Last weekend was Super Saturday and runners from three of the four regions of the nation strutted their stuff on Saturday. The long Thanksgiving weekend first began with families having a day of celebration for blessings, as well as each other, and of course shoppers have lent the adjective Black to Friday as the day, when merchants can go into the black on their ledgers, but now after thirty-six years harriers have added Super to Saturday and why not, for 60 runners earned their trips to the Mecca of prep Cross Country: Balboa Park in San Diego. This is ultimately where we crown our national championship.
While each region offered much to see for friends of our sport no region lived up to the adjective as well as the Midwest Region, where longtime race director Pete Henkes hosted some of the finest and deepest fields ever assembled there. Conditions on race day were hardly auspicious with a cool a temperature and sloppy terrain. The course, Wayne E. Dannehl National Cross Country Course in Kenosha, had been ice essentially ice on Friday, when the field took its traditional logistical tour but on Saturday the Sun had melted some ice and turned it to mud, while yet in other areas there was snow. I truth Director Henkes and his staff need to be applauded , because on Thursday the course was buried under four inches of snow and the temperature was a bone-chilling thirteen degrees. It was a winter wonderland that not only had to be plowed for the runners but the crew had to chase away cross country skies before they could do their job. Anna Rohrer of Indiana removed any doubt about the winner by quickly extricating herself from the phalanx as she cruised the course in surprisingly fast fashion. She had set the course record of 16:54 under fine conditions, while this year she faced daunting conditions, yet when she made the final turn up the hill for home she incredibly was within striking distance. Although she narrowly was short by three seconds the 2012 Foot Locker national champion served notice that her injury-plagued junior year of stress fractures is behind her and she is ready to reclaim her title.
Lauren Gregory, the Colorado 5A champion, sloshed her way home in 17:27 to earn second place with a two second margin over Maryjeanne Gilbert of Illinois (2A champ), while the Michigan State Champion Audrey Belf followed in fourth with 17:31. It is noteworthy that all three champions suffered their first defeat of the season in Kenosha. I spoke with Pete Henkes, who noted that although Anna moved out early & even stormed the snow-covered first hill quickly she had not broken free, so the depth was unusually strong for sure. Stephanie Jenks of Iowa will return to San Diego after her fifth place time of 17:32, as will Hannah Long of Missouri (17:37), who is also a state champion.
Annie Frisbie of Wisconsin garnered the seventh place slot with a time of 17:41 and Sarah Keitel of Michigan followed her into the chute with her time of 17:49. Wisconsin added a surprising two additional finalists when Amy Davis (17:50) and Morgan Florsheim (17:53) snared the final two berths to California. Sophia Racette of Missouri finished eleventh in 17:58 and will be the first alternate in case someone cannot go. Kayla Young of Colorado was the last runner to break the eighteen minute barrier, which was impressive on a day like Saturday and her time of 17:59 gave her an eight second margin over Alex Buck of Indiana, who was a 2013 national finalist.
Defending national title holder Grant Fisher of Michigan also dominated the field yet at the same time appeared to be well within himself. He rolled through the course to the tune of fifteen minutes flat. Director said the course was a good fifteen seconds slow so eight runners might have broken fifteen minutes had the conditions been favorable. Jesse Hersha, the Michigan D4 champion, atoned for his 14th place finish with his second place time of 15:09, which just nipped Jesse Reiser, the Illinois State champion, who placed third here for the second straight year and shared the time. Stuart McNutt of Kansas earned fourth in 15:10 and Indiana State champion Ben Veatch was a second back. Thomas Pollard of Iowa also earned a return trip to Sand Diego with his sixth place time of 16:16. Sharing that time was Seth Williams of Indiana, while Jonathan Davis of Oakwood claimed 8th in 15:17. Zach Snider of Indiana took 9th in 15:18, which was also the time credited to Olin Hacker. Hacker the Wisconsin State champion improved on his twelfth place finish from 2013. Ryan Nameth, also from Wisconsin just missed by placing eleventh in 15:21. Braydon law was a distant twelfth with his time of 15:30. Surprisingly Ohio failed to qualify any runners this year but their State rules for runners are harshly unfair, which explains a bit.
