In front of dozens of friends and family Andrew Colley raced himself onto his 2nd World Cross Country team by placing 2nd at Sunday’s US Cross Country Championships. Andrew grew up in Williamsburg, VA, just under an hour from the race course in Mechanicsville, VA outside of Richmond. Both of his grandmothers made the short drive over alongside the rest of his family, his high school coach and several former teammates.
Andrew knew having a US Championship so close to home would be special, but a big part of that would be delivering a special performance. Andrew was competing alongside ZAP rookie, Ryan Ford, who had a stellar fall of racing in his own right. Ryan’s jump in fitness since the fall put him in position to run with Andrew in the front of the race.
Ryan and Andrew were part of a large lead pack over the opening kilometers of the race. Things got off to an honest start in the opening 1K, lagged in the 2nd K, and then took off from there. Halfway through the 10,000m the consistent pressure had whittled the main chase pack down to 12. Both Ryan and Andrew remained in contention for the top 6, who would be named to the World Championship team.
After 7,000m very little had changed. Emmanuel Bor, the 13:00 5,000m runner competing for the US Army, maintained a lead of 10 seconds over the main pack of 10 runners. Andrew and Ryan remained tucked in the main pack. By the 8k mark the pace had increased slightly and Ryan lost 3 seconds to the group. Meanwhile, Andrew remained up front in the chase pack.
With 1k to go the pace had picked up again, and the group narrowed the 12 second gap on Bor down to 8. Just after the 9k mark Andrew moved to the front of the chase pack. The pack of 6 held strong as they approached the final 1/4 mile of the race. The gap to Bor had narrowed further, but he had enough cushion to hold on for the win. Behind him, Andrew hit the short, steep hill 300m out from the finish in a full sprint. It was enough to open up an immediate gap on the group that he would be able to hold to the finish.
Just over 20 seconds later Ryan crossed the line in 12th place – a very strong showing in a veteran field. Ryan was the youngest athlete in the top 12 by 2 years.
Andrew’s 2nd place finished earned him a spot to represent the US at next month’s World Championships in Bathurst, Australia. It will be his third time competing with the USA singlet at the World Cross Country Championships. He made his first team as a U20 junior. He made his first US Senior team his first year at ZAP in 2015, 8 years ago.
The 8 year gap is fairly extraordinary in the elite running world, and it’s a testament to Andrew’s fortitude during that window. He saw good performances: a 2:12:15 marathon and two 3rd place finishes at the US Half Marathon Championships, among others. But he also had 2 surgeries, a torn posterior tibial tendon, a torn labrum in his hip, and a number of smaller injuries that cost him to miss significant time.
He is grateful and thrilled to be donning the red, white and blue singlet again, and is looking forward to competing against the best cross country runners in the world in Australia on February 18th. Listen to him share some of his own thoughts in the video below from his Youtube Channel: