Foot Locker Super Saturday


       The Saturday after Thanksgiving has been known for some time as “Super Saturday, because three-quarters of America’s harriers earn their trip to Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego.   With sunny & warm California beckoning even in December along with the palatial Hotel Del California & Imperial Beach Foot Locker is really a no-brainer, so there was much riding on the outcome of the day’s races.    The runners’ faces displayed the nerves, which were on edge just in the Bronx alone, where a select field of runners began to chase their dreams:   a summer of training & a fall of racing would soon to come to glorious fruition or sad demise.  

      The Northeast Regional was held at hallowed VanCortlandt Park with splendid running conditions.  The only issue was one young runner’s failure to successfully navigate an early turn as the crowded field jockeyed for position.   It did not take long however for Tessa Barrett, the Pennsylvania 3A champion, to move to the front and forge a lead.  By the end of the race she had built a five second lead over Anoush Shehadeh of New York, who earned   a return engagement and improved upon her fifth place performance in last year’s race.  Connecticut and New England champion Hannah DeBalsi raced home alone in third with 17:39 to earn her first trip to the three decade-old national championship.   Pittsburgh’s Brianna Schwartz claimed fourth in 17:42 to edge New Jersey Meet of Champions winner Briana Gess by a second.   The Empire State’s Megan Reilly followed in a very lonely fifth place time of 17:49 .

     There are always a number of races within each race and one of the best and most interesting involved Jessica Lawson of  N. Y. , Regan Rome of Pennsylvania & Katie Lembo of New York, who dueled down the stretch and entered the finish chute shoulder to shoulder.   They were all credited with 18:03 and change with Lawson taking seventh.   Regan was given eighth and Katie finished ninth.  Both Rome and Lembo had qualified the previous year but the joy on Regan’s face, when she bent over in wild exclamation of joy, showed she looked forward to another magical weekend.   The final berth went to Kirstin Sandreuter of Maine, who was really in no danger of failing to qualify given her time of 18:06 left her well in control.  It was a marked improvement of last year’s finish in 32nd place.   The Division B state champion had a five second margin over Elizabeth Chikotas of Pa., who will be the first alternate should one of those ahead of her be unable to attend.  Although it is a difficult position to be in at the moment of finishing, alternates do manage to make their way to San Diego with Jennifer Rhines taking advantage of her second chance in 1990 to place sixteenth in San Diego.   Just recently our friend Emily Nist of Idaho made it from the West to compete in 2011 so there is hope.

      The Bay State’s Olivia Lantz came in twelfth with a time of 18:14 and Anna Flynn of NY clocked 18:17 for thirteenth.  Mady Clahane of Pennsylvania improved one position from the previous year to take fourteenth and Courtney Thompson of New Jersey finished 15th in18:33.  New Jersey runners swept five places in a row with Dana Klein taking 16th in 18:34, as Mackenzie Barry had an off day finishing in18:45, which was hard to take after qualifying in sixth the year before.   Brennan Sharkey followed a second later in 18th and Marin Warner of Holmdel ran 18:53 for 19th place.   Megan Wilson of Maryland rounded out the top twenty with 18:55.  

      There will always be a degree of anguish for runners, who venture forth but for whatever reason do not have it on race day but we must remember that they at least had a shot. Josette Norris of New Jersey ruptured her plantar, yet still placed second in the N J Meet of Champions, which ended her season.   Norris had garnered fourteenth at the Northeast Meet and had geared her campaign to a trip to California but fate intervened.   Others, who failed to race on Saturday were Marissa Saenger of Clarence, NY and Kennedy Weisner of Pennsylvania, who both qualified in 2012, plus Laura Leff of New York, who qualified in 2011.  Laura was injured the next spring & has never quite gotten back in top form.    

     The guys’ race, which is named after the former long-time Northeast meet director Marty Lewis, saw a front pack go out in a reasonable yet conservative 4:48 for the mile.  Mickey Burke of Rush-Henrietta pulled away in the latter stages to earn victory in 15:18.  The McQuaid invitational champion defeated Christian Alvarado of Fairfield, Ct. by three seconds.  While it is Burke’s first trip to nationals, Alvarado will make his second after placing eighth in this race last year.   He will be joined by Alexander Ostberg, a junior from Ct., who finished third in15:22.    Liam Mullett rebounded from a less than satisfying outing in the NJ Meet of Champions to take fourth with 15:29.  Josef Holt-Andrews of Maine garnered fifth in 15:36. 

     Anyone wondering about the level of competition only had to look at the remaining qualifying marks, as he runners all but poured across the finish line at this point with Daniel Curtis of Maine leading the way with his sixth place effort of 15:36.   Scott Meehan of New Jersey crossed the line just a second later before Tai Dinger of DC with Louis Corgliano of N.J. off his shoulder both were credited with15:40.   It was almost a blanket finish, as Pennsylvanian Ross Wilson followed closely in 15:41, but Chase Weaverling of Maryland, who was right with them, was the proverbial odd man out after coming home eleventh.   He lunged near the finish and almost stumbled across the line but he was s ever so slightly off in spite of also running 15:41.   It was certainly not for lack of effort yet he is the first alternate.  

