Former Stanford teammates Garrett Heath ('09) and Chris Derrick ('12) ran to impressive victories at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country Challenge on Saturday in Scotland, with Heath earning upsets over two of the world's greatest runners.
Stanford grad Garrett Heath
Heath, a nine-time All-America, won the 4K (2.48-mile) race in 11:51 to edge Ethiopia's Meresa Kahsay by one second. What's even more notable were the other runners left in Heath's wake.
In third was Kenya's Asbel Kiprop (11:58). He was the 2008 Olympic gold medalist and a two-time world champion -- including in 2013 in Moscow, Russia -- in the 1,500 meters. And in fifth was Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele (12:02), one of the greatest runners of all-time. Bekele is the world recordholder in the 5,000 (12:37.35) and the 10,000 (26:17.53). He is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, a five-time World Championships winner, and has won 11 world cross-country championships.
The following is a recap from iaaf.org, the web site of the world's governing body for track and field:
While Kiprop was running at the front of the first group of six athletes, Bekele kept at the back and never moved ahead. Preparing for the Paris Marathon with high mileage of up to 240 kilometers per week, it became obvious that the 31-year-old lacked some speed.
In the middle of the race it was then Britain's Jonathan Taylor who took the lead and was about five meters ahead. Kiprop closed the gap and after Taylor finally dropped back to seventh, the world 1500m champion looked the likely winner.
With about 800 meters to go, Kiprop was leading together with Heath and world youth steeplechase champion Kahsay. At this stage Bekele was about 15 metes behind and out of contention for victory.
"I was looking for Bekele because I expected him to attack," Kiprop said after the race. "So I was surprised that it did not happen."
But there was another surprise in store. Heath moved ahead with about 250 meters to go and there was no stopping him. The 28-year-old won in 11:51 with Kahsay second (11:52) and Kiprop third (11:58).
Kenya's James Magut was fourth in 12:00, one place and two seconds ahead of Bekele.
"I just put my head down, sprinting and hoping that nobody would come past me," said Heath after one of the most significant victories of his career. "This is of course a great start into the new year and it will give me confidence."
Heath, who represented USA at the 2010 World Indoor Championships, will now concentrate on the US Indoor Championships. "I will either run the 1,500 or the 3,000 and I hope to qualify for the World Indoors."
Heath was a Stanford assistant coach until he decided a little over a year ago to devote full efforts to training. At Stanford he was the 2009 NCAA runner-up in the 1,500.
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Also from iaaf.org, on Derrick's victory:
There was another US surprise in the 8km race in Edinburgh after it was dominated by Chris Derrick.
The 23-year-old US cross-country champion, who was 10th at the World Cross Country Championships in 2013, ran away easily before half way. About 20 meters behind him, Britain's Andy Vernon and Belgium's Bashir Abdi were running together and further behind there was another group headed by defending champion Bobby Mack of the USA.
But Abdi and Vernon were not strong enough to challenge Derrick, who was in control during the second half.
"I felt very good and just tried to keep my rhythm, knowing that I could still push at the end," said Derrick, who won comfortably in 24:11 from Vernon (24:21) and Bashir (24:27).
"I was a bit surprised that no one went with me. I knew that Alemayehu Bezabeh ran a very good race at the European Championships and I expected him to be strong," added Derrick, who will now prepare for the U.S. Cross Country Championships. "In the summer I will run 1,500 and 5,000 and I plan to run the 10,000 in Brussels."
Derrick is regarded as one of the greatest runners in Stanford history. He holds school records in the outdoor 10,000 meters (27:31.38) and the indoor 3,000 (7:46.81) and 5,000 (13:19.58). Derrick has a combined five top-four finishes in the NCAA outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 finals and was the NCAA cross country runner-up in 2011.
Brendan Gregg '12, a three-time All-America at Stanford, finished 13th (24:52) in the 8K race and was the fifth U.S. runner. In the team competition, Europe narrowly beat the U.S., 53-55, with Great Britain third with 63.