Chris Derrick could have been mistaken for a man on a leisurely jog through a park Saturday during the final laps of his victory in the USA Cross Country Championships if not for the few thousand fans cheering for him.
The former Stanford standout met little resistance from the competition beyond the halfway point in the 12K senior men's race at Flatirons Golf Course. It was Derrick's second consecutive win in the event. He won last year when the race was in St Louis.
Derrick crossed the finish line in 36 minutes, 14 seconds and wasn't joined by any of his fellow racers for another 25 seconds. Former Oregon distance runner Luke Puskedra finished in 36:39 and 2012 winner Bobby Mack was close behind him in 36:43.
"I'm excited," Derrick said of keeping the title for a second year. "I want to be the best cross country runner in America. So it's good to win another one."
Brent Vaughn was the first of several former CU Buffs to finish the race. Vaughn was sixth, finishing in 37:08, nearly a full minute behind Derrick. Vaughn had jokingly talked trash about challenging Derrick at Friday's pre-race news conference and admitted after the race he was embarrassed by his performance in his adopted hometown.
"I'm definitely not happy with the way I finished, but the result is I guess it was expected on how I've been training. You've got to want it on a daily basis rather than just on race day. So I'm getting there. My fire is there, but it hasn't been there long enough.
"...This was good for me. It was good for me to get my butt kicked cause it will get me in gear."
Derrick was at or near the lead from start to finish. After training for three weeks in Colorado Springs, he said he felt good throughout and never worried about experiencing any problems with racing at altitude.
He began to pull away on the third lap when he said he sensed his fellow competitors were waiting for him to make a move. He said he felt like he had the race won at that point.
"I just felt really good and my rhythm was good and I was going to wait a little longer but I was in a groove and I felt like they were letting me have it so I just took it," Derrick said.
Boulder-based runner Sean Quigley managed to stay with Derrick through the first six kilometers. He said he made a mistake trying to keep Derrick's pace in the middle laps and eventually fell well back when he weakened. He finished fifth, six seconds ahead of Vaughn in 37:02.
"I think I spread myself a little thin in the middle part of the race and then paid the last two laps for that move," Quigley said. "I was happy I put myself in it and was at least able to hang on to a respectable fifth."