Foot Locker West 2013

Photo by: Sherri Cortez

Harriers with a sense of history were on hand in Pomona to take on the heralded 5K course at Mt. SAC. Conditions were a bit inclement for the 35th running of this venerable even, yet spirits were high, as runners vied for a chance for an all expenses paid trip to San Diego the following weekend. The temperature was perfect for a distance run but there was precipitation, that ranged from drizzle to a downpour, which made the challenge of fabled Mt. SAC even more daunting. The race saw Idaho 4A champion Elijah Armstrong press the pace early and he led at 400 meters in 65 seconds.

Armstrong is a story in his own right, because he is already a three-time state champion, He is also a runner who is willing to challenge the best, as is evidenced by his spurning a trip to Portland’s Mud Bowl for a chance at a greater prize: a crack at a true national championship. Elijah was not intent on leading all the way but ensuring a reasonable early pace. Naturally with a deep field he had a sizable field in tow.

Californian Alek Simpson took over the lead duty subsequently and strode to a ten meter lead lead after 800 Meters, which was reconnoitered in 2:19. Armstrong remained safely ensconced in the chase pack, which included Joe hardy of Seattle Prep & Matthew Maton of Bend, Oregon. That early portion of the course is run around the “corral” area, which is essentially flat and precedes the “switch-backs’, which has often proved to be the demise of many national aspirations.

It was at this point that Joe Hardy assumed the lead and he continued to do so after descending the first hill and moving into the “cross-over” area of the airstrip, which leads to the back part of the course, where the valiant will soon face the harrowing gauntlet of punishing “poop-out” hill and the dual inclines of reservoir hill. With apologies to Tennyson the cross-over my not be the valley of death but this half-way section of the course was but a reprieve before the main challenges were to be faced. The time recorded by the valiant hardy was 8:20 but he was merely the titular leader of a pack of a good twenty runners, who still had hopes of at least finishing in the top ten much less winning outright.

The ascent of poop-out saw hardy still on the point but John Dressel of Mt. Spokane of Mt. Spokane was in hot pursuit and he seemed to float up the daunting terrain. Elijah Armstrong remained well positioned, as did Conner Mantz of Utah, who was looking for a return engagement in San Diego. There is always an ebb and flow in the race and fellow Ute runner Kramer Morton , who also looked to return, had now positioned himself in striking position for qualifying. It was a rather pleasant surprise for he appeared to be struggling at the mile and, although he still did not look to be himself, he was drawing something from deep inside and rallying. Cross country is such a wonderful sport and perfect for Foot Locker to support as it has for three and a half decades.

Hardy continued to lead through two miles, which was reached in 10:12 but suddenly looming off his shoulder was Matthew Maton of Summit High school. Maton was the Oregon 5A champion despite gambling a bit and not entering that meet at peak. He had pointed towards Foot Locker and he was no making his move. Also putting in a surge was John Dressel, who began to edge towards the leader and to Armstrong, who remained within himself and in contention. Conner Mantz also was closed and ran with something in reserve. They raced into the reservoir area with only a limited few having a viable chance at a berth to Balboa Park, yet there was significant terrain to cover.

The Oregonian flew down the final hill nd took the lead before opening a gap before crossing the line in triumph in a final time of 15:38. He became Oregon’s first male qualifier since Kenny Klotz made the trek in 2005. John Dressel earned his second trip with a time of 15;41 and edged Elijah Armstrong, who essentially shared the time. Conner Mantz finished alone in fourth in 15:42 to secure his second trip to California. Californian Trevor Reinhart was barely behind him and Alaskan Levi Thomet (Kodiak) placed sixth & was credited with the same mark. Thomet also concluded a rather amazing sweep of juniors of the top six positions, which has never occulted before as far as I can tell in any regional race.

Kramer Morton raced home in 15:45 and in so doing nailed down his second trip to San Diego and Blair Hurlock of California followed a second later in eighth. Garrett Corcoran, a California State champion, garnered ninth in 15:53 by edging Joe Hardy, who finished a safe tenth in the same time. Rory Linkletter of Utah placed eleventh in a time of 15:58 and was beside himself after crossing the finish line but that is understandable. He will be the first alterante but it is probably the hardest placement of all.

Californian Caleb Webb crossed the finish line twelfth in 16:05 with Oregon 4A champion Mitchell Butler following him into the chute half a second later. Other runners of note were Nicholas hauger of Shadle Park in Spokane (16th - 16:12) & Tai Braude ends his fine season with an off day sadly placing 23rd in 16:28.