San Diegan Marc Davis won the Kinney Cross Country Championship in 1986. (Photo courtesy of Marc Davis)
Things were different -- really different -- when San Diego High's Marc Davis won the the high school national cross country championship 33 years ago.
There was no internet, no Facebook, no Twitter. The California State championships were a year away. There were only a handful of invitationals. And the event now known by the title sponsor Foot Locker, was then the Kinney National Cross Country Championships.
So, in a way, Davis was a relative unknown even though he romped in the Western Regional and everyone knew he was more familiar than anyone with the 3.1-mile Balboa Park course, which bumped up right against San Diego High.
Southern California fans aware of his speed and strength and they lined the course 20 deep in places, ready to push the local favorite.
Today, Davis remembers it like it was yesterday, even though he would go on to be an NCAA champion at Arizona and an Olympian.
"I was the most dominant runner in the race in the eyes of a very small group in Southern California," said Davis, who turns 50 next week. "In my mind's eye I was the best but I'm coming from a very small corner of the U.S. and I'd be running against future Olympians like Bob Kennedy and Todd Williams. I didn't know about them, they didn't know about me.
"Maybe in a way that was good, because instead of being nervous, I was confident in my own abilities. I think they thought of me as a hothead who would either destroy them or fall apart."
Davis knew about them by the time the race started, so he and coach Ed Ramos came up with a plan that he'd stay back the first half of the race and then attack on the second time up Upas Street hill portion of the course.
"A third into the race, before we even went up Upas, I had a 10 second lead," recalled Davis. "That changed my strategy. I was feeling really good and feeding off the crowd. Remember, I was fresh because there was no state meet and I was running in my own bubble.
"There wasn't a moment I was uncomfortable and I knew every inch of that park. Taking the lead then was a big gamble but I had such an intense support system with friends, family and that crowd. I felt like I was the hometown hero when a team is playing in the World Series. I got to be that guy."
Davis started celebrating more than 80 meters from the finish line which he couldn't really see because of a large rise.
"There were no clocks on the course, so I didn't have any idea how fast I was running, I just ran," said Davis. "I waved to the crowd, pumping my fist, on the final straightaway and when I saw the finish line, I saw the clock.
"The clock said 14:26 and I suddenly realized I might beat Ruben Reina's record (14:36). At no time in the race did I even think about that."
That clock would be the only thing to best him that day. Davis saw it turn 14:38 as he crossed the line. He grabbed the finish tape in disgust, jogged down the finish chute and promptly kicked a trash can.
He was 11 seconds ahead of Williams and 17 in front of Kennedy.
"I could have held that record for 33 years," he said, laughing. "Kicking the can was my passion, my angst, my energy showing through. I'd done and continued to do some unique things."
It brought back memories of two other instances that were comparable.
Eight years later, at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia, he was running the steeplechase and there were no clocks at all to let him know how he was doing. Not only did he win the race, he barely missed the American Record.
It also reminded Davis of his Olympic Games performance in 1996 in Atlanta.
He won the semifinal impressively and was suddenly the favorite for the gold medal, sharing the spotlight that day with Michael Johnson who set a world record winning the 200-meter dash. He said he and Johnson were on top of the world, feeding off each other's aura.
Only on his last water jump, his foot came down awkwardly.
"My foot hurt, so I got an MRI," he said. "I had a stress fracture. I could try to gut it out or save myself to make some money in Europe. I decided to run and for the first mile I was fine.
"But then it got worse and I faded to last. On the last water jump I made sure to fall in the water and I tossed water at the fans, thanking them for all their support. Just 48 hours earlier, when I won, they had sent up a roar that was heard on the warmup track a long ways away. I didn't want that 'pity clap' the crowd gives to the last place finisher -- I limped to the finish line -- but I got destroyed by the purists."
Davis has never left cross country or track behind.
He works for the Boston Athletic Association as their digital media manager, which includes running the web page. You might have heard of another event they produce -- the Boston Marathon.
"A few of us find our way into the industry and can make a living after running," he said. "You can coach, go into shoe sales, do event management. That's about it. I'm very fortunate."
