Welcome to part one of our three-part series previewing this Saturday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Today we look at our HOKA NAZ Elite rookie, Matt Baxter, and give you guys a look at what he’s done to prepare for this race. Tomorrow we’ll preview Steph Bruce’s race (as well as the chances that she and her American ‘mates have to grab a team medal) and Thursday we’ll release our full previews for both the senior men’s and senior women’s races.
Matt Baxter joined our team in January of this year and we immediately circled the World Cross Country Championships as one of the focal points in 2019. Why? First of all, it’s always an honor to wear your country’s colors in international competition. This will be the first time since 2012 (when he was a junior) that Matt will have that honor. Matt, who runs for his native New Zealand, will lead his Kiwi teammates in Aarhus, coming off winning the National Championship at 5,000 meters earlier this month. His success in cross country is well known to American fans who have seen him lead the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks to NCAA National Team Titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Individually he was All American all three years including a runner-up finish in 2017.
His current form is certainly good. At the National meet, he followed the race leaders through a slow first 2k before going to the front and squeezing down the pace himself, eventually winning by seven seconds in 14:04 (8:12 for the final 3k). Training has also gone well. You can read his training log via our partners at Final Surge HERE. He’s been in New Zealand for the entire segment, which allowed him to train on grass for many of his hard sessions. Big workouts have included everything from 400s on the track, to hard hill repeats, to 10 mile steady state runs. It’s been a variety of work in order to prepare for a course with a variety of challenges.
An obvious strength runner, the course should suit Matt very well. While the goal at any World Championships is always to finish as high as one possibly can anyway, there is one special bonus dangling out there for Matt (and everyone else for that matter). The top 15 finishers will earn the “A” standard for September’s World Track and Field Championships at 10,000 meters. Those Championships are another focal point of Matt’s year.
But for now, it’s all about Saturday. You can follow Matt’s Aarhus adventures on social media: