Titusville, FL - results at: (www.usatf.org)
The NACAC Cross Country Championships attracted athletes from six nations to include USA, Canada, Jamaica, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad. The U.S. fared well in the competition winning the senior men's, senior women's, junior men's divisions for the team competition and placing second in the junior women's category.
The event was held at the Chain of Lakes Park – you guessed it – the route flanked several lakes with the only true "hill" on the course running over a bridge. The grassy pathway was adjacent to a paved pathway, but runners had to stay on the grass. I was set to run in the citizen's 4km prior to the four NACAC races and had been told the night before that 40-50 runners were expected. Well, imagine my surprise when I was the only one to collect a runner number pre race. So, after about 20 minutes of warming up on the course I headed to the timing crew and said that I would just run 2km for fun and then went to the Team USA tent to ask one of the junior boys to start his warm up with me and run with me for the 2km. Ryan Prentice said he'd go with me – albeit after some urging. He was all smiles and said, "Are we going to be the only ones?" to which I replied, "That's right and our plan is to start out slow, speed up a little, speed up a little more, and then you can't pass me at the finish." We chatted part of the way and I learned he went to Oklahoma State so we talked about Joe Gray, one of our mountain team members who was an Oklahoma graduate prior to Ryan's enrollment there. Along the straightaway to the finish Ryan started to slow down and I waved him on and said he needed to finish with me. I mean heck, a 2km-ish run (we never did find out the exact distance, but it was more than 2km and less than 2.5km) in a full 9 minutes.
After the race Ryan's Dad came up to me and introduced himself and said, "You're the one who out-sprinted my son." Ryan finished second in the junior men's race so I take pride in having helped him with his great pre-race warm-up.
One of the reasons I went to Florida for this event was to meet with NACAC President Teddy McCook from Jamaica and Bob Hersh who represents the IAAF. We needed to solidify some details for our upcoming 6th annual NACAC Mountain Running Championships to be held in North Conway, NH, on June 28. The event will be held in conjunction with the USA Mountain Running Championships and our first Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team selection race where the top three men and top woman will be named to the 2009 team. One of the runners on the USA squad for the NACAC Mountain Champs also represented Team USA at the NACAC Cross Country Championships—namely Kasie Enman. Kasie finished 9th at the USA Cross Country Championships (in Maryland last month) to earn her spot on the team. Kasie finished in third (second American) in Florida and said, "It was the fastest 6km I've ever run." This was a testament to the flat nature of the course and lack of any mud or obstacles. She will compete on her second USA team at NACAC Mountain Running Champs having won the event last year in Mexico. Of course at the pre-race dinner on Friday night I did my best to recruit some of the other competitors for our mountain running program. Their questions included, "How far do you have to run?" "How much uphill is there?"
I also met Canadian NACAC rep Thelma Wright, who is very supportive of our mountain running program. This enthusiastic woman was running all over the course in Florida cheering on her team. She and I chatted at the pre-race dinner and also on race day. I learned about her running career and we both found out we started in sports as field hockey players. I told her I was also a coxswain on the crew team at UNH and she said that she should have done this as she has such a booming voice (which I attest to having heard her cheering on race day).
The senior men's race was the final race of the day and our U.S. men had a near-perfect finish going 1-3-4-5 to score a team win.