FOOT LOCKER WEST GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP RACE HIGHLIGHTS
What to make of the 5000-meter times posted at the Foot Locker West Regional qualifying meet held last December on the rain course at Mt. San Antonio College?
As MileSplit continues to produce returning 5K rankings as part of cross country preview content in California as well as nationally, you can't help but notice times from that FLW rain course are prominent among the leaders.
In comparison research, nearly 60 percent of returning athletes posted a 5K PR on the FLW rain course, including nearly 75 percent of returning girls. Overall, for all boys and girls in the championship races, 50.9 percent hit 5K PRs.
We wanted to take a closer look at the numbers and explore reasons behind the tremendous percentage of improvement.
Because of heavy rain late the day before the meet and overnight, organizers of the Foot Locker West Region race at Mt. SAC shifted from the iconic course of hills, dirt, loops and switchbacks, with some asphalt, to a modified "rain" course that involved multiple loops around two parking lots and an up-and-back on the famous "Airstrip" before a left turn back on the auxiliary road to the finish heading west.
That course ran short -- 2.79 miles is what we reported in December -- for the Open and the eight grade-specific races. It was adjusted following the Senior Girls race to create a 3.1-mile course by adding an extra pass through the finish area and a second loop around the west parking lot that forced a change to the direction of the finish from heading west to heading east.
The flat course was damp with some puddles but footing didn't appear to hamper the athletes that misty gray December day. That layout, compared to the hills and the varied terrain of the iconic jewel of the sport, would theoretically benefit runners stronger on the track than the hills. The only obstacles were those puddles, limited spacing, and some confusion.
"There was not a lot of running room that first mile," recalled Amador Valley rising senior John Lester recently. "I know people who got caught up pretty bad in the back half of the race early and it was hard to recover from that until maybe halfway through Mile 2 when stuff started opening up. Whereas (on the traditional course) at Mt. SAC, stuff starts thinning out by the time you hit the hill, which is right before the first mile."
Lester, an elite mid-distance runner on the track, did not finish among the top 10 boys who qualified to run at Foot Locker Nationals the following Saturday. But he did improve his 5K PR by 15.80 seconds, which was the sixth-best improvement among CA boys returning for 2020-21 and the 25th best improvement among all boys.
"The race played out a little strange and obviously the rain didn't help anyone," Lester said. "For someone like me, the lack of hills was nice. But then also there's the thing: If there's no uphills, there's no downhills. I know for some people, that's their forte, that's where they dominate, that's where they move up. ... for people that probably didn't have good times or PR, I think it was probably from that, that they got caught up in the back early. People that had PRs, it was because it was a flatter course."
Mia Barnett, now a senior at Crescenta Valley, won the girls regional race a week after placing second for a second consecutive year in the Division V race at the CIF-State Championships. Barnett, a two-time State Meet medalist at 1600m on the track, was one of six girls from California to finish among the top-10 at FLW and make the West Region team that ran at nationals. She improved her 5K PR by 55.90 seconds, the third-best improvement among CA girls returning for 2020-21 and the 10th best among all girls.
In an interview she did at FLN, Barnett said the CA girls were feeling the grind of consecutive weeks of racing heading into FLW.
"The California girls have done so many races back-to-back," she said. "I think (the traditional course at) Mt. SAC would have killed a lot of the West girls even more. I think having it on the flat probably saved us."
FOOT LOCKER WEST BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP RACE HIGHLIGHTS
Of the 82 returning CA athletes we've tracked who participated in those two FLW Regional qualifying races, 58.5 percent posted a 5K personal record. That number breaks down to 42.5 percent of 40 returning boys and 74 percent of 42 returning girls.
Of the fastest 5000-meter times for returning boys in California, the top three times were run at Foot Locker West, plus five of the top 10, six of the top 14, eight of the top 50, and 15 of the top 100.
Nationally, there are four in the top 10, nine of the top 17 and 13 of the top 100.
My goodness! Is that FLW rain course to 5K rankings what Woodbridge at SilverLakes is to 3-mile leaderboards?
FOOT LOCKER WEST REGIONAL COVERAGE - RESULTS - PHOTOS - VIDEOS
Among that top 100 nationally, 5K PR improvements ranged from 1:05.40 for Ignatius Fitzgerald of Montana, to 41.40 seconds for Davin Thompson of Skyridge, Utah, and 22.25 seconds for Mateo Althouse of Oregon (the boys race winner), to as little as 3.92 seconds for Arizona's Xavier Black, 4.03 seconds for Utah's Michael Moffat and 6.20 seconds for Thompson's twin brother, Creed.
Focusing only on California, we've ID'd 40 returning boys who ran at Foot Locker West. Of those, 17 improved on their 5K time, one matched his previous PR exactly -- EXACTLY! -- and 22 ran slower on the Mt. SAC rain course than their previous 5K PR.
Among girls, there are 42 returning who ran at Foot Locker West. Of those, 31 improved their 5K time while 11 did not.
Nationally, of the top 100 returning girls for 5K, the highest ranked time from FLW is Barnett, who ranks 11th nationally at 17:02.40. Of the 12 FLW times that rank among the top 100 (top 95, actually), eight are from California. Arizona's Grace Ping, at No. 17, is the next highest-rank girl from FLW at 17:08.00.
In California, 20 of the top 50 ranked returning girls for 5K have PRs from FLW, including six of the top 10 and 11 of the top 20. Note that of those 20 girls, there are two whose time from FLW was their only 5K race of the 2019 season.
This chart logs the number of times 5K PRs for returning CA athletes were achieved at Foot Locker West or the CIF-State Championships among the top 100 rankings for boys and girls.
|BOYS - FLW||BOYS - State||GIRLS - FLW||GIRLS - State|
Below are charts breaking down the difference between pre-FLW 5K PRs and FLW times. The first chart ranks returning CA boys who ran at FLW by their 5K PR before that race. The second chart ranks boys by the difference between their prior PR and their FLW time.
RETURNING CA BOYS - RANKED BY 5K PRs
RETURNING CA BOYS - RANKED BY DIFFERENCE
RETURNING CA GIRLS - RANKED BY PRs
RETURNING CA GIRLS - RANKED BY DIFFERENCE
The following charts list all participants in the championship races ranked by pre-FLW 5K PRs and FLW times.
ALL GIRLS - RANKED BY DIFFERENCE
ALL BOYS -RANKED BY DIFFERENCE