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Huskies' Belz 12th in Olympic 5,000-Meter Prelim
Release: 08/25/2004
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Aug. 25, 2004

ATHENS, Greece - Former Husky distance runner Christian Belz earned a 12th-place finish Wednesday in the first of two qualifying heats of the 5,000 meters at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens' Olympic Stadium. The 1998 Washington graduate, competing for his native Switzerland, crossed the line in 13 minutes, 29.59 seconds, 22nd-fastest overall and seven seconds slower than the time posted by the 12th and final qualifier for Wednesday night's final. The Bolligen, Switzerland, native, competing in his second Olympics, switched to the longer 5,000-meter distance just last year, after focusing most of his career on the steeplechase. Belz was an Olympic qualifier in the steeplechase in 2000, and twice earned Pac-10 runner-up honors in the event during an outstanding career at Washington. Sunny skies and a temperature just under 90 degrees at race time made for ideal conditions for the early-evening heat, which saw Belz surge to the front early in an attempt to hold off world-record holder Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, seven-time NCAA champion Alistair Cragg of Ireland, and 1,500-meter gold medalist Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, all running in Belz' heat. Belz and Austrian Guenther Wiedlinger exchanged the lead for the first five laps, with Belz leading the pack through 2,000 meters in 5:22. Four laps before the finish, however, the favorites began to surge, dropping Belz back to sixth. The former Husky held on the for the final mile, but could not catch up to Bekele, who crossed the line first in 13:21.16, well off his world-record pace of 12:37.55. Just behind Bekele was Ethiopian teammate Gebre Gebremariam, in 13:21.20, with El Guerrouj rounding out the top three in 13:21.87. The top five finishers in each heat, and the next two fastest qualifiers, earned spots in Wednesday night's final. For complete results from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, visit www.athens2004.com. -www.gohuskies.com-

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