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With a dominant final two-kilometer loop around Mission Bay Park in San Diego, 23-year-old Alicia Monson broke the finish line tape at the USATF Cross Country Championships in 34:01 for 10 kilometers.
The victory is her first national title and—as she made sure to mention to fellow pro runner Shannon Rowbury, who served as the event’s sideline reporter—her very first win as a professional runner.
It was certainly a statement-making way to open up 2022. Last year saw the former Wisconsin Badger, now representing On Athletics Club (OAC), make the Olympic team in the 10K and run 14:42 for 5K, the fourth-fastest time in American history.
“It was a big growing year for me,” Monson said to Rowbury after the race. “I wasn’t quite sure how going pro would go. I put my faith into [coach] Dathan [Ritzenhein] and the OAC and I’m really grateful.”
Monson and Weini Kelati, tabbed by pundits as the pre-race favorites, took the early lead with Emily Infeld, Emily Durgin, and Natosha Rogers in tow. By 4K, Rogers had dropped off and it was already turning into a two-woman race. This was familiar territory for the duo, who have raced each other many times over the years, including 1-2 finishes at the 2019 NCAA Indoor 5K (advantage Monson) and the 2019 NCAA Cross Country Championships (advantage Kelati).
“Weini and I have been competing with each other for so long that it felt comfortable for us to be out at the front together for so long,” Monson said in an interview after the race, “I was gauging our effort the whole time. Once I felt like I was getting a step or two ahead of her around the turn, I felt like I should just get it going. The last lap, when I was by myself, was really hard so I was just focusing on keeping my pace up.”
Next up for Monson is the indoor season, where she said she was looking forward to dropping down in distance from the 10K. She’ll race the 3,000 meters at the Millrose Games on Saturday, January 29, in New York City.
Kelati, who became a U.S. citizen in time to compete against Monson at the U.S. Olympic Trials 10K last summer, took second in 34:18.
Emily Infeld, the 2018 USATF XC champion, earned bronze in 34:36. The 31-year-old, who earned bronze in the 10K at the 2015 World Championships, was competing for the first time since leaving Nike’s Bowerman Track Club. She is still in the midst of contract negotiations and wore a generic singlet.
Tokyo Olympic marathon bronze medalist Molly Seidel placed eighth in 35:58, after joking in the pre-race interview with Rowbury that she “might get [her] butt kicked” on the course. The 27-year-old has spent the past 10 days in her home state of Wisconsin, where (as her instagram followers will know) she’s had to train in ice spikes on some particularly snowy days. Next up for Seidel is a spring marathon, which she is yet to announce, before preparing for the World Championships marathon this summer.
Earlier in the day, Renee Metivier won her first U.S. master’s title with a dominant, nearly two-minute victory in 21:50 for six kilometers. The versatile runner, who has won U.S. titles in distances ranging from the 3K to the trail marathon, turned 40 years old on Christmas Day.
“It was fun from the gun to just hammer out,” she said, reminiscing that the race reminded her of the 2008 edition where she earned runner-up honors behind Shalane Flanagan.
Zariel Macchia, a freshman at William Floyd High School in New York, won the U20 junior women’s championship in 22:50 for six kilometers, dominating the largely collegiate field by 49 seconds. The rising star was 12th at the recent East Bay National Cross Country Championships, formerly known as the Foot Locker Nationals.