Photos of Friday introductions and race action from Saturday by Don Rich
(Photo by Paul Everett) National championship fever is spreading across the country. The world of prep cross country begins its ascent to the national finals. Many will seek individual honors at either the historic Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships or Nike Cross National Championships. Nike Cross Nationals will offer the Team National Championship.
I love how a race can be a profound metaphor for life in a broader sense. And just like a good Biblical parable, it can teach you a lot about yourself, others, and the way to be successful and happy. I decided to pick out a few anecdotes that some of the girls that I covered this weekend taught me.
Craig Lutz is one of few brave top ranked runners in the nation willing to attempt the Nike Cross Nationals/Foot Locker Nationals double this season. The Marcus High School junior from Dallas, Texas posted the nation's fastest time for 5K this cross country last week in his near course record breaking 14:34 win at Foot Locker South. Lutz will travel to the West Coast in two consecutive weekends as he'll hook horns with Joe Rosa of New Jersey and Zach Wills of Ohio this weekend at NXN and will follow up next week against Lukas Verzbicas of Illinois at Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego. Brandon Miles of MileSplit US interviewed Lutz as he makes the trip to Portland, Oregon for round one of two against the nation's best.
Photo courtesy John Olson, SCRUNNERS
Photo courtesy: John Olson, South Carolina Runner's
Friday course photos and race day action by Nicoll Knudson
Megan Goethals and Chelsey Sveinsson battle to the line, Lukas Verzbicas dominates front-to-back in the boys race. Tons of coverage from our on-site team...
Jake Hurysz is a new face on the national scene after his third place finish at the Foot Locker South Regional. His time of 14:46 ties him the fastest ever by a North Carolina runner on the 5K course at McAlpine Greenway Park with 2006 South Region champion and Foot Locker All-American Ryan Hill. The 3A state champion from Eastern Alamance High Schoolin Mebane, North Carolina has improved great strides from last year when he ran 15:57 on the Foot Locker South regional course. Huryz also turned in a 9:08 3200 meter time trial in between winning his North Carolina state cross country title and qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals. The UNC recruit looks to continue his stellar string of races this fall with an All-American showing on Saturday at Balboa Park in San Diego.
This year’s Foot Locker Nationals will still crown the best cross country runner in the country and continue its rich 30 year tradition on Saturday as two champions will face off in Craig Lutz from Texas and Lukas Verzbicas from Illinois. Lutz is fresh off his win last weekend at Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon, while Verzbicas earlier this fall won the World Dualthon junior title. Along with battling it out with each other for the win, both Lutz and Verzbicas will be racing against history as the South region has not had a Foot Locker champion since 1985 (Lutz), while an underclassmen has never won the boys race at Foot Locker Nationals (Verzbicas).
Winning a Foot Locker Nationals cross country title on Saturday would not be that big of a deal for Sandburg (IL) sophomore Lukas Verzbicas. After all, Verzbicas has already the title of World Champion this fall when he claimed the World Dualthon Junior title in late September. The young distance running phenom has followed a much different path to San Diego than all of the other 39 boys qualifiers, but there is no disputing the results as Verzbicas enters as the Midwest Regional champion and one of the race favorites along with NXN individual champion Craig Lutz of Texas. The only thing which kept Verzbicas from racing Lutz and the other top ranked harriers in Portland last weekend were a few nagging injuries which slowed him down from a course record attempt in the Illinois State Meet and withdrawing from competing in the NXN Midwest Regional. Healthy now, Verzbicas is ready to storm through Balboa Park (40% chance of showers on race day) similar to his jaw dropping 14:18 high school national record indoor 5K performance as a freshmen last March at Nike Indoor.
Photo courtesy of Tim Fulton
Photo by PFFlyer
Top runners at the California State meet; Div 1 winner Ammar Moussa far left; Div 2 winner Elias Gedyon center (photos by Margot Kelly) and Div 1 girls winner Molly Grabill. (photo by Dennis McClanahan)
Megan Goethals will enter next weekend's Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships as one of a few strong race favorites coming off her decisive win at the Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The senior from Rochester High School in Michigan is the top returnee from last year's race with her third place run at Balboa Park in 2008 and is the #1 ranked in the country by MileSplit US with one of the fastest 5K performances in the season with her 16:54 course record breaking performance at Michigan State Meet earlier this month. One of her top competitors will be Foot Locker South regional champion Chelsey Sveinsson of Texas, who Goethals beat out for third place in last year's Foot Locker finals and then took two second place finishes in the mile and two mile at Nike Outdoor Nationals last June. Brandon Miles of MileSplit US interview Goethals as she prepares for the national race.
