The long harrier season comes down to one final day this Saturday. The months of training and visuvalization have all laid the ground work for one final shinning moment. It is is unfortunate that vagaries of the running experience will not allow Anna Rohrer to defend her title and others like Nick Ellswork of Ohio to improve upon last year's race. Injury will always be a part of the equation. All the prepartion can not prevent an off day and a few runners, who seemed to be headed to California will not be on hand either and that too is a part of the running experience. Also missing are those blinded by propaganda, who fail to repsect tradition but, like the parable of the talents, many had been called yet few are chosen & can make the grade. Assembled at Morley Fieldon Saturday will be those, whose talents, dedication, perseverence, intelligence and fortune have coalesced this fall and fans can look forward to the test of champions on a classic course. It is what should be expected of a national championship and we wish a grand trip for all, who compete this weekend. Each athlete has compiled a running dossier worthy of note but time does not allow the proper accolades but then just being at the Hotel Del Coronado is reward enough but, it should be noted, that everyone on hand is a champion and each runner has earned the shot they have at the championship. No one has been handed anything - all are here on the merit of pure succeess. The fortunate fans, who are on hand this weekend, will see a very fine field of accomplished runners. Our part is but to watch and appreciate and cheer as each event unfolds but what follows is a short list of some of the top suspects.
Matthew Maton is undefeated and even a bit untested given that he has always seemed to pull away late in the race to earn a solid victory. Matt won the Oregon 5A championship & his time of 14:59 was easily swiftest time of the day. He has focussed on Foot Locker and even skipped the qualifier for the Little World Series in Portland. Despite what his time at State suggests, he was not even at peak. He used the Oregon - Washington Border Clash for a tune-up and won convincingly over a solid field, which included a cast of charachters, who went to the Mud Bowl & did well. Along the way Maton has won the venerable Saxon Invitational, the Danner, the Oxford Bend Invite and the George Fox Classic. As the Foot Locker West champion with a time of 15:38, which was run under inclement conditions, Maton will be a formidable presence, when he toes the line at Balboa Park.
John Dressel qualified for Foot Locker as a sophomore, which already places him in rarified air. He set his sights on a return to nationals, since last year's race and his second place finish in the West by only three seconds shows that he is indeed ready. John won the Walters Invitational and placed second at Richland before earning third in the Washington 3A Meet and then pushed the pace early at the Border Clash before giving way to Maton. Given the right conditions Dressel is more than capable of securing a title.
Elijah Armstrong may well be the finest runner in Idaho State history and he too is only a junior. Elijah has already claimed three state titles in 4A and his marks were the best in all divisions the last two years. A confidant runner, who believes in himself, as evidenced by his turning down a pass to Portland for the second straight year, Elijah is willing to challenge the best and for the record he placed second at the Northwest West Regiional in Boise. Armstrong has won the Cardinal, Tiger/Grizz and Bates Inviationals along the way and was third at Firman. The Pocatello City champion was third at the West after running to qualify.
Conner Mantz should be free from pressure after securning his return to San Diego, which should make him most interesting. Mantz finished a comfortable fourth in the West and passed up a trip to Portland after taking second in the NXN Southwest Regional, so we know he has a good head. He is the Utah 4A champion and has improved since his fifth place finish at Firman but then the goal was always Saturday and not the early season.
Joe Hardy is an experienced runner, who has already earned a State title, although he placed second in this year's Washington 3A meet. Of course his time was an impressive 14:45. Last weekend he faced the Mt. SAC course for the first time and pressed the pace early yet still managed to qualify. Don't epect that to happen on Saturday but do anticipate Joe being in the thick of the battle. The Seattle Prep runner won the Sundodger Invitational in 14:47 and triumphed at Richland in 14:47. Hardy also placed second at the prestigious Stanford Invitational and is more than capable.
Aaron Templeton returns to San Diego and knows what is required on race day. The Tennessee State champion recorded a mark of 15:10 in his State meet. That fine time looks almost pedestrian to his scintillating time of 14:36, which he recorded in dominating the Foot Locker South Regional at McAlpine Park.
Ben Huffman has shown that he can win big meets with his triumph at Great American in a sterling 14:59 being a case in point. He did place third at the Eye Opener but secured the North Carolina 3A title with 15:24 before taking second at the South Regional in 14:44. Is there one more win to be achieved this campaign?
Ian Milder placed second in North Carolina in 4A but won at Providence & at Wendy's. A third in Cary in 14:49 certainly places him in the mix.
Louis Colson was the Virginia 5A champion after running 15:06 and then picked up the pace to record a 14:50, as he finished fourth in the South Regional. He has victories at Monroe Parker, Outlands & MileState plus a 4th at Great American.
Grant Fisher has to be considered one of the favorites by blistering the Kenosha course to the tune of 15:02 on his way to the Midwest Regional title. His victory recalls greats like Bob Kennedy, Todd Williams, Scott Fry, Chris Solinsky & Dathan Ritzenhein. The Michigan D1 champion ran 15:13 at State and also triumphed at the Jackson Invitational.
Addison DeHaven qualified as a sophomore and proved he belongs by reurning as a senior. Addison is a two-time South Dakota champion and was third at the Griak. Included in his victories is a triumph at NXN Heartland in 15:08.
Jesse Reiser finshed second in Illinois before coming in third at Foot Locker Midwest. He has scored at Peoria & Wauconda and was second at NXN Midwest.
Toby Hardwick is the Ohio D1 champion and is now a part of a wonderful state tradition at Fott Locker. He had a series of victories before winning at State including triumphs at Newark, the Panther, Lancaster & Harding. Toby was also third at the Mideast meet of Champions.
