Jacques Sallberg was nothing short of impressive, while Melody Fairchild overcame a fall late in the first 2 km loop to dominate the masters races at the USATF Cross Country Championships at River’s Edge Golf Course in Bend. For the junior races, it was Paul Roberts and Michelle Magnani who reigned supreme on the snowy and icy terrain.
Sallberg returned to Bend as the defending champion in the masters men’s 8 km, and led from the gun, putting an insurmountable amount of distance between himself and the chase pack. Through the first 2 km, Sallberg let the chase pack keep him in their sights with a 10-second lead, but broke his advantage open over the second 2 km loop. With a substantial 35-second lead through 4 km, Sallberg made the challenging course look easy, adding an extra 30 seconds to his lead over the next loop. As he traversed through the final 2 km loop, Sallberg continued to put space between himself and the chase pack, finishing with an impressive 90-second cushion on John Howell of Bowerman Track Club, finishing in 26:29. Howell was the runner-up in 27:59.
From the start of the masters women’s 6 km, it was a battle between defending champion Grace Padilla and 2015 runner-up Fairchild, who ran shoulder-to-shoulder over the first 2 km. Padilla looked to pull ahead on the backstretch of the loop after Fairchild found herself slipping on a particularly slippery patch of grass, but as Padilla came through two seconds ahead of Fairchild with two loops remaining, Fairchild kept her pace around 8:00 per 2 km loop and handily passed Padilla within the first 200m of the second lap of the course. The Boulder Mountain Warriors runner won the masters women’s 6 km in 24:02, 50 seconds ahead of Padilla’s 24:52.
For the masters age grading titles, Sallberg found himself atop the men’s age grade standings with 86.00 points, while Susan Hay from Team Red Lizard was the top finisher for the women’s age grading, scoring 84.32 points.
In the masters team races, Team Red Lizard took home the women’s 40+ and 60+ crowns, while The Janes Elite Racing won the women’s 50+ team title. On the men’s side, Bowerman Track Club had all five scorers in the top 10 finishers in the men’s 40+ age group to win the team title, Cal Coast Track Club was the men’s 50+ champion in the team race, while the Genesee Valley Harriers and the Atlanta Track Club nabbed the 60+ and 70+ masters team championships.
The junior men’s race was a closer affair than the earlier masters races. A pack of seven athletes stayed together for the first three loops of the 2 km course, with eventual victor Roberts hanging toward the back of the lead pack. Over the final loop, Roberts utilized a kick on the back half of the course to put some space between himself and the rest of the pack. Roberts qualified for his second IAAF World XC Championships team with a victory in 26:05. The Colorado State-Pueblo freshman represented Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in China in 2015, as well as the Great Edinburgh XCountry International Challenge in 2016.
On the junior women’s side, Oklahoma State’s Magnani utilized a stellar kick over the final 400m to win her first USATF title. Magnani hung in the middle of the lead pack over the first 2 km, staying tucked behind the leaders during the opening loop. Magnani, Wisconsin’s Alicia Monson and Northwestern’s Aubrey Roberts broke away during the second loop of the course, making it a three-woman fight to the finish. Magnani threw down the greatest kick of the day on the backstretch, cruising home in 22:37. Roberts finished in the runner-up spot in 22:42 and Monson was third in 22:48.