Jacksonville, FL – USATF athletes returned to national championships on Saturday morning in Jacksonville, Florida at the USATF 15 km Championships presented by Toyota. Emily Sisson (Phoenix, Arizona) and Clayton Young (Provo, Utah) ran to victory in the first race of the 2021 USATF Running Circuit presented by Toyota.

Race highlights and coverage of the USATF 15 km Championships presented by Toyota, hosted by the Gate River Run, are available and can be viewed with a +PLUS subscription on USATF.TV. Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #USATF.
From the sound of the starting gun, Sisson took the lead in the women’s race, building a sizable lead in the first half mile. By two miles, Sisson had extended her lead to 15 seconds and by the 5 km mark, Sisson owned a lead of 17 seconds over Lindsay Flanagan (Boulder, Colorado) and Emily Durgin (Flagstaff, Arizona), who sat second and third, running as a chase pack of two.
Over the next 5 km, Sisson would increase her lead to 42 seconds, passing through the 10 km split in 31:34, 14 seconds off pace of Shalane Flanagan’s (Portland, Oregon) American record performance of 47:00 set in 2014.
While the windy conditions and solo racing effort didn’t allow Sisson to catch Flanagan’s record, the Providence-based runner continued to dominate, extending her lead over second place Flanagan to 1:05. Sisson crossed the line victoriously in 48:09.
Behind Sisson, Flanagan pulled away from Durgin before the 10 km split, five seconds up on her rival by that point. Flanagan continued to break from Durgin and the distance standout picked up big points on the USATF Running Circuit presented by Toyota, while finishing second overall in 49:14. Durgin hung strong to claim third overall in 49:29.
Over the final few miles, Makena Morley (Bigfork, Montana) pulled away from the secondary chase pack, ultimately running the final 5 km of the race solo. While trying to catch Durgin, Morley eventually ran out of time, settling for third in 49:38, well ahead of Erika Kemp (Mount Holly, New Jersey), who finished fifth for the second year in a row. Kemp crossed the finish in 50:10, 17 seconds ahead of her finishing time in 2020.
Rounding out the women’s top ten finishers, 2019 World Mountain Running Champion Grayson Murphy (Bozeman, Montana) closed well to cross the line in sixth in 50:14. Maggie Montoya (Waco, Texas) took home seventh in 50:25, with USATF Running Circuit veterans Laura Thweatt (Durango, Colorado) and Sarah Pagano (San Diego, California) grabbing eighth and ninth place in 50:31 and 50:36 respectively. Diane Nukuri (Flagstaff, Arizona) claimed tenth place overall with a time of 50:44.
In the men’s race, John Raneri (Flagstaff, Arizona) deployed similar tactics as Sisson, setting a hard early pace to easily distance himself from the field. By the first mile, Raneri held an eight second lead and by the first 5 km split, Raneri owned a 14 second lead over the rest of the field.
The chase pack behind Raneri, gauging their effort and space between the front runner, hosted no fewer than 20 men, running as a tight pack, moving their way throughout the streets of Jacksonville. The chase pack was led by Bowerman Track Club’s Chris Derrick (Portland, Oregon), along with 2019 USATF 15 km champion Shadrack Kipchirchir (Colorado Springs, Colorado), 2020 runner-up Abbabiya Simbassa (Flagstaff, Arizona), and Young.
Raneri would build his lead slightly by mile four, then maintained first place in mile five, only to see it slip by the 10 km mark. Raneri passed through the 10 km split in 29:05, just two seconds ahead of the chase pack, which consisted of a dozen runners.
As the pack caught Raneri, it was Derrick, Kipchirchir and Kirubel Erassa (Colorado Springs, Colorado) who grabbed the lead. Raneri did not fall off completely, maintaining form with the leaders, but a new race emerged with two miles to go.
As the runners hit the bridge with a mile to go, the pace increased significantly, and the field spread out. As the finish line came into view, a half dozen men were able to gap the rest of the field and it was a race to the finish.
Former NCAA champion Young was able to create enough space over the final quarter mile, surging to victory in 43:52, his first USATF national title.
The race for second was equally as furious, as Simbassa overtook Kipchirchir in the final strides to claim his second consecutive runner-up finish at the USATF 15 km Championships, finishing in 43:54. Kipchirchir grabbed third in the same time of 43:54, while Nicolas Montanez (Mammoth Lakes, California) finished fourth a second back in 43:55. Erassa and Colin Bennie (Princeton, Massachusetts) finished a couple strides behind, earning fifth and sixth place, both finishing in 43:56.
2020 USATF 15 km champion Frank Lara (Westminster, Colorado) outkicked Reed Fischer (Boulder, Colorado) over the final stretch of the race to claim seventh overall in 44:02, while Fischer finished with the same time in eighth. Derrick hung on over the final half mile to place ninth overall in 44:04, while Raneri managed to round out the top ten with a 44:15 time.
The next stop on the USATF Running Circuit presented by Toyota is the USATF 1 Mile Road Championships, which take place on April 21 in Des Moines, Iowa, hosted by the Grand Blue Mile.

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 $49,000 in prize money will be awarded at the USATF 15 km Championships.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USATF Running Circuit race. For the USATF 15 km Championships, scoring is set as 15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7 ,6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1, 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 $7 million to U.S. distance runners.
Contributed by Scott Bush