The USATF 25 km Championships, hosted by the Fifth Third River Bank Run, are the fifth stop on the 2017 USATF Running Circuit. Next up on the circuit, the USATF 10 km Championships take place on July 4 in Atlanta, Georgia.
As with most USATF Running Circuit races, the men’s race saw a large pack in the early stages of the race running a modest pace, but one over a dozen felt comfortable enough to run with the lead pack.
However, as mile four came and went, a pack of six runners established themselves as the clear leaders, as Ritzenhein, Colorado-based Parker Stinson, defending champion Christo Landry, USATF Running Circuit veterans Tim Ritchie and Aaron Braun, as well as former NAIA standout Nathan Martin showed their strength.
By the 10 km mark, Martin had fallen off the back, and 15 km in, Braun started to slip backwards as well.
Over the final few miles, as the pace increased, Ritzenhein and Landry were able to pull away from Stinson and Ritchie, creating a gap neither would relinquish over the rest of the field.
As the crowd roared, cheering on the two Michigan-based runners, Ritzenhein started to ramp up the pace, knowing the hilliest section of the course was upcoming. Landry continued to hang tough, but just past mile 13, Ritzenhein created a gap on Landry that simply wouldn’t be covered.
Ritzenhein, showcasing his long-seen toughness and tenacity, strode up and down the hills of Grand Rapids and carried his momentum all the way back to downtown Grand Rapids and the finish line, charging home to an impressive 1:14:27 finish.
While Ritzenhein cruised to the finish over the final two miles, Landry continued to hold strong, using his knowledge of the course to pace his final efforts in order to maintain his runner-up position. Landry, the 2016 USATF 25 km champion, earned his sixth top-five finish in Grand Rapids with a 1:14:51 effort.
Stinson and Ritchie held on gamely over the final three miles, finishing big scoring efforts in the USATF Running Circuit standings with third and fourth place marks. Stinson held off Ritchie, 1:15:04-1:15:13.
Similarly, Braun and Martin kept their poise despite being dropped, with Braun taking fifth in 1:16:24 and Martin sixth in 1:16:46.
Rounding out the men’s top ten, Nicolas Montanez outlasted a tough pack of runners to finish seventh overall in 1:17:10, just holding off Daniel Tapia and Bobby Curtis, who placed eighth and ninth in 1:17:17 and 1;17:21. Johnny Crain took home the final scoring spot with his tenth place effort of 1:17:39.
With the women receiving an eleven minute and thirty second head start with an equalizer bonus on the line, the early start to the women’s race saw the runners create different packs, helping each other with no other runners around.
Recent USATF Half Marathon Championship runner-up Neely Spence and Tuliamuk strode to the lead from the gun, quickly establishing themselves from the competition and running a modest pace the rest of the field simply couldn’t match.
With a 14-second lead on third place runner Tara Welling and then-fourth place runner Maddie Van Beek by mile two, Tuliamuk and Spence ran stride for stride, pushing each other along the tree-lined Grand Rapids streets.
Through the first 15 km of the race, Tuliamuk and Spence seemed as though they would duke it out all the way to the finish, however, Tuliamuk increased the pace ever so slightly, got a few strides on Spence and by mile twelve had a 32 second lead on her rival.
With the finish line near, Tuliamuk charged through up and down the hills of the final parts of the race, closing hard and crossing the finish in 1:24:35, faster than she finished in 2016.
Spence held form over the final few miles of the race, earning her second USATF Running Circuit runner-up performance of the season, as she crossed the line in 1:25:12.
Behind Tuliamuk and Gracey, Welling maintained her gap on the rest of the field throughout the race, solidifying her third spot early and ultimately taking home a big finish with her time of 1:29:36.
Veteran road racer Katie Matthews continued her USATF Running Circuit success with a fourth place finish in 1:30:53, while Obsie Birru caught and passed Van Beek over the final miles to place fifth in 1:31:02 to Van Beek’s sixth place performance of 1:31:34
Closing out the top ten, Nicolette Mateescu ran a steady second half of the race to edge out a back of runners with a seventh place finish of 1:32:02, while Michigan-based Katie Kellner took home eighth in 1:32:39. Dawn Grunnagle and Whitney Thornburg each earned USATF Running Circuit points with their ninth and tenth place finishes in 1:34:07 and 1:34:35 respectively.
About the USATF Running Circuit
The USATF Running Circuit is a USATF road series featuring USATF championships from one mile through the marathon and consistently attracts the best American distance runners with more than $500,000 to be awarded in total prize money. A total of $41,500 in prize money will be awarded at the USATF 25 km Championships.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USATF Running Circuit race. For the USATF 25 km Championships, scoring is set as 22.5 for first, 18 for second, 15 for third, 10.5, 9, 7.5, 6, 4.5, 3 and 1.5, with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.
The mission of the USATF Running Circuit is to showcase, support and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USATF Running Circuit and its races have provided over $9 million to U.S. distance runners.
Contributed by Scott Bush