by Graeme Shirley
VANCOUVER, Washington - (February 10, 2002) - Mebrahtom Keflezighi's finishing kick barely edged Abdi Abdirahman to retain his title in the 2002 USA Winter 12K Cross Country Championships.
Keflezighi, 2001 San Diego USATF Male Athlete of the Year, stayed back of Alan Culpepper (third, 35:51) and Abdirahman until the final two-kilometer loop. At the beginning of that lap, Keflezighi pulled alongside Abdirahman. The two, who train together with Team USA California, then ran shoulder to shoulder to the finish as both clocked 35:45.
The World Cross Country Championships are in Dublin, Ireland March 23-24. Joining Keflezighi, Abdirahman, and Culpepper will be Matt Downin (36:00), Dathan Ritzenhein (36:19), and Greg Jimmerson (36:27).
San Diego USATF recognized Keflezighi for his 2001 performances, which included setting an American record 27:13.98 at 10,000m, 4th fastest in the world for 2001, winning the USATF 12,000m Winter Cross Country Champion, placing 13th (and leading the US team to the bronze medal) in the World Cross Country Championships, winning the USATF 15K Road Championship, taking the runner-up spot in the USATF Outdoor Championships at 10,000m, and running 13:23.16 for 5000m. Also in 2001 he received the Robert E DeCelle Award as USATF Outstanding Male Long Distance runner and the Glenn Cunningham Award as USATF Outstanding Male Runner in events over 800 meters. He was Running USA's top-ranked male road runner, and ranked second in the U.S.at 10,000m and third at 5000m.
For more information visit the Winter Cross Country Championships site.