Emily Sisson returns to San Diego this weekend for her fourth consecutive Foot Locker Nationals berth as she looks to wrap up her fantastic high school career with a strong showing in her final race at Balboa Park. After a sensational third place debut as a freshmen, Sisson had struggled in her last two trips to Foot Locker finals finishing outside of the top 20. Overcoming a diagnosis of Graves disease (overactivity of the thyroid gland) last year, Sisson has bounced back to top form as shown with her Nike Outdoor Nationals 5K victory last June and strong cross country this season fall including most recently a runner-up finish at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional. She joins an elite and small club of four-time Foot Locker Finalist, but looks to do more than just appear in a fourth straight national race. She wants to compete with the best and become an All-American once again.
Rad Gunzenhauser's coach, Oscar Shutt, assistant from Mt. Lebanon HS, PA
With her seventh place finish at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional, Winnebago Lutheran Academy senior Marya Haegler became the first female national qualifier from the state of Wisconsin since Jackie Mulrooney qualified for the Foot Locker finals in 2001. Haegler's biggest role model happens to be one of the all-time greats to ever come out of the state in Suzy Favor Hamilton, while her beginning in running started in grade school when her grandfather timed her in a loop around the block.
Lukas Verzbicas (IL) is a student of the sport. Despite how busy he must be winning World Duathlon Championships, National titles and setting U.S. records, Lukas still finds the time to study the history of the sports he competes in. That history is currently being rewritten by Lukas, but he doesn't get caught up in all the hype. "I am the age of a junior so I can't disrespect all the great history here and the runners before me", he said when asked about having the opportunity to be the first boys champion to win three titles in a row. (Photo by Don Rich)
Large numbers of North Carolina athletes competed today at one of two meets. The Footlocker South meet was held at McAlpine Park while the NXN Southeast Regional was held at WakeMed Park.
After struggling with handling higher mileage weeks and not racing as well as he expected to, Kirubel Erassa of Grayson County High School in Georgia and his coach decided to alter their training approach this fall with less mileage and more speed work. The changes in training have produced positive results as shown with Kirubel's stellar fall of races in Georgia and most recently capped off with a Foot Locker Nationals berth. In the South regional race, Erassa garnered a runner-up finish to eventual Nike Cross Nationals champion and Foot Locker Nationals favorite Craig Lutz of Texas with one of the top 10 all-time performances ever at McAlpine and fastest ever by a runner from the state of Georgia in meet history. Erassa will attempt to be one of the highest finishers ever from Georgia at Balboa Park and follow in the footsteps of recent stars Girma Mecheso and Ben Hubers, who finished 9th and 11th respectively in the 2006 national race. His 14:43 performance at McAlpine actually ties him with two past Foot Locker National runners-up in Alan Webb (2000) and Bobby Lockhart (2001) on the course all-time list.
Photo by Don Rich
Ashlie Decker and Dowling Catholic High School (IA) teammate Katie Flood have the opportunity this weekend to be one of the greatest duos ever from the same school in meet history at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships. Decker and Flood are both past Foot Locker finalists, but will be racing for the first time together at Balboa Park. Decker has ran in the shadows often of teammate and NXN champion Flood often, but is certainly a star runner in her own right with the ability to finish among the top 10 in a talented field assembled for Saturday's national championship race.
The first of the two national high school cross country championship races were held this past weekend in Portland, Oregon with the Nike Cross Nationals. The boys' race certainly featured many of the nation's best battling it out to the wire, while the girls' race was missing the unofficial "Big 3" in Megan Goethals (MI), Chelsey Sveinsson (TX), and Aisling Cuffe (NY) but stellar depth was found in both races as Foot Locker finalists, All-Americans, and state champions were found deep into the field.
Photo by Don Rich
Sara Sargent Post-Meet Interview
Photo by Margot Kelly, AZTrackXC.com
Colby Alexander, a senior from Strongsville, qualified for the Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals by finishing seventh at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional Cross Country Championship in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The top 10 finishers qualify to run at the Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals.
Megan Ferowich enters this weekend's Foot Locker Nationals as one of the top rising stars in the South region as shown by her undefeated season in her homestate of Tennessee prior to a fourth place and 17:12 5K PR finish in the regional qualifier race in Charlotte. Ferowich, a sophomore at Knoxville Catholic, has earned the trip to San Diego despite this fall being her first season of cross country. However, this is not her first national meet experience as she won the freshmen mile last June at Nike Outdoor Nationals. With a 10:26 3200 time trial under her belt from last month, Ferowich is certainly fit and ready to run with the some of best runners in the country on Saturday.
Interview with the 2009 Foot Locker Nationals champion Lukas Verzbicas of Illinois. Verzbicas became the first underclassmen champion in a time of 15:07
Ryan Gil Post-Meet Interview
Foot Locker announced today, that Saucony, Inc., has become the official sponsor for the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships (FLCCC), the nation’s premier high school championships for cross country runners.
