Ednah Kurgat at the Cross Champs in Austin (© Kevin Morris)
US cross-country champion Ednah Kurgat will look to improve upon her third-place finish from last year when she lines up for the Cross Champs – the only US-based Gold stage of the World Athletics Cross Country Tour – in Austin, Texas, on Thursday (30).
Meanwhile, the likes of Wesley Kiptoo, Olin Hacker and Adriaan Wildschutt will also return to Austin where they’ll face the likes of Charles Hicks.
Kurgat’s last cross-country race was at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, where she placed 18th in the senior women’s race. She went on to enjoy a strong track campaign in 2023, setting PBs for 5000m and 10,000m, and taking bronze in the latter distance at the Pan-American Games.
She has also excelled on the roads, winning the US 6km title and picking up national medals over 10km and 20km. Kurgat placed third in Austin last year, finishing 12 seconds adrift of eventual winner Alicia Monson, but she’ll feel confident in her chances of improving upon that on Thursday.
She’ll face stiff opposition from Kenya’s Mercy Chelangat and USA’s Krissy Gear.
Chelangat has won NCAA titles over 10,000m (2022) and at cross country (2020). She recently made her half marathon debut, clocking 1:11:37 in Boston earlier this month.
Gear, meanwhile, won the US steeplechase title earlier this year, clocking a PB of 9:12.81. Thursday’s race will be her first competitive outing since the World Championships in Budapest.
Katie Izzo joined Kurgat on the USA’s team for the World Cross earlier this year, eventually placing 31st. She heads to Austin in good form, having set PBs this year for 10,000m and the half marathon.
Marisa Howard is another entrant who has represented the USA at a World Cross, having competed at the 2017 edition. The steeplechase specialist was a bronze medallist at the 2019 Pan-American Games.
Mahelet Mulugeta, who represented Ethiopia over 800m at the 2017 World Championships, has moved up in distance in recent years and should be competitive on Thursday. USA’s Emily Venters, who finished second over 10,000m at this year’s NCAA Championships, should also be in contention.
Wesley Kiptoo and Olin Hacker were separated by just two seconds in the men’s race in Austin last year, finishing sixth and seventh respectively. Both will be targeting podium places on Thursday, having enjoyed strong seasons so far in 2023.
Kiptoo, the 2021 NCAA indoor 5000m champion, made his marathon debut in Chicago last month, finishing 12th in 2:10:28. Earlier this year, he clocked a PB of 1:00:35 when finishing second at the Houston Half Marathon.
Hacker, the 2022 NCAA 5000m champion, has this year set PBs for the 1500m, mile, 3000m and 5000m. More recently, he placed 14th over 5km at the World Road Running Championships in Riga.
Britain’s Charles Hicks will likely be a tough opponent. He won the European U23 5000m title earlier this year, but he excels at cross country too, having won two European U23 titles on that surface, as well as the 2022 NCAA title.
South Africa’s Adriaan Wildschutt will also be difficult to beat. This year he has set national records at 3000m (7:39.25), 5000m (13:02.46) and 10,000m (27:23.10), and placed 14th in the 10,000m at the World Championships in Budapest. He was runner-up at the 2021 NCAA Cross Country Championships and placed 14th in Austin last year, but he’d have gained confidence from his recent 10km victory in Cape Town, where he clocked 27:53 to win by more than a minute.
Other contenders include Tunisia’s 2022 NCAA steeplechase champion Ahmed Jaziri, Kenya’s 2018 NCAA 10,000m silver medallist Vincent Kiprop, and USA’s Pan-American 1500m bronze medallist Casey Comber.