YEAR-BY-YEAR LOOK AT CHAMPIONS OF THE FOOT LOCKER/KINNEY CROSS COUNTRY NATIONALS
Year | Boys Champion | City, State | Time | Girls Champion | City, State | Time
|2018||Cole Hocker||Indianapolis, IN||15:13||Sydney Masciarelli||Northbridge, MA||17:00|
|2017||Dylan Jacobs||Orland Park, IL||15:19||Claudia Lane||Malibu, CA||17:03|
|2016||Reed Brown||South Lake, TX||15:01||Claudia Lane||Malibu, CA||17:04|
|2015||Drew Hunter||Purcellville, VA||14:55||Weini Kelati||Leesburg, VA||17:09|
|2014||Grant Fisher||Grand Blanc, MI||15:03||Anna Rohrer||Mishawaka, IN||17:13|
|2013||Grant Fisher||Grand Blanc, MI||15:07||Tessa Barrett||Waverly, PA||17:16|
|2012||Ed Cheserek||Newark, NJ||14:59||Anna Rohrer||Mishawaka||17:25|
|2011||Ed Cheserek||Newark, NJ||14:52||Molly Seidel||Harland, WI||17:22|
|2010||Lukas Verzbicas||Orland Hills, IL||14:59||Aisling Cuffe||Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY||16:53|
|2009||Lukas Verzbicas||Orland Hills, IL||15:08||Megan Goethals||Rochester, MI||17:07|
|2008||Solomon Haile||Silver Spring, MD||15:15||Jordan Hasay||Arroyo Grande, CA||17:22|
|2007||Michael Fout||Laporte, IN||14:50||Ashley Brasovan||West Palm Beach, FL||17:20|
|2006||Chad Hall||Big Bear Lake, CA||15:20||Kathy Kroeger||Franklin, TN||17:29|
|2005||AJ Acosta||Oceanside, CA||15:02||Jordan Hasay||Arroyo Grande, CA||17:05|
|2004||Kenneth Cormier||Douglas, AZ||15:22||Aislinn Ryan||Bellvale, NY||17:31|
|2003||Matthew Withrow||Tinley Park, IL||14:55||Katelyn Kaltenbach||Aurora, CO||17:24|
|2002||Chris Solinsky||Stevens Point, WI||14:41||Zoe Nelson||Kalispell, MT||17:30|
|2001*||Timothy Moore||Novi, MI||14:50||Amber Trotter||Redwood Valley, CA||16:24|
|2000*||Dathan Ritzenhein||Rockford, MI||14:35||Sara Bei||Santa Rosa, CA||16:55|
|1999*||Dathan Ritzenhein||Rockford, MI||14:29||Victoria Chang||Honolulu, HI||17:05|
|1998*||Jorge Torres||Wheeling, IL||15:16||Erin Sullivan||Jericho, VT||17:35|
|1997*||Abdirizak Mohamud||Boston, MA||15:22||Erin Sullivan||Jericho, VT||17:22|
|1996||Abdirizak Mohamud||Boston, MA||15:21||Kristen Gordon||Alamo, CA||17:34|
|1995||Abdul Alzindani||Dearborn, MI||15:12||Kim Mortensen||Thousand Oaks, CA||17:12|
|1994||Matt Downin||Hampstead, NH||14:58||Julia Stamps||Santa Rosa, CA||16:41|
|1993||Adam Goucher||Colorado Springs, CO||14:41||Erin Davis||Gansevoort, NY||17:11|
|1992||Brendan Heffernan||Glen Gardner, NJ||15:13||Amanda White||Cockeysville, MD||17:34|
|1991||Corey Ihmels||Williston, ND||15:03||Liz Mueller||Waterford, CT||17:21|
|1990||Louie Quintana||Nipomo, CA||15:07||Melody Fairchild||Boulder, CO||16:39|
|1989||Bryan Dameworth||Calabasas, CA||14:49||Melody Fairchild||Boulder, CO||17:05|
|1988||Brian Grosso||Walled Lake, MI||15:03||Celeste Susnis||Wheatfield, IN||17:14|
|1987||Bob Kennedy||Westerville, OH||14:59||Kira Jorgensen||Vista, CA||17:08|
|1986||Marc Davis||San Diego, CA||14:38||Erin Keogh||McLean, VA||16:55|
|1985||Reuben Reina||San Antonio, TX||14:36||Erin Keogh||McLean, VA||16:43|
|1984||Scott Fry||Sandusky, OH||14:50||Cathy Schiro||Dover, NH||16:48|
|1983||Matt Giusto||Foster City, CA||14:54||Janet Smith||Edison, NJ||16:43|
|1982*||Eric Reynolds||Somis, CA||14:35||Christine Curtin||Bellmore, NY||16:58|
|1981*||Charles Alexander||Richmond, VA||14:51||Connie Jo Robinson||Cincinnati, OH||16:40|
|1980||Jay Marden||Fremont, CA||14:53||Ceci Hopp||Cos Cob, CT||17:12|
|1979||Brent Steiner||Overland Park, KS||15:05||Ellen Lyons||Boise, ID||17:28|
*-- Races Held In Orlando
Note: Foot Locker replaced Kinney as the title sponsor for the 1992 race.