     There was a rather large gap before Colin Martin of Pittsburgh finished twelfth in 15:58 and then Colin Albert of the same state took thirteenth in 16:01.   Massachusetts runners secured the next two places with fourteenth going to Mohamed Hussein in 16:04 & Paul Hogan following in fifteenth with 16:04.   Kyle Kroon of N.J., who qualified in 2102, placed only 18th (16:14) and will not make the trip this year.  Robert Stone, who is from the same state, improved from 50th last fall to 26th this year with 16:18.  

      Carmel High in Indiana has one of the top girls’ teams in the nation but they opted to go for first prize and Foot Locker.  Kelcy Welch is their leader and is the State champion, yet she did not enter the race thinking victory.  With Taylor Warner, last year’s second place finisher in the Midwest, plus Hannah Long, who finished tenth in the nation, there was no reason for overconfidence but  Welch broke away and secured a five second victory over Stephanie Jenks of Iowa in 17:34.   Those were very solid times on the very demanding Kenosha course & they were also a significant improvement for both after Welch placed 66th & Jenks 23rd last fall.   Rebekah Topham, the Iowa 1A champion, earned third with 17:45 placing a second ahead of Taylor Werner & Hannah Long, who finished together.  Lauren Brasure of Michigan was just a second behind in sixth.   Mailin Stuck of Illinois and Kristen Olling of Michigan also secured berths after taking 7th & 8th respectively in 17:52.   Olling had only managed thirtieth last fall so this was a major step forward as well.   Indiana runners displayed their states’ quality by capturing two more berths with Rachel Nichwitz (17:55) & Amber Way (18:04) claiming 9th & 10th.   Michigan runner Amber Way ran 18:06 and became the first alternate as the eleventh place finisher.

     Ohio D1 winner Annie Heffernan ran 18:12 to cross the line fourteenth.   It is Foot Locker after all and being a state champion gives a runner no special advantage as  evidenced by the 19th place finish of Madeline Perez of Illinois (18:17) & the 22nd position of Audrey Belf of Michigan, who ran 18:19.   It should be noted that defending champion Anna Rohr, who also is the defending National Champion, has a stress fracture and was unable to run but she was there in spirit.  After the race she commented on-line that “Four Indiana runners are heading to Foot Locker National.  Wish I were one of them but best to all.”   Also missing was Jordyn Colter of Colorado, who placed fourth last year here.  Jordyn was entered but forced to scratch due to mononucleosis.   Former Ohio State champion Jacquelyn Crow, who placed 16th in 2012, was entered but did not show up in the results.   Still, a look at the times on this course gives evidence that this is a strong Midwest team once again.

      The unstated theme for the boys’ race in the Midwest Regional must have been redemption for the top three finishers exemplified it.  Grant Fisher of Michigan has dominated races during the course of the fall but last year he placed just twentieth as a sophomore.  This certainly is a very different year for him and his excellent time of 15:02 was a statement in its own right as well as a bit of redemption.  Last year Grant Nykaza qualified for the second time and not only expressed relief in qualifying but also the satisfaction in the simple achievement.  He noted how difficult it is to return despite the fact that many assume it to be almost a given.  South Dakota champion Addison DeHaven certainly understood the remarks after placing 23rd that day but on Saturday he earned his second trip to San Diego with a fine mark of 15:09.   Of course, if one wants to see improvement along with redemption, there is not better example than Jesse Reiser of Illinois.   Last year he labored and placed a rather dismal 108th but he was more than tuned up this year and he sped over the course in15:11 to secure his berth with ease.

       There was an interesting contest between state champions for the fourth berth and Toby Hardwick of Ohio edged his counterparts with his time of 15:13.  Jackson Bertoli of Indiana was right behind and barely nipped Patrick Perrier of Illinois, as both were credited with 15:14. Seventh went to Thomas Pollard of Iowa, who ran 15:17.   Missouri champion Noah Kauppila stuck with the theme of redemption after placing thirtieth last fall as a state champion and made his fourth try at Foot Locker the champion  coming home eighth in 15:20.   David Dalton became Indiana’s fifth qualifier by securing ninth in 15:22 and will be joined in San Diego by Ryan Robinson of Michigan, who also was credited with that time.  

        Only ten runners qualify for our national championship, which leaves plenty of runners a bit dissatisfied and Illinois 3A champion Zach Smith tops the list after becoming the eleventh place alternate with 15:23.   Wisconsin champion Olin Hacker made a whopping improvement from 60th to twelfth but will have to wait one more year before joining his father on the list of fine Foot Locker finalists.  Others, who ran very solid times but did not quite make it, were Nick Hess of Illinois (13 – 15:30), Connor Weaver of Colorado (14 – 15:30) and Garrett Crichlow of Ohio (15 – 15:35).  Crichlow had a fine overall season and recently was victorious at the Mid-East Meet of Champions.

