The US National road 15k championships were hosted once again by the Gate River Run back on March 12th. The competition, as always, was furious. The top five guys broke the 45:00 barrier while the top four women all dipped under 52:00. Stanley Kebenei was the winner in 44:37 while Tara Welling nabbed the honors for the ladies in 50:34 (she was the only woman to break 51:00).
There was a heavy presence of New England runners in the top ten, and we reached out to them to get their reactions on how things went.
Tim Ritchie (Saucony) - 9th, 45:20
I felt fairly recovered from LA. I had taken a week off followed by a few easy weeks of light running. The race was a hard effort to kick start a new season for me. So, I donâ€™t know if I was ready to roll or not, but I was looking forward to giving it what I had and hoping that was good enough to challenge for the podium.
The key moment, as it always is at this race, is the 8mi mark when the bridge hill hits you right in the face after many flat miles. We were a pack of nine at that point and I was simply not mentally strong enough to stick to the leaders as they pulled away. I ended up 9th.
Sarah Pagano (BAA) - 5th, 52:04
My goal was to place as high as I could. My best place on the US road circuit was 7th at the .US 12k last November, so I wanted to improve on that. I wanted to be a little conservative early so I didnâ€™t go out with the lead pack, but instead I worked on moving up throughout the race and ended up in 5th.
Katrina Spratford (NE Distance) - 9th, 53:47
I have had a good stretch of consistent training since the fall. I trained in Tallahassee with NEDi for the month of January and was able to have four solid weeks of workouts and higher mileage which I think really helped for this race! My main goals were to be in or close to the front pack and get top ten. The pack went out pretty quick (5:12 first mile) so I decided to back off a little (came through in 5:25) and run within myself, trusting that some were going to come back to me. I was able to stay strong and move up slowly as the race went on. I think I executed the race well considering most of it was on my own!
Katie Matthews (BAA) - 4th, 51:34
Training has been going really well. I took a break after the Houston Half in January and then headed to altitude in Albuquerque NM for about a month of quality training with 3 of my teammates. My race strategy was to go out aggressively with the front pack and see if I could move up at all and put myself in a good position going in to the hill. I felt really strong through the middle of the race and the end ended up being a race of attrition.
Lou Serafini (Heartbreakers) - 15th, 47:09
I guess the main goal was to go down there and gain a little national level experience. On a perfect day I wouldâ€™ve landed in the top 10 and run 45:xx but from a physical standpoint, it just wasnâ€™t my day. From the gun I didnâ€™t really feel smooth. I tried to stay relaxed andÂ withÂ the lead pack for as long as I could but there was just no pop in my stride. I am very proud of how things ended up after losing the leaders.
At 3 miles I thought I was out the back and destined for a sub par performance but I was able to rally around 4 miles and settle into a comfortable pace. I think I passed 6-7 people over the last 10k and was able to nab the top 15 spot in the last 800. On a day where I felt everything but sharp and smooth Iâ€™m proud of how things ended up and eager to get back to another National Championship feeling fitter and sharper.
And whatâ€™s next for these fine athletes?
Serafini: I will be at New Bedford. I have unfinished business with that race after fading over the last 3 miles last year. Itâ€™ll be my last race for a few weeks before taking a step back to get some good training in. Iâ€™m excited though - I had an awesome experience last year.
Matthews:Â Next I am heading to New Orleans for a 10k and then doing some of the other US champs circuit races!
Spratford:Â I will race the 10k at the Stanford Invite in a few weeks!
Pagano:Â Iâ€™m moving over to the track next and will be running the 5k at the Stanford invite in a couple weeks.
Ritchie:Â Next up is the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, Wales on 3/26. This will be good chance to represent the old U.S.of A. along side 4 other men and 5 women who have made the team. Always a tough race (this yearâ€™s addition features Mo Farah and Geoffrey Kamworor), I am hoping to help the team finish as close to the top 3 as we can.
Editorâ€™s Note: Serafini led the New Bedford Half for much of the early portion of the race and ended up 5th (1:08:14). Lou only got better from there, not only did he go on to win the whole USATF-NE road racing grand prix circuit, but he also earned his OT qualifier. Lou got off to hot start on the grand prix circuit in 2016 with an impressive win at the An Ras Mor 5k, when he ran a 14:43 the week before the Gate River Run.
One of Ritchieâ€™s Team USA teammates in Cardiff, Wales will be Jim Spisak of NE Distance. Lots of good stuff coming from the men and women in the New England area!