Foot Locker Regional Races 2010 |Sat. November 28, 2010

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By Leo Collins

Northeast

Aisling Cuffe of Cornwall, NY, content to make sure that she would qualify for nationals for a third time, stayed back with the pack until midway in the race, and then began to assert herself. Abbey Leonardi, a junior from Maine, remained with Cuffe before finally yielding to the obvious, as she placed second once again. Their times were 17:51 and 18:02. New Jersey runners Megan Lacy and Megan Venables placed third and fourth in 18:08 & 18:11. For Venables the race was, more of vindication after moving too early the previous year, seemingly strategic with the goal to get to California. With temperatures in the low forties it was the Sunken Meadow course that would be the key to placement and behind the first four runners followed a procession of girls, who were tightly packed together. Lauren Mullins of Binghamton, NY led the way with 18:24 and three seconds later the parade flowed quickly across the finish, as all the final qualifiers finished less than a second apart.

Pennsylvanian Lauren Mullins came home in 17:27 with Caroline Kellner (NJ), Catarina Rocha (Ma.), Jackie Nicholas (Ct.) & Ariel Beauregard (Ma.) following in close pursuit. Kylie McKoy of New Hampshire finished 11th and will be the first alternate. Her time of 18:29.03 left her just tantalizingly close to qualifying. Christine Driscoll of Geneva, NY earned 12th in a time of 18:39. Sara Sargent of Pennsylvania, who has been battling mono for some time finished 18th in a time of 18:47 after earning a national berth with her 8th place regional finish last year. Emily Durgin, of Maine, who also qualified in 2009 & has had to overcome health issues, garnered 4th in 19:03.

The Northeast race for the guys broke down into a late duel between Chad Noelle of New York & Morgan Pearson of New Jersey, when they finally broke away from the pack in the final mile. Noelle’s time of 15:42.0 earned him a victory by .8 of a second. Jeff Lacoste of New Hampshire, who won his state title & was 2nd in the New England Championship, claimed third in 15:45. He edged John Murray of Massachusetts, who was the only male runner to claim a return trip. As with the girls a parade of closely packed runners followed in the higher qualifying positions with the qualifiers being John McGowan , who became the first qualifier from the District of Columbia in the history of the race. Trailing him were Richard Owens of Brooklyn, Patrick Rono (NJ), Chris Campbell (Pa), Zach Hebda (Pittsburgh) & Matthew McDonald of New Jersey.

Placing 11th & becoming the first alternate was Juris Silenieks of Pittsburgh, while Robert Allen of Rhode Island took 12th in 15:58. Connor Rog of Connecticut had one of those days taking 21st in 16:20. Ryan Gil, also of Pittsburgh, had an off day placing 23rd in 16:21 & failed to earn a repeat berth on the plane to San Diego.

South Return was the name of the game for the Southern girls as five runners earned a return trip to the magnificent Hotel Del Coronado. The absence of the injured Chelsey Sveinsson, who not only conquered the regional in 2009 and then placed 2nd at nationals, certainly opened the door for others & the Fleuhr twins from Florida did not let the opportunity slip away. Kathryn, who placed second in the South last year, claimed the victory this year after leading from the gun with a time of 17:06. Her sister Erika made a major improvement after last year’s 8th by grabbing the second-place medal. Rachel Johnson of Texas secured her second consecutive third place finish with her time of 17:15, while Joanna Thompson of Tennessee earned 4th (17:25). Emma Brink of Kentucky garnered 5th to earn a berth to California (17:25). Wesley Frazier for whom I had not found a race all season was certainly prepared to race today, as she secured sixth in 17:27, & earned a return trip west. She was followed by Mattie Webb of Virginia, Sophie Chase of Virginia & Shelby Davidson of Florida (17:36). Grace Tinkey of Georgia finished tenth in 2009 & somehow grabbed the same placement this year with her time of 17:41. Just missing was Valerie Reina of Arkansas, who was clocked in 17:46. Kacy Smith of Florida, who will not be able to go with her good friend Davidson after having an off-day & running 17:51 to place sixteenth.

The race among the Southern guys saw a large pack remain together for some time. It was only at the very end of the race that Jimmy Clark was able to break away from Blake Williams to score the triumph. Clark finished three seconds ahead of Williams. Although they led the way for the better part of the race, they were closely pursed by a horde of runners, who were led by Scott Morgan of North Carolina, who clocked 15:01. Following a second behind was Ahmed Bile of Virginia, whose father is one of the greats of distance running. Elliot Clemente of Florida placed 5tj in 15:03. Virginian Silas Frantz was edged by Bile in their state meet & yesterday did not prove much different, as Frantz zipped home in 15:04. The 7th through 10th place finishers were Cody Pelliccioni of West Virginia, Donovan Torres of Texas, Thomas Graham of North Carolina & Ryan Pickering of Florida. William Antkowiak of Texas was 11th to become the first alternate & Anderson Barclay, who secured a trip to San Diego as an alternate in 2009, placed 12th and is the second South alternate.

