Foot Locker Boys 2018
The boys' race started out as if they too would race at a brisk pace with the first quarter mile, which was downhill, run in a swift 65 or 66 seconds but once the pack made the turn to head back up the hill the leaders eased back off the pace. Leading the way were Midwest champion Cole Hacker and John Renfree, who placed fifth in this race last year. With the pace relaxed, as it was, virtually everyone was still in the race and the pack was more of a legion.
Race director Tim O'Rourke labelled the pace as "conservative" and there was no arguing with that, when Renfree & Hocker led the way to a 2:16 clocking at the 800 Meter mark. Following close behind were Jon Velasco of California, Northeast champion Jack Stanley of NJ, Lucas Aranburo of Ma. & South champion Cruz Gomez. The runners ambled around the pool at the top of the hill and then headed past the start & crossed the road into the "valley." The pace remained tepid and the only event of note was Graydon Morris slipping in at the back of the leaders. Morris has the distinction of being only the second male runner to have qualified three times by his junior year and, also the second place finisher as a sophomore, he had to be taken seriously. Race commentator Carrie Tollefson had spoken with Graydon before the race & he had noted he had let the leaders get away last year & that he had no intention of making that error in race strategy again.
The pace continued in its 'relaxed' way , when Hocker & Jon Velasco led the pack through the mile mark in 4:48. On their heels were Renfree, Stanley & Drew Bosley of Wi. Upas Hill often separates would be challengers from the true contenders & Hocker & Renfree led a modest push up the steep grade. The leaders cruised at the top but Renfree opened up on the descent which occuerd around the six minute mark of the race. A small group trailed Hocker which incuded Joshua Methner of Il. Morris & West champion Kashon Harrison of NM but once the hill was disposed of a lead group coalesced again, so that at the half way point of the race a good dozen runners were still in contention. Leading the way at this point was Methner with Hocker, Renfree, Stanley, Camren Fischer of Ar. & Bosley all credited with 7:16. A dozen runners remained, who had legitimate chances of victory.
With half of the race behind the runners it was obvious someone would make a move soon with the only question being which harrier. Speaking after the race with me Hocker had noted that in the last few races he had employed a 'sit and kick' strategy and he assumed most would antiicipate the same strategy for him & Cole was determined to use the element of surprise this race. With the race playing out in reality as he had envisioned Hocker opened up on the down hil and set a brisk pace. Looking back it was from this point onward that the Indiana State champion had seized virtual control of the race. From here on it was up to the rest of the field to respond to him.
Hocker set a hard pace challenging the others to stay with him and that challenge was met early on with solid cast of characters accepting. Hocker led at the two mile mark by clocking 9:55 but he was certainly not alone. Renfree, Methner, Bosley, Harrison, Stanley & Morris all shared the time & Morris was just a second back. Colin Baker was just one more of the fourteen runners, who were all under the ten minute mark. While the first increase in pace did not break the chase pack, his second move as he raced did. This was at the 11:12 point in the race & from then on the race was joined in earnest by a select few. Race announcer O'Rourke concede that Hocker was "driving the pace" & in control of the pace.
Points of demarcation included reaching the wall in 12:12 and then 12:29, when Hocker began his second climb up the hill. It is the second time up the hill that can be a killer &, while it impacted the leaders a bit, its impact on the back of the pack was noticeably severe and a few truly struggled. Up ahead the pain was not in evidence and Renfree made a counter move, which Hocker was forced to answer. Further back Graydon Morris took over fourth place. While Hocker followed Renfree up the hill once at the top Hocker upped the ante in a big way. Renfree for his part tried to match the move but he clearly had to make an effort to respond well. Morris meanwhile was involved in his race within a race and moved into third place.
Hocker was rolling when he rushed past the three mile mark around 14:53. Hocker's strong move could not be matched and the soon to be crowned champion took a look over his shoulder to make sure there would be no surprise but soon he was gone. His winning time was 15:13, which was strong considering the rather pedestrian pace early. Jake Renfree ran a fine 15:19 to earn second and Graydon Morris placed third but shared the clocking with Carter Solomon of Mi. & Drew Bosley, who improved on his 7th place finish of last year. Joshua Methner took sixth in 15:27 and Jack Stanley followed in 7th with 30. Colin Baker of SC garnered 8th with 15:30 with Evan Bishop of SC following a second later. Carter Cheeseman of Texas placed tenth with 15:36 & Kashon Harrison was 11th with 15:37.
The Midwest Boys made it a sweep of the team races by scoring with a total of 25 points, as the South placed second with 35. The West guys were third with 69 points and the Northeast was a distant fourth with 98 points. The quality of the field was underscored by the fact that 18 runners broke the sixteen minute barrier and this is a quality course, that has been raced for years and stood the test of time.
The fans on hand were fortunate to see two fine races with a high caliber of runner. It was a beautiful day for running and wonderful addition to forty years of Foot Locker history. It was Foot Locker (via Kinney early) that supported runners and the ensuing time has brought great growth in running, which in large part flowed from this race. Congratulations to everyone, who participated & contributed to this great event. We look forward to seeing you next year at the hotel Del Coronado, when the next 40 years of Foot Locker commences.