Foot Locker 2018
Sunny skies, a firm course and an almost ideally pleasant temperature greeted runners at San Diego's famed Balboa Park Course. After torrential rains pounded the city on Wednesday & Thursday it did not seem possible but Katelynne Hart took advantage of the conditions setting a strong pace, which dared other runners to stay only one accepted the challenge to stay with her. When Sydney Masciarelli of Ma. accepted, fans were treated to a race that was worthy of the fortieth running.
It did not seem like the race would be that special at first as the field heading down the the first hill with the entire field bunched together. The pace picked up as the runners headed back up the hill by the tennis courts with Katelyn Hart of Illinois leading the pack, which included six runners from the Midwest. The time for 800 Meters was a good 2:32 but hardly impressive. Running with Hart were Taylor Ewert of Ohio, Emily Covert of Min.,Ericka Vander Lende of Mi., Abby Loveys of N.J. and Alex Morris of Il.
The meet started to get interesting after Hart led the way around the pool and then across the road into the valley area. At this point Hart began to push the pace hard, which had the effect of spreading out the field. The core leaders remained intact but Sydney Masciarelli of Ma. inserted herself into the group, so as to remain in close contact. Sydney was the Northeastern Champion yet a realtive unknown as she lacked experience given this was her first year of cross country and limited racing even this fall. As such she was a true dark horse but, given her win in the Bronx, her talent was real however untapped.
Hart reached the mile mark in 5:13 with a lead over Covert & Ewer of two seconds Also reaching the mark in 5:15 were VanderLaden & Vanderkooi, while Masciarelli & Alex Morris of Illinois were clocked in 5:16. Hart continued her brisk pace even as she made the ascent up Upas Hill but Masciarellli & Covert worked together to limit the gap & once at the top of the plateau Masciarelli cut the margin significantly only to see Hart extend the lead again on the descent. About six and a half minutes had elapsed at this time & race announcer Tim O' Rourke commented "she's", meaning Hart, " committed" now.
The time for a mile and a half was 7:54 for Hart with Sydney reaching it in 7:58 with Covert. Most ot the chase pack clocked 8:03 & Marlee Starliper of Pa. was now in the picture with her 7th position sharing the time. Still the leader was a model of consistency as she dedicatelypushed the pace & maintained her lead. She reached the two mile mark in 10:50 with Masciarelli five seconds back and Vanderkooi, just a freshman, seven back along with Ewert. Covert clocked 11:03 & Starliper at 11:05.
The trek to the 2 1/2 mile mark was still uneventful with Hart leading in 13:40 and Masciarelli following in 13:44. Vanderkooi clocked 13:46 & Ewert 51. It was eight seconds back to Covert. The general positioning did not change until around the 14:40 mark, when Marciarelli made her move & began to close. She gained ground the second time up Upas Hill but lost it back on the trip down. It was at the bottom once again Masciarelli began to reel Hart in but this time for good. The race was now just down to these two runners with Vanderkooi racing alone in third.
A great race is marked by determination & in Hart & Masciarelli there was plenty in evidence. The novice running on pluck closed the ground with seeming ease and the duo were virtually even at the 16:23 mark but Hart showed her grit and the 2017 second place runner opened a short lead again. Masciarelli responded in kind to reach Hart's shoulder only to see Katelynne up the ante another time. They raced up the hill where the starting line was and they were flying as they headed down towards the chute. Just before the end the Ma. champion found just enough reserve to edge ahead of the valiant Hart.
As if to underscore the magnitude of what fans had just witnessed, we note that the sophomore's time of 17:00.3 was the eighth fastest in Foot Locker's Balboa Park history, while Hart's 17:01.0 is the ninth fastest of all time. It certainly was one of the most impressive races this ancient harrier has seen and none other than Pat Tyson, Steve Prefontaine's old roommate & the current XC coach at Gonzaga, promptly pronounced it the finest.
Abby Vanderkooi ran a fine time of 17:14 and did so charting the last mile by herself. Ohio state champion Taylor Ewert placed fourth in 17:20 & Emily Covert of Minnesota clocked 17:29 and is the only senior in the top seven. Jaden Theis of Mi. ran 17:30 for sixth, while Kate Wiser of Ct. was seventh in 17:32. Grace Connelly of Ma. finished in eighth with 17:42 and Jenna Hutchins of Tn. followed in ninth with 17:43 - a time she shared with Ericka VanderLende of Mi. Abby Loveys of NJ earned eleventh in 17:48.
The Midwest placed four runners in the top five to easily run off in the team race with a low of 20 points. Tim O'Rourke announced this was the second lowest winning total ever, so even as a team competition this race stands out as an exemplary one. The Northeast girls were a distant second with 40 points. In the end this was a stellar & exciting race, which was made possible by the valiant effort of Hart. Still Sydney Masciarelli accepted the challenge and helped make it an exciting duel that surprised many fans. Even her parents conceded they had planned to leave San Diego after the race & were so unprepared that they had to go out and by a proper dress for the winner to wear at the awards cermemony. Thus running has a new star in the racing firmament, which is the stuff of dreams. Of course Sydney expressed it simply, when she made her speech at the Awards Banquet, when she said that "playing basketball is my love but I decided to give running a try this fall. It was a good decision." Quite a punctuation to forty years of Foot Locker racing.