        Early in the season it appeared that Ohio would have numerous representatives at Balboa Park but the vagaries of the running experience intervened and Nick Ellswick of Chardon, who won the Tiffin Carnival, had IT band issues and was unable to try to return to California.  Mark Hadley of Youngstown had a dominant season and won the top division at state but he had an off day here and only placed 18th.  He ran a fine time of 15:37 but on this day it was not good enough:   such was the level of competition.    Robby Johnson, the Ohio D3 winner, finished 21st with 15:41.    Brian Kettle of Michigan, who ventured into Ohio to win the venerable Malone Invitational, also appeared to suffer from the Ohio malaise and finished 23rd with 15:41.  

        Other runners of note included Illinois – Wisconsin Border Duel winner Ryan Nameth, who was second in his state meet,  in 17thplace (15:37) and Zack Hird of Illinois, who took 25th with 15:44.   Jesse Hersha of Michigan had an off taking in finishing only 34th with15:56.        

       The Southern Regional produced some surprises on the gal’s side but Caroline Alcorta of Virginia won as expected and in dominant fashion.  Caroline swept aside the field and stormed home alone in 16:35 to earn her second trip to California.   Amelia Paladino of West Virginia also recorded a return pass with her second place effort of 17:04, which gave her a two second margin over Texan Natalie Rathjen. Precocious freshman Gabriella Karas of Louisville padded her already impressive resume with a fine fourth place time of 17:07.   Gabby is already a three-time state champion.  

        Virginians captured the next two places as Hannah Christen and Katy Kunc claimed fifth & sixth in 17:15 & 17:16 respectively.   Devin Clark of Texas garnered seventh in 17:18 and was followed a second later by Kathryn Foreman, the Georgia Private A Champion, who ran17:19 to take 8th.   Molly Breidenbaugh was the fourth Virginia female to finish claiming ninth in 17:19 and Floridian Karen Xiang secured the final berth with her time of 17:20.   Kayla Montgomery, North Carolina  champion, came in eleventh  (17:22) and can hold out hope of making the trip to California but 2012 Foot Locker finalist Allie Klimkiewicz had an one of those days and ‘only’ finished  twelfth in 17:34. 

      Grace Sullivan of North Carolina finished 13th in 17:38, while Sarah Gwinn of South Carolina was a second back.   Whitney O’Bryan, the Kentucky 3A champion, finished 22nd in 17:49 & Tennessee champion Emily Dean finished right behind her in 17:51.   There were more than a few surprises and Mary Grace Doggett, the N.C. 3A champion finished 37th and Eliza Dekker, also from North Carolina was a distant 73rdin 18:30.

      Aaron Templeton was the top returnee after placing third last year and he showed why by earning a five second victory in 14:36.  Ben Hoffman of North Carolina was second and Ian Milder from the same state claimed third in 14:49.  Virginians Louis Colson & Mackenzie Haight swept the next two berths with 14:50 & 14:51 with Ben Barrett of Oklahoma sharing the latter time in seventh.  Eighth went to Brent Demarest of South Carolina in 14:53 and he barely nipped Frank Lara of Texas, who also was credited with that mark.   Patrick Sheehan of N.C. snared the last ticket with 14:54, while Jacob Pickle of Texas just missed in 14:57.   Adam Barnard of Tennessee came in twelfth with15:01 and will have another chance to qualify, but Andrew Hunter of Virginia will be one to watch after placing sixteenth as a sophomore in15:09.  Kentucky state champion Patrick Gregory ends his fine season after coming home 24th in 15:16.


 California State Meet

Sara Baxter was the fastest female once again with her clocking of 16:42.   She won the D2 championship but for some reason has chosen to run at the Portland Mud Bowl.  Fiona O’ Keefe of Davis claimed Division I with 16:58 with Marissa Williams, the defending Foot Locker West champion, not far behind in 17:04.   Bethan Knights of Northwood captured D3 in 17:07, which was essentially the same time Anna Maxwell of San Lorenzo Valley ran to annex D4.   Destiny Collins of Great Oak had the sixth best time of the day at 17:09 but was third in D1. 

Aidan Goltra of Campolindo topped all the guys with 15:01 to win D3 and Tai Braude of Torrey Pines triumphed in D1 with 15:02.   David Luna of India was only second in D3 but his time of 15:02.2 was third best.   Estevan De La Rosa of Arcadia ran 15:02.9 in D1, while Austin Tamagno of Brea Linda came in at 15:03.   The other class winners were Garrett Corcoran in D2 with 15:08, Caleb Webb in D4 with 15:14 & Trevor Reinhart in D5 (15:25).