After basically having their cross country team gutted, the U.S. men decided it was time to make a statement. Make a statement, they did indeed. In a race that is normally dominated by east African talent, the United States men’s cross country team did what no one in the U.S. seemed to think they could do: They came home with a silver medal.
Toeing the line in Bydgoszcz, Poland, the U.S. men’s cross country team rode on the coat tails of Ben Bruce’s 6th place finish to edge out the Kenyan men for 2nd place. Though the Kenyans seemed to have the lead for most of the race, strong finishes from Ryan Vail and Bobby Mack helped the U.S. edge Kenya by two points.
The race itself wasn’t lacking any amount of entertainment. Eventual winner Japhet Korir of Kenya was the youngest man ever to win the senior title in Word Cross Country. Korir was only 6th at the Kenyan trials, but powered home to take the crown.
For the United States win, their top-five scorers all placed in the top-30. After Ben Bruce came Chris Derrick in 10th, with Ryan Vail placing 17th, Bobby Mack in 19th, and Elliot Heath in 30th. James Strang rounded out the team in 37th. The race, though the top seeded runners needed every place they got, was won with the 3rd and 4th scorers. On the last lap of a six-lap course, Vail and Mack both made huge strides. In the closing kick, Vail moved up from 21st to 17th, and Mack pushed from low 20s to 19th. Three of the four Kenyans in the top four lost ground during the sprint, which resulted in the U.S. sneaking into their first medal spot since 1984. No member of the current U.S. team was alive the last time a U.S. men’s team received medals at the World Cross Country.
Along with winning a medal, team USA’s run means so many things to the world of distance running in the U.S. First off, it shows how even though most of the world has given up on World Cross Country (including the U.S.), if a group of talented runners, not even the best in their group, can go in and make a splash, then anyone can.
This also should act as a wake up call to the top talent in the United States. All the top pros from the U.S. have been snubbing Worlds for too long, and watching their fellow countrymen do something they haven’t done should be more than enough encouragement to bring World Cross Country back to relevance in the states.
Congratulations to the U.S. men for their huge race at World Cross Country. They deserve all the praise in the world.