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U.S. Runners Capture Fourth in CISM Cross Country Meet

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 1998 – The U.S. men's 4,500-meter short course and women's 5,500-meter teams captured fourth place in the 46th Cross Country Military World Champions in Curragh, Ireland, March 9-14.

"The United States stunned the defending champions from Morocco by one point, 44-45, in finishing fourth in the field of 26 national teams," said Navy Lt. Jim Felty, coach of the American team in the CISM -- Conseil International du Sport Militaire -- competition. "They were led by former All-American West Point stand-outs 1st Lt. Jason Stewart, who finished ninth, and 2nd Lt. Dan Browne, 13th. Browne is current national champion in the 3,000-meter indoor and cross country short course.

"Running a typically intelligent race, Stewart stayed near the back of the fast-moving pack before racing to the front during the final 1.5-kilometer loop on the soft, murky rolling course," Felty said in a telephone interview. "Browne ran very tough as he was determined to stick with the leaders throughout the race and scored very important points for the U.S. team."

Also contributing were Air Force First Lt. Nick MacFalls and Army Second Lt. Mike Bernstein. The quartet's times were Stewart, 14.02; Browne, 14.13; MacFalls, 14.33; and Bernstein, 15.06.

Portugal won first place, followed by Italy and Austria.

"The men's short course team wasn't the only tough team representing the United States. The women's team ran a stirring race and also finished fourth behind Italy, Morocco and Belgium," Felty noted. "The women won the bronze medal in 1995."

The coach praised Army 1st Lt. Chris Udovich for her 10th place finish in a tough race. "Udovich wasn't even certain to make the team due to deployment and other matters. She continued to display the form that led her to the top step on the podium at the Army 10-mile race last fall," Felty said. "She was never far off the pace, but it was clear she could have used a few more days to get used to the muddy conditions. However, her grit paid off."

Air Force Maj. Kim Markland, a trials qualifier for the 2000 Olympics, was the second U.S. woman to score, he noted. "She ran a technically sound race, working her way through the field and into 19th place," Felty said. "Second Lt. Roxanne Bernstein finished in 28th place in shoes she had to purchase the day before the race due to lost luggage on her flight over."

Coast Guard Petty Officer Stacey Dolly and Marine Corps Cpl. Jennifer Mills rounded out the women's squad. Finishing times were Udovich, 19.25; Markland, 20.25; Bernstein, 21.34; Dolly, 21.52; and Mills, 22.02.

U.S. 11,500-meter runners didn't do as well, finishing 12th, Felty said, The long course team was led by four-time member 1st Lt. Tony Every, who finished in 71st place. "Everyone who ran this course in 1994 swears that it's the most difficult course he has ever encountered," Felty said.

The top three U.S. men were Every, 36.56; Army Spec. Sam Bobbitt, 36.57; and World-Class Athletes Program runner Spec. Peter Pritchett, 37.15. Other team members were Air Force's Capt. Mark Cuccuzzella and Staff Sgt. Mike Mann; Army's Capt. Jimmy Blackmon and Sgt. Gary Brimmer; and Marine Corps Cpl. Jay Woodard.

The CISM cross country championships will be held in the United States next year. Felty predicts the U.S. men and women's short course teams will capture at least a bronze medal. He said it will be a long time before men medal in the long course, though.

"They score six runners, and it's tough to find six military runners who can run 10,000 meters in under 32 minutes," Felty said. "If there are any out there, I'd love to have them." He said he's also always looking for military athletes who can run 5,000 meters in 15 minutes.

Felty said the cross country athletes are some of the most mature and professional he has coached. "They represent their command, country and themselves with the utmost professionalism," he said. "They are a unique team. It doesn't happen often, but I've had to send a couple of guys home in the past because of behavior problems."

He said many athletes spend their lives trying to make it to the nationals and Olympics. "What's so good about CISM is that the competition is equal to the Olympics because military athletes are competing against people who have participated in the Olympics," Felty said. "The United and Canada are the only countries that field teams strictly with military people. In some countries, all the athletes do is run for a living."

Service members interested in trying out for the 1999 CISM Cross Country Championship should contact their service sports office for information. Felty is assigned to the U.S. Defense Attach Office in the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway. He can be contacted via email in Oslo at: usdao@online.no. His phone number is 011-47-2244-8550.

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