Jackson Bertoli scored at the winner take all Indiana State Meet and was also the brown Semi-State meet title-holder. He placed fifth at Kenosha and is another to be watched on Saturday.
Patrick Perrier earned a return engagement to San Diego by placing sixth at the Midwest Regional. Patrick is the Illinois 3A winner and has also scored at Forest Prk in St. Louis.
Mickey Burke ventures into the fray as the Northeast Champion after running 15:18 at hallowed Van Cortlandt. He has already captured the McQuaid Invitational, which is one of the nation's moreimportant & older meets and is both the New York Section V champion as will as the Intersectional title holder. Add to his accomplishment a third at Eastern states and you already have an impressive resune.
Christian Alvarado of Ct. returns to nationals as his State champion (15:31) and also placed fourth in the venerable New England championship. Chris took second in the Northeast in 15:21.
Alex Ostberg is one of those runners, who just might be rounding into top form at the perfect time. During the course of the season he placed second at FCIAC and Manchester before placing third in Connecticut. He followed with a third in New England in 15:11 before following with the a third at Van Cortlandt Park.
Liam Mullet has already gotten his 'off day' out of the way and recovered from his New Jersey Meet of Champions stumble by garnering fourth at the North East Regional. Liam is the N.J. Prep champion and was victorious at the daunting Holmdel course in winning the Shore Coaches meet. Mullet also placed second at Eastenrn states and is the Sommerset County champion.
Makena Morley is not only the West Regional champion but a three time qulaifier as a junior. Makena won at Mountain West and, of course, is the Montana B State champion. Makena took second at Eagle Island State Park for the Northwest. She feels she has gained strength as the season progressed and will come in primed for an attempt at a national title as one of the favorites.
Sarah Feeny is the Utah 4A champion and her mark of 17:25 was the fastest of the day. She returns to nationals after having placed second in the West Regional. Sarah also earned second place laurels at the Firman Invitational and should not be underestimated.
Lucy Biles is the Utah 5A champion by virtue of her 17:41 clocking. She won the Firman Invitational and then placed second at NXN Southwest. She has traveled to Portland in the past and this year should be inspired with the improved venue.
Anna Maxwell of California is CIF champion and a three-time Foot Locker finalist. She won at Stanford, Crystal Springs & at Mt. SAC as well as Condor. Even more impressive is that she qualified despite a fall, which left her a bit shaken during the race. With a smooth trip in this week's race anything is possible and she is certainly more than capable.
Caroline Alcorta hopes to continue her storybook campaign in San Diego. She was impressive in her winning effort in the South Regional of 16:55. Triumphs include Monroe Parker and Adidas prior to claiming the Virginia 6A crown. Caroline returns to San Diego with experience and even greater credentials than those of last fall and should have much to say about who will claim laurels come race day.
Amelia Paladino of West Virgina also returns and is the West Virginia State champion. Amelia placed second in the South and is another to take seriously.
Natalie Rathjen of Texas has had a very full season with victories at the Marcus & O'Neill Invitationals. The Texas 4A champion added a third place effort in the South with her time of 17:06.
Gabby Karas is a freshman yet already is a three-time Kentucky State champion. Her fourth place time in the South Regional of 17:07 make the Rumble Through the Jungle winner one to watch.
Kelcy Welch negotiated the course at Wisconsin Parkside with ease and cruised home as the Midwest winner in 17:34. She placed second early in the season at Eagle and Valkyrie and then annexed the Indiana State title. She will be one of the favorites on race day.
Stephanie Jenks of Iowa does not run with her team but raced against collegians at the Bill Dellinger meet, where she placed seventh. Despite a lack of prep races this fall Stephanie finished second in the Midwest Region with 17:39 and has more than reasonable chances this weekend.
Taylor Werner is once again a Missouri 3A champion (17:31) and returns to San Diego as the fourth pace finisher in the Midwest. She also won at Forest Park but more importantly was with the leaders in last year's race and was an All American.
Hannah Long, like Werner, was an integral part of last year's finals, so we know she is capable. Having raced the course she knows what to expect & should be even better prepared. The Missouri 4A champion (17:46) came in fifth in the Midwest and scored at Great American.
Kirsten Olling is the Michigan D2 champion for the fourth time: a relatively rare feat in itself. Kirsen garnered second at the Mid-East Meet of Champions. She won the Spartan Invitational as well as at Portage and she survived an off day at the Midwest (8th - 17:52.and should be ready to roll on Saturday.
Tessa Barrett traversed the hills of VanCortlandt and now looks to add a national title to that of her own at the Northeast.
Anoush Shedadeh came in under the radar last year and proceeded to make her presence felt at nationals. This fall seemed quite once again and then she placed second in the Bronx in 17:37. She has already shown she can produce in big races and we look to more of the same on Saturday.
Hannah DeBalsi is the Connecticut champion as well as the Wickham winner. Hannah scored big at the New England meetby running 17:15 before claiming her berth at Nationals with her third place effort in the Northeast.
Brianna Gess is a freshman and the New Jersey Meet of Champions winner. She can obviously handle the hills of Holmdel, so Balboa should seem like a breeeze. A NJ group winner, she also won the Shore Coaches.
There are so many to watch, because everyone in truth is a champion. They have proved their worth not only by qualifying but also in simply having the temerity to challenge the best in the nation on a course, which allows them to compare themselves against the best in US prep harrier history. Runners like Californian Garrett Corcoran, who is a CIF divisional champion have already proven their mettle by simply earning the trip. For his part Garrett was third at Woodbridge & second at Mt. SAC. Foot Locker is the test of a champion and on race day there are many, who have it within them to hoist the trophy.