The Northeast Regional, which was held at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx once again, featured a number of runners with national aspirations and the champion guy Alex Ostberg of Connecticut looked to be in full control, as he went out early and sauntered home comfortably with a mark of 15:17. This too will be his second trip to finals. Luke Petela of New Jersey annexed second with his time of 15:33. Ari Klau placed third with 15:35 & should also be credited with the greatest improvement after running 15:35 (1:20 better) and third after finishing just 77th last fall. Casey Comber was the first of two Pennsylvania runners with his time of 15:36 and Jake Brophy followed a second later. Benito Muniz of New York took sixth in 15:37 and New Hampshire’s Eli Moskowitz swept seventh in 15:40. Jeriqho Gadway of New York annexed 98th in 15:41 finishing two seconds before Jack Jibb , who was also from the Empire State. Tenth went to Shawn Hutchinson of New Jersey but Nick Ciolkowski ran q5:45 and placed a heart-breaking eleventh.
Last fall Brianna Schwartz of Pennsylvania & Hannah DeBalsi of New Jersey placed 4th & 5th respectively in this race before making statements by placing sixth and second respectively at Nationals Naturally their meeting this fall was much anticipated and they did not disappoint. The duo made it a two-gal race and they raced ahead of the legion of followers in 5:26. Schwartz moved during the part of the course known as the woods and opened up a gap that she maintained to the finish. Her final time of 17:35 gave her a margin of fifteen seconds over her rival. Emma McMillan of Rhode Island (17:51) surprised a bit by taking third after finishing fourth in New England and Madeleine Davison of Pa. was fourth in 17:53, which was a second better than Erin Dietz of Massachusetts. Anna Flynn of New York garnered sixth with 17:55 while Marissa Sheva of Pennsylvania claimed seventh with 17:58.
By Photo Run
Kelsey Potts made it two Pennsylvanians in arrow with 18:01 and Gabrielle Richichi of Ct. was ninth with 18:10. Eve Glasergreen continued her late season surge (38th last fall too) with her tenth place time of 18:18 but Ariel Keklak of Ma. was the unenviable eleventh place finisher in 18:23. Kyle Mau led Ohio with his 18th place finish with his time of 15:46 matching Zachary Alhamra of Colorado.
Ryen Frazier of North Carolina blitzed the field and the course at McAlpine Speedway with a rousing 16:27 and barely missed the 2006 record set by Aurora Scott in 2006. As far as she swept along he course Paige Hofstad of Texas made it interesting for a time and she record a swift clocking of 16:47. Gabrielle Karas, who as a sophomore is already a three-time Kentucky champion plus a Foot Locker finalist, and Gabby placed third with 16:53. Held back early in the season Karas is coming on fast. Libby Davidson of Virginia also broke seventeen yet only placed 4th with her mark of 16:56. Weini Kelati was the second of three straight Virginians with her time of 17:0 and Ciara Donahue finished sixth with 17:14. Emma Grace Hurley of Georgia (17:15) and Kathleen Mansure of N.C. , who shared the time , finished 8th. Logan Morris gave South Carolina an entrant by pacing ninth in 17:18 & Abby Gray of Texas secured the last berth out of the South with her tenth place time of 17:23. Lindsay Billings of Georgia will be the alternate after checking in with 17:24, while Kelsie Warren of Texas rounded out the top dozen with 17:40. Devin Clark, who qualified in 7th out of the South Regional last fall had an off day and placed 17th with a time of 17:50.
It had been a day for seniors at every regional but Andrew Hunter of Virginia wrote his own program and the junior not only won but dominated. His winning time of 14:36 topped the field by almost a full half minute. Carter Blunt of Texas nailed down the second spot with his time of 15:54, which topped Zach Long of Tennessee by four seconds. Ben Barrett of Oklahoma earned his second trip to San Diego by clocking 14:58 to finish fourth a second ahead of Peter Seufer of Virginia with entering the chute a second later. Anteneh Girma of Virginia placed sixth with 114:59 and Gannon Willcutts, who is from the same state, earned seventh with 15:01 and just nipped Steven Cross of Florida, who shared the same time. Nicholas Diaz, another Floridian, placed 9th with that time also & Alexander Rogers of Texas shared the last qualifying spot with his time of15:09. Brandon Marquez of Florida missed qualifying by a second, while James Zentmeyer from the same state followed in 12th with 15:18.