After "choking" at the Illinois State Meet with an eighth place finish in his own words, Fenwick High School senior Martin Grady has done nothing but perform in the post-season as he became part of a select few individuals who qualified for both Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker Nationals. Grady gained valuable national race experience last weekend with his 20th place finish at NXN, which he will use in a quick second opportunity to race against the nation's best on Saturday in San Diego for the Foot Locker Nationals.
Photo by Don Rich
Liberty Miller Post-Meet Interview
This week marks the end of the Cross Country season as the final national meet of the year, Foot Locker Nationals, took place at Balboa Park in San Diego. Ohio's lone representative was Colby Alexander of Strongsville.
Molly Grabill Post-Meet Interview
Brad MIles Post-Meet Interview
The Miz ran a great, well paced race this morning in San Diego. He started in the middle of the pack, moved into 14th at half way point and finished in 10th place around 15:37 on the muddy, hilly course, in pounding rain. Atkinson 23rd, Colin Barker 40th. Kathryn Fluehr 27th, Erika Fluehr 34th, Shelby Hayes 39th. More inside....
Cody Helbling Post-Meet Interview
Kelsey Lakowske topped Colorado's entries at Foot Locker Nationals with a 6th-place finish. Photo by Don Rich.
Post-meet announcer interview with girls race champion Megan Goethals (MI).
Cornwall coach Dave Feuer said he couldn’t’ ask anything more of Aisling Cuffe. She kept herself in the race. She chased the biggest names in high school distance running and fought until her tank hit “E.”
Conner Peloquin Post-Meet Interview
Only one runner stands alone among all the contenders in Virginia this fall with a final race to go this weekend in San Diego for the Foot Locker Nationals. Fairfax senior Kevin Dowd rose to the "Cream of the Crop" at the Foot Locker South Regional in the Charlotte as the only Virginian to qualify and finish in the top 10 in the seeded boys race. He will be joined in San Diego by another Northern Region runner in Paige Kvartunas of West Springfield, who finished ninth in the seeded girls race at the South Regional. After being bothered by an achilles injury mid-season and failing to win regional or state crowns, Dowd is hitting his peak in the post-season as shown with his sub 15 5K run at McAlpine and feeling confident about racing at his best this weekend as well in a field of the nation's 40 best from four regions.
Theresa Devine Post Meet Interview
Chelsea Ley Pre-Meet
Colby Alexander Pre-Meet
Matt McElroy Post-Meet Interview
Tyler Udland Post-Meet Interview
Colorado doesn't often have a small-school entry at Foot Locker Nationals. Ryan Poland makes it two years in a row for the small schools. Photo courtesy PhotoRun.net.
Pre-meet interview with the Foot Locker South and NXN champion Craig Lutz of Texas.
Shane Moskowitz Post-Meet Interview
Nathan Karr Pre-Meet
Marielle Hall Post-Meet Interview
A whole host of folks are leaving on planes (or going on road trips, right, Coach Wills?!) bound for San Diego this morning. This year is possibly the greatest ever for Florida, with six athletes qualifying for Saturday morning's race at Balboa Park in San Diego: Kathyn Fluehr, Shelby Hayes, Erika Fluehr, Matt Mizereck, Colin Baker, and Brian Atkinson. Myself (Jason Byrne) and five others from our MileSplit national team are headed out this morning as well. We will be on site bringing you coverage before, during, and after the event. We will have video interviews with all six Florida athletes as well as most of the other 80 qualifiers. A live video feed from the course will be available here as well starting at 8AM Pacific (11AM Eastern) on Saturday. Look for thousands of photos and articles as well. And we'll try to bring you a little piece of what the Foot Locker experience is!! Congrats to our qualifiers!! This is your weekend!! More MileSplit National coverage...
Brad Miles Pre-Meet
Foot Locker Introduction Practice
Rad Gunzenhauser Post Meet Interview
Paige Kvartunas Pre-Meet
Steve Magnuson Post-Meet Interview
Wade Meddles Post-Meet Interview
Race video shot by Jason Byrne and Aaron Rich.
Jessica Tonn Post-Meet Interview
Conversation with Matt Mizereck on Friday at the course.
Jake Hurysz Pre-Meet
Aisling Cuffe Post-Meet Interview
Brian Shrader Post-Meet Interview
Chelsea Ley Post-Meet Interview
Fairfax senior Kevin Dowd had a very strong showing at the Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego with an 18th place effort of 15:44 as the ninth place finisher from the South Regional was only two seconds away from an All-American top 15 finish. Virginia's other qualifier, West Springfield senior Paige Kvartunas, competed in her first national meet with a 38th place finish (18:58). Check out MileSplit US complete coverage of the 2009 Foot Locker Nationals
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