Welcome to part two of our three-part series previewing this Saturday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Today we examine Stephanie Bruce’s preparations for the race, and take a crack at handicapping the chances she and her U.S. teammates have of grabbing a medal. Yesterday we previewed Matt Baxter’s race and tomorrow we’ll do the same for the overall men’s and women’s senior races.
Saturday will be Steph’s second straight appearance at the World Cross Country Championships. Despite not running cross country for ten years, she qualified for the 2017 meet courtesy of a 7th-place finish at the USATF Champs in Bend, Oregon. Then in Uganda, she was the second U.S. finisher and 22nd overall. That experience should prove advantageous in Denmark, where the entry list will be as deep, and arguably deeper, then what she faced last time around. The pressure on Saturday, however, won’t necessarily be any more than she dealt with in Tallahassee, Florida on February 2nd when she earned her World Champs spot against a field that was called one of the best collection of U.S. female distance runners, ever.
Steph’s build-up to Denmark has been as good as one could have hoped for. After a big finish to 2018 that included an 11th-place finish at the TCS NYC Marathon and a runner-up finish at the USATF Marathon Championships in the span of a month, she took most of December off. She then began easy workouts at the beginning of January before opening up her racing season with a 15:44 (PR) for 5,000 meters at the New Balance Boston Indoor Games. She muscled out an eighth-place finish at USATF XC the next week to qualify for Worlds. Since then, her training has been very focused on Denmark, with her lone race being the Pacific Pursuit 10k on the track where she finished second in 32:15. Her March workouts have been stellar, perhaps highlighted by a fartlek workout where she opened up the session with a a 3:01 1k at 6500 ft to simulate what will undoubtedly be a fast start on Saturday. You can read all of her training via our partners at Final Surge HERE.
As ready as is Steph is, we’re sure her U.S. teammates are equally prepared. And that means they could be scary good. After all, Steph was 22nd in 2017. If the Americans could place all four runners in the top 22 on Saturday a podium team finish could be in the cards. In 2017, the third place team–Bahrain, scored 58 points by going 7-9-11-31 (you score four at World Cross Country). In 2015, third place went to Uganda with 101 and in 2013 it took 73 (Bahrain again). You get the picture. To imagine some combination of Steph, 15:06 5k’er Marielle Hall, 2016 NCAA Cross Country Champion Karissa Schweizer and steeplechase American record holder Courtney Frerichs, all finishing well enough to score in the range of 60-100 points seems very realistic. And don’t forget about Anne-Marie Blaney or Sarah Pagano either. Both athletes are capable of top 25 finishes themselves. In fact, if the U.S. could somehow have a super special day and put four in the top 15, a score in the 40s could even put them as high as second. The bottom line is this is a big-time team that will be wearing the red, white and blue on Saturday.
Let’s go Steph! Lets go USA!!
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