last two meetings; Webb won the 10,000-meter race at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in 2006, and Ritzenhein won the 2-mile at the Prefontaine Classic last year.

    “Stars since high school, Alan and Dathan are among the most exciting and accomplished runners the United States has ever seen,” Wittenberg said. “They are both riding high heading into the Olympic year, and we are honored they have chosen the Central Park Challenge to make their 2008 New York City debuts. Fan favorite Abdi and former champ Torres won’t allow anyone an easy win.”

    Ritzenhein, 25, of Eugene, OR, will return to Central Park, the location of two of his greatest career successes to date. Last November, he earned a berth on the 2008 Olympic Team in the marathon after finishing second in an epic U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon race in Central Park. Prior to that in 2007, Ritz won the Healthy Kidney 10K in a Central Park record of 28:08.

    “Alan [Webb] and I seem to have been attached at the hip since high school,” Ritzenhein said. “Every time we race it seems to be an exciting competition, and hopefully it will be another one at the USA 8K Championship. I was surprised at both how good I felt in the USA Cross Country Championships and at my fitness. I hope to carry that momentum into this race and the rest of the season.”

    Abdirahman, 31, of Tucson, AZ, had a stellar 2007 following his second-place finish in the 2007 USA 8K Championship—he won three national titles at the 10,000 meter, 10K, and 10-mile distances. He was also the runner-up in the NYC Half-Marathon Presented by NIKE last August.
    In 2005, fresh off his 13th-place finish at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Torres, 27, of Boulder, CO, ran away from Abdirahman at the USA 8K Championship to win his first U.S. title as a professional. In 2006, he won the U.S. national title in the 10,000 meters. Torres’ twin brother, Edwardo, who finished ninth at the USA Cross Country Championships, is also entered in the race this year.

    Track & Field Olympic Trials contenders James Carney, Aaron Aguayo, Ian Dobson, Josh McAdams, Ed Moran, and Bolota Asmerom were also announced. Carney, 29, of Boulder, CO, most recently won the 2008 U.S. Half-Marathon title in January in Houston. Aguayo, 24, of Tempe, AZ, made his first World Championships team last summer in the 3000-meter steeplechase after completing his eligibility at Arizona State University in 2007. Dobson, 26, was the 2005 NCAA indoor champion, and currently trains with Team Running USA in Mammoth Lakes, CA. McAdams, 27, of Orem, UT, was the 2007 USA champion in the 3000-meter steeplechase and a gold medalist in that event at the 2007 Pan American Games. Moran, 27, of Williamsburg, VA, was the 2007 Pan American Games gold medalist in the 5000 meters. Asmerom, 29, of Eugene, OR, was a 2000 Olympian for Eritrea, and became a U.S. citizen in 2002. He has twice finished third twice at the USA 8K Championship, in 2004 and 2007.

    Ritzenhein, Jorge Torres, and Moran all experienced early-season success this past weekend at the USA Cross Country Championships in San Diego, earning qualifying spots on the IAAF World Cross Country Championships team. The men will compete in the championships in on March 29 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Ritzenhein powered his way to a convincing victory in the 12K race with a time of 35:03, while Torres finished second (35:29), and Moran was fourth (35:42). In total, six athletes scheduled to compete in the 8K finished in the top 10: Carney (sixth place, 35:56), Max King (seventh, 35:57), and Edwardo Torres (ninth, 36:01).

    A $10,000 bonus will be awarded to any winner who breaks the existing American 8K record of 22:04 for the men (Alberto Salazar, 1981) or 24:36 for the women (Deena Kastor, 2005).

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