[dehai-news] (Universal Sports, MD) Revived Meb Keflezighi claims third U.S. cross-country title

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Mon Feb 09 2009 - 09:28:40 EST

Revived Keflezighi claims third U.S. cross-country title
Sat Feb 07, 2009 By Dave Ungrady / Universal Sports

By: AP Photo

Meb Keflezighi won his third straight USA cross-country title on
Saturday in Maryland.

DERWOOD, Md. - Physically revived and politically refreshed, Meb
Keflezighi won his third USA cross-country title Saturday, holding off
a frenetic dash to the finish by newcomer Tim Nelson in the 12K race
at the Agricultural History Farm Park near Washington, D.C.

Keflezighi, the marathon silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics,
praised higher powers for his victory.

"Thank God because a year ago I couldn't walk," he said, recovering
his breath in the finish area minutes after winning the race. "God
gave me a miracle. And I wanted to dedicate this to (President) Obama.
He's our president. A lot of people put him way down but I think he
can turn our country around."

A year ago at this time, the 33-year-old Keflezighi was mired in spell
of injuries and frustration. A favorite to qualify for the 2008 U.S.
Olympic team in the marathon, he finished eighth at the trials in
November 2007.

Keflezighi, born in Eritrea and living now in Mammoth Lakes, Ca., won
the U.S. cross country championships in 2001 and 2002 and was second
in 2003. After winning silver in the marathon at the Athens Games in
2:11:29, 93 seconds slower than his personal best, he finished second
in the 10,000 meters at the 2005 and 2006 U.S. outdoor championships.

Keflezighi's body started to struggle in 2007. An Achilles tendon
injury forced him to drop out of the London Marathon. While running
with the leaders at the 16-mile mark of Olympic trials marathon, he
felt a calf strain. Favoring the calf forced a pelvis injury, and he
struggled home in 2:15:09, collapsing in tears at the finish area.

Keflezighi missed the 2008 U.S. cross-country championships in San
Diego due to lingering injuries. Despite preparing well for the 10,000
meters at the 2008 U.S. Olympic track and field trials, he became ill
at the meet and finished 13th. He ran just two more races on the track
through early September.

An intense rehabilitation process with a sports physiologist at the
USOC training center in Colorado Springs, Co. from Sept. 25 to Nov. 25
to fix a muscle imbalance in his hip and left leg helped Keflizighi
regain his fitness.

"It's been a long process back," he said Friday at a pre-race press
conference. "I couldn't walk from room to room. Colorado Springs was
supposed to be two weeks, but I stayed for two months. It was a full
time job from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. I'm glad it's behind me."

Keflezighi's competitive turnaround began at the U.S. Half Marathon
Championships on Jan. 18, when he won his first title in a personal
best 61:25.

Buoyed by a healthy body, Keflezighi entered today's race with a high
level of confidence. He led the race from the beginning and
consistently stayed ahead of the chase pack from 7 to 10 seconds,
completing 6 laps of the 2K course in 36:06. Keflezigihi won with a
last-second surge at the finish line just ahead of Nelson, 23, who
closed hard coming up a 300-meter incline straightaway off the last
turn. Kefkezighi and Nelson shared the top time.

"When I rounded the turn I thought I had enough gas," said Keflezighi.
"I saw a Nike guy (Nelson) and saw it was not Jorge (Torres). Then I
saw it was Tim. I didn't want to come to the finish like that. I had
some left, I felt good going up that hill."

Torres, the USA cross-country runner up in 2005 and 2008, finished
fourth. Robert Curtis (3rd), Ed Moran (5th) and Ryan Vail (6th)
qualified to compete for the United States at the 2009 world
cross-country championships on March 28 in Aman, Jordan.

Keflizighi said after the race that he will likely skip the world
championships to focus on the London Marathon in late April and will
make a decision by Wednesday. Brett Gotcher, who finished 7th, would
replace Keflizighi.

Inspired in part by Obama's presidential victory, Keflizighi admits he
has experienced an increased level of hope in his career.

"His whole thing is hope," Keflizighi said. "I thought about retiring
at times, especially after (the Olympic trials marathon). You go
through nagging injuries. You wonder if this is a way to make money.
You've got to hope for the best."

In the women's 8K race, Emily Brown also led from start to finish and
won her first U.S. cross-country title in 26:58.

"I'm starting to like the longer distance a little more because you
don't have to push yourself to running fast extremes," she said. "I'm
happy I didn't completely fall apart on the last loop and was able to
finish in one piece."

Brown, from Minnesota, finished third at the 2008 U.S. cross country
championships and was the top American female finisher at the 2008
world championships in 18th place.

Julie Culley, Katherine Newberry, Delilah Dicrescenzo, Rebecca
Donaghue and Samia Akbar finished second through sixth and qualified
for the U.S. team at the world championships.

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