Midwest Of all the races for Foot Locker probably the most surprising was the girls’ Midwest race. Allison Woodward of Wisconsin & Gabrielle Anzalone of Michigan pulled away early after only about a half mile had been run. Although a small pack would follow them early they were left on their own during the last kilometer. It was Woodward, who had the most left in reserve, and she won in a very fine time of 17:18 over the challenging Kenosha course. The course was fairly wet after a number of days of rain & with the temperatures only in the 20’s there were a number of slick areas. Anzallone, who was one of the runners we had been watching since the start of the season, took 2nd in 17:25 & was a second in front of Michigan’s Shannon Osika. Erin Finn, also from the Motor State, earned fourth after being caught late in the race. Finn noted after the race that she was quite surprised to qualify & in fact had purchased a shirt the previous day: now she has two as befits a qualifier to the nation’s most prestigious race. Kelsey Lakowske, one of the pre-race favorites after finishing sixth in the nation last year & dominating in Colorado this year, secured fifth & it is assumed was conserving energy with her time of 17:29 – not that it is not a solid time by any means on the course. Illinois’ Kayla Beattie ran 17:33 to barely edge another favorite in Colorado’s Eleanor Fulton, who ran 17>33 Brook Handler of Michigan,& Colleen Quigley of Missouri earned 8th & 9th, while Waverly Neer of Indiana claimed the final automatic bid. Given her 11th place finish in 2009, this race must have been truly special. Coming home 11th was Molly Seidel, who scorched this course earlier in the season, of Wisconsin. Her time of 17:45 is a surprisingly excellent time for a qualifier much less a non-qualifier.

For many reasons the most anticipated race of the day had to have been the guys Midwest with Lukas Verzbicas attempting to qualify and earn his second national title. Challenging him would be 2008 qualifier Futsum Zeinasellassie of Indiana, who passed up the series last year to work on his grades. The showdown of just those two generated much talk, because the Illinois runner had just missed legend Craig Virgin’s record, while the Indiana Futsum had been blazing a trail just a bit to the South. Not only that but history beckoned with Lukas being the only sophomore to win Foot Locker, while Futsum remains one of only three male freshmen to qualify for nationals. All this and yet they were but two of the region’s great cast this year.

For as much as the duel had been anticipated Lukas made every effort to make it a runaway, He charged up the severe hill that looms shortly after the start & then blazed the trail at the top prior to heading into the woods for a more gradual trip back down it. He opened a huge gap over Futsum, whose only reasonable pursuer was 2009 Foot Locker qualifier Chris Walden, who was left essentially on his own. Walden has already gone under the hallowed 15 minute mark this season, yet he was well back in spite of being far ahead of the three man chase pack. Verzbicas raced down hill so fast that he had to wave the pace cart to move ahead, which meant the camera could focus on nobody else. In point of fact the camera did not even include Lukas. He raced through the mile in 4:45, a serious time given the early hill, and then rushed through the two mile in 9:18. It was only at this point that he pulled back on the throttle.

Futsum for his part made a charge after two and a half miles & made a huge dent into the lead. His effort in fact was such that Lukas decided he needed to move out a bit. The end result saw the defending champion cruise home in 14:44.2 and Futsum finished three seconds behind. Tony Smoragiewicz of South Dakota surprised with his third place effort in 15:00.9 & William Kinkaid of Colorado claimed 4th five seconds later. Jack Driggs of Illinois ran 15:06 to claim fifth & Chris Walden, who had earlier debated giving chase, remarked that the goal was to qualify and he will happily return to Balboa Park. His time was a solid 15:07. James Martin, who would be having a startling season if not for his brilliant Indiana contemporaries, raced home a tenth of a second behind Walden. Zach Wills, a three-time Ohio State champion, secured 8th and will soon see why he would have been far better off to attempt Foot Locker the last two years with his time of 15:08. Fellow Ohioan Matt Brajdic, who eclipsed Bob Kennedy’s 1986 record on the Ohio State course, was half a second behind Wills. Caleb Rhynard of Michigan ran 15:12, yet was surprisingly only tenth but a qualifier. Jason Christ, yet another Hoosier runner, raced home in 15:17 and must hope someone is unable to go to California. It hardly seems fair! Wisconsin’s Dan Schubert ran a solid 15:21 to place 12th. Such a day was this Saturday that one had to bring their “A” game or be left out in the literal, out proverbial, cold & sadly Scotty Albaugh, who has dominated Michigan all season had an off day. He deserved better but with this field there was not much left to luck.

We head to Mt. Sac for the West Regional next weekend, where we will see who will be able to join in the national race. Foot Locker offers the ultimate experience for a high school runner and we will soon find out who will compete for the nation’s only real national individual cross country title. We will also soon, who gets to walk and jog on a warm beach in San Diego. After today three-quarters of the field have earned their trip and they are an impressive group.