USATF News & Notes: 1/10/2005

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    Ritzenhein wins Belfast cross country event

    2004 Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein grabbed the lead early in the race and held on for the win Sunday at the 2004 Reebok Cross Country Challenge in Belfast, Ireland.

    After sharing the lead with Great Britain’s Gavin Thompson during the opening circuit, Ritzenhein opened up a sizeable lead on the second of five laps, claiming after the race that the pace was too slow.

    With three 1,800m laps remaining, Ritzenhein faced the daunting task of facing a group of Kenyans working together to reel him in. During the third lap Ritzenhein increased his lead to 16 seconds, and at the beginning of the final circuit his lead was 18 seconds. With many in the crowd chanting “USA, USA” as he went by, Ritzenhein roared to the finish in 29 minutes, 26 seconds, ahead of his nearest competitors, Kenyans Ernest Meil (2nd, 29:34) and Barnabas Kosgei (3rd, 29:35).

    The 2003 NCAA cross country champion and 2001 World Cross Country Championships junior bronze medalist, Ritzenhein is experienced in running cross country, and he had no fear going up against the favored Kenyans. “I’ve raced against them before and each time I’ve finished higher and higher,” he said.

    Ritzenhein will open his U.S. indoor season January 29 in the 3,000 meters at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games at the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center in Boston.

    Saxer sets girl’s prep pole vault record

    After raising the National High School Indoor girl’s indoor pole vault record three times already this year, Mary Saxer of Lancaster, N.Y., did it twice at Dartmouth College Saturday, and became the first U.S. high school girl ever to clear 14 feet either indoors or outdoors.

    Having set national records earlier this season of 4.10m/13-5.25, 4.11m/13-5.50 and 4.14m/13-7, Saxer raised the record Saturday to 4.15m/13-7.25, before her barrier-breaking clearance on her second attempt at 4.27m/14-0. She later missed three attempts at 4.36m/14-3.50.

    During her record-setting performance in the pole vault, Saxer also competed simultaneously in the long jump, where she was the runner-up with a best of 5.62m/18-5.25.

    Top women hurdlers head to Reebok Boston Indoor Games

    Olympic medalists Joanna Hayes and Melissa Morrison lead a deep field in the women’s 60-meter hurdles January 29 at the 2004 Reebok Boston Indoor Games, organizers announced Monday.

    Hayes, the ebullient #1-ranked hurdler in the world, set an Olympic record on her way to winning a gold medal in Athens. Morrison, duplicating her finish in Sydney, came home with the bronze medal, becoming the only female hurdler in US history to win two Olympic medals.

    They will be joined by Sheena Johnson, the 2004 US Olympic Trials champion at the 400m hurdles who just missed a medal in Athens; Jamaica’s Vonette Dixon, the 2000 NCAA 60m-hurdles champion and 2002 Commonwealth Games 100m-hurdles silver medalist; and Angela Whyte of Canada, a 2004 Olympic finalist at the 100m hurdles.

    The men’s mile will feature another athlete who ended 2004 ranked #1 in the world: Kenyan Bernard Lagat, the Athens silver medalist who ran the fastest 1500m (3:27.40) in the world last year. Also expected are countryman Laban Rotich, the third-fastest man in history indoors at 1500m; Rachid Ramzi of Bahrain, who last July broke Hicham el Guerrouj’s 1500m unbeaten streak of 29 races when he sprang to a surprise victory at the Golden Gala in Rome; and Nate Brannen, the two-time NCAA indoor 800-meter champion from the University of Michigan.

    The 10th-annual Reebok Boston Indoor Games will be held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College, 1350 Tremont St., Boston, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 29, and will be broadcast on ESPN from 5-6:30 p.m. on Jan. 30. It is also the first stop on USA Track & Field’s Visa Championship Series. Tickets are available on-line at http://www.BostonIndoorGames.com or by calling 1-866-GO-BIG05.

    Yae, Gemechu win at P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon

    Ethopia’s Terefe Yae and Shitaye Gemecuchu were the men’s and women’s winners respectively at the second annual P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon on the streets of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe on Sunday.

    Gemechu, 24, successfully defended her title when she captured the women’s 26.2-mile road race in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 51 seconds. Close behind was Australian, Haley McGregor, 25, who made her marathon debut in 2:33:47.

    A tactical race ensued on the men’s side. Kenyan teammates Haron Toroitich, the defending champion, and Philip Tarus, ran shoulder-to-shoulder with Ethiopia’s Terefe Yae through 25 miles before Yae finally broke away from defending champion Toroitich to capture his first major marathon title. He crossed the line in 2:14:24. Toroitich was second in 2:15:40 and Ethiopia’s Belay Wolasha was third at 2:16:23. The top American, Chad Johnson of Team USA Minnesota, finished fifth overall in a personal record 2:16:57.

    For more information on the 2004 P.F.Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon visit: http://www.rnraz.com/exec/rnraz/Race_Information.html

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