Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Team USA Minnesota hitting JAX for Gate River 15k this weekend

Minneapolis/St. Paul - Ten Team USA Minnesota distance runners - five women and five men - will be among the competitors at the 2010 USA 15k Championships, which are being held in conjunction with the 33rd annual Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Fla. Billed as "the largest 15k in the USA," the March 13 race features a deep field of top American women and men.

The championship race has an $85,000 prize purse that includes $12,000 each for the first place woman and man, a $20,000 purse for the top three overall female and male teams, along with an "equalizer bonus" of $5,000 (the top women start 5 minutes ahead of the rest of the field and the first person - female or male - to cross the finish line receives the bonus). In the 2009 race, Team USA Minnesota won both the men's and women's team competition known as the TenBroeck Team Cup.

On the women's side, the Team USA Minnesota runners include Katie McGregor, Emily Brown, Kristen Nicolini, Meghan Armstrong and Michelle Frey. All five ran the race in 2009, with McGregor and Brown finishing second and third respectively. This year's race will mark the fifth appearance at Gate River for McGregor, who has a best in the distance of 49:56.

Brown recently finished seventh in the women's 8k at the USA Cross Country Championships in February and last weekend competed at the NACAC Cross Country Championships. Nicolini is opening her 2010 season at the 15k after finishing third at the USA Women's Marathon Championship last fall in a time of 2:35:06. Armstrong has so far this year set a personal best in the half marathon of 1:13:56 and won the ING Miami Half Marathon, and Frey recently won the Cowtown Half Marathon.

The men's side of the Team USA Minnesota roster at the 15k includes Jason Lehmkuhle, Josh Moen, Matt Gabrielson, Antonio Vega and Patrick Smyth. With the exception of Smyth, who is making his first appearance at the 15k Championships, the others all competed at the 2009 event.

Lehmkuhle, who placed eighth at the 15k championships in 2009, won the Mercedes Half Marathon in February. Moen was second in the USA 10 Mile Championships last fall and more recently, sixth at the USA Half Marathon Championships in January. So far this year, Gabrielson has placed ninth at the USA Half Marathon Championships and 10th at the USA Cross Country Championships. Vega is the 2010 national champion in the USA Half Marathon and placed eighth at the USA Cross Country Championships. So far this year, Smyth has finished second at the USA Half Marathon Championships and second at the USA Cross Country Championships.

The Gate River Run starts and ends at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium with the elite women beginning at 8:25 a.m. (Eastern time) and the men's elite field and all other 15k participants starting at 8:30. The American 15k records of 42:22 for males and 47:15 for females were each set on this course.