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HomeProfessionalFrom Blowing Rock to 'Down Under' through Richmond

From Blowing Rock to ‘Down Under’ through Richmond

By David Rogers. MECHANICSVILLE, Va. — Blowing Rock’s On/ZAP Endurance head coach Pete Rea started looking for a ride to New South Wales, Australia on Jan. 21. That’s because one of his veteran team members, Andrew Colley, placed second in USA Track & Field’s National Cross Country Championships staged at Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville, Va., near Richmond — and just four seconds behind unattached Colorado athlete, Emmanuel Bor.

The top six finishers qualify to represent the United States in the 2023 World Cross Country Championships, scheduled for Feb. 18 in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia, northwest of Sydney.

At the start, 103 of America’s most elite distance runners launched themselves onto the course, several unattached but others representing professional race teams with shoe company sponsors like On/ZAP Endurance, as well as teams from branches of the U.S. military services. various colleges and universities, and city-based running teams.

The list of military services included U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps., and the U.S. Navy. Colleges and universities represented included the likes of Oklahoma State, Villanova, Minnesota, Elon and College of Charleston. Shoe company and athletic apparel teams, in addition to the On/ZAP Endurance entries, include Nike, Under Armour, Saucony, addidas, Brooks and ASICS. A number of city-based track and running clubs were also represented from states all across the country.

On/ZAP Endurance was also represented in Mechanicsville by Ryan Ford, who finished 12th in the 10,000 meter race, among the nation’s most elite harriers.

“The course in Pole Green Park is very interesting,” said Rea in speaking with High Country Sports after the race. “It is a 2k circuit and the competitors go around five times to make their 10k distance. It is relatively flat, with little in the way of elevation changes. Nice course, really.”

For Colley, the Jan. 21 race was a homecoming of sorts. He grew up in historic Williamsburg, Va., roughly 50 miles east of Mechanicsville, so among the Saturday spectators were a large number of Colley family members, childhood friends, and other well-wishers.

For most of the 10k distance, there was a lead pack of some two dozen runners within 10 seconds of each other. Bor took the lead at 3k and kept it to the finish, although a host of runners were always within shouting distance.

At the 1k marker, Colley and Ford were running side by side, tied for 9th place in the lead pack with Bor and Anthony Rotich (Nike/U.S. Army) and Thomas Slattery (U.S. Coast Guard). They were less than three seconds off the leader, Reid Buchanan, an unattached runner from California. Among the leaders, in third place at that point, was distance running veteran Jared Ward, a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in the marathon after placing third in Los Angeles. Ward was running for the Saucony shoe company.

At the 2k mark, the leaders had shuffled around a bit, but there were still 41 athletes inside five seconds of the pack leader, Kirubel Erassa, an unattached entry from Indiana. All-Army team members were in 2nd place and tied for 4th, while ZAP’s Ford moved up a couple of places to 6th, tied with Bor, and Colley crossed the line in 15th, but still within just one second of the front.

As the runners crossed the 3k mark, Bor took the lead with still 102 athletes in the running. Colley was less than two seconds back, in 6th, while Ford dropped to 12th. He was still just 2.2 seconds behind the leader.

Bor still led at 4k, but distance running veteran Sam Chelanga of the All-Army team had moved into second place, nipping at Bor’s heels. Colley was only a second and half back, in 7th, while Ford was in 13th, still just over three seconds behind first place.

At the 5k halfway point, 102 runners were still on the course, with only 31 still in any kind of realistic contention some 37 seconds behind Bor. Another All-Army team member, Leonard Korir had moved into second place but was now 2.7 seconds behind Bor and leading a pack within five seconds of Bor. That pack included Colley in 7th and Ford, in 13th.

When the runners reached 6k, Bor had increased his lead to more than five seconds ahead of second place, now held by his younger brother Hillary Bor. Both are Kenyan-born but attended American universities, Emmanuel competing for University of Alabama and Hillary for Iowa State. At this point in the race, Colley was just one second behind Hillary Bor, in 9th, and Ford was still in the hunt, at No. 13.

At 7k, the Bor brothers still headed the field with Emmanuel now 11 seconds ahead of his brother. Nike/U.S. Army’s Rotich had moved back up the leaderboard and Colley was tied with Rotich and unattached Utah runner Dillon Maggard in third. Ford was less than a second further back, tied for 10th with Chelanga, who had also slipped back but still a member of the lead pack.

At 8k, Colley edged ahead of Hillary Bor and the Army’s Korir into second place, but now 12 seconds behind Emmanuel Bor. Ford four seconds slower at this point, by himself at No. 11. Newcomers among the leaders were Abbabiya Simbassa (7th), representing Under Armour, and Zachery Panning (9th) of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.

Between the 8k and 9k marks, Colley ran a blistering 2:52.2 leg and began to reel in the older Bor brother. Colley’s effort allowed him to slip into second place for the first time, narrowing the deficit to just under 8 seconds. Ford stayed at No. 11, but did not keep up with the lead group. At this point he was 20 seconds off the lead pace, but almost five seconds ahead of the 12th place runner.

As if Colley’s next to last 1,000 meters, between 8k and 9k, was not fast enough, the veteran ZAP runner gained another five seconds on the leader, covering the last 1,000 meters in 2:40.5 to finish the race as the runner-up and a full second ahead of Rotich (No. 3) and Korir (No. 4).

The now 31-yearold Colley was a highly decorated high school (Jamestown High School, Williamsburg, Va.) and collegiate track and cross country athlete competing for North Carolina State University. At NC State, he was a 3-time All-American in cross country (2011, 2012, and 2013) and the Atlantic Coast Conference “Performer of the Year” in both 2012 and 2013. In track, he was a 4-time All-American focused on running at the 5,000 meters’ distance.

He seemed destined for good things after joining the ZAP team and earning a spot on the 2015 U.S. team competing in the World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China, but a string of injuries followed. He is now the healthiest he has been in more than five years and, he said in a post-race interview that he now has had a good six months of solid training leading up to the Jan. 21 race.

“I am really proud of Andrew,” Rea shared with High Country Sports. “He is not just very talented, but has endured a lot and worked hard to overcome those challenges. He is a terrific team guy and will prove to be a great resource for the growing number of younger athletes competing for ZAP Endurance.”

 

 

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