Foot Locker West Regional 2010 | December 4 | Mt SAC 5K

By Leo Collins

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The 2010 Foot Locker Regional offered something for everyone on Saturday with two contrasting styles of racing, comfortable weather and smoothly organized races. With temperatures in the low sixties & overcast skies the weather was ideal for distance running. The girls’ race for a trip to San Diego saw many of the favorites racing at the front of the large phalanx of runners who headed to the corral area of the course. Easily visible at that point were Julia Foster of New Mexico, Molly Grabill, Alli Billmeyer & Julie Nacouzi of California, although there were a good ten runners leading the way. Just behind them and in the middle of the pack were Priscilla Timmons of Washington & Catrina McAlister of California.

It was the defending West champion Molly Grabill, who controlled the early pace and led the pack through a quarter in a time of 73 seconds. Her goal was not necessarily to lead but to stay out of trouble, yet she continued her pace-setting through the 800 meter mark, which was reached in 2:36. Grabill’s #1 remained in front, when she had completed the first circumnavigation of the corral but off her shoulders loomed Grace Orders of California & Julia Foster. Of course having the lead at that point meant little other than a good view of the footing, as a horde of runners were packed in close behind - Adrian Olivas was the only runner, who could clearly be pointed out, however.

On the back side of the corral it was still Grabill on point but a number of runners were beginning to move up into contention with the most prominent being Rolonda Jumbo of Arizona & Julie Nacouzi. That duo had already made their mark in Foot Locker history as Jumbo had placed 12th in the West in 2008 and was the second alternate that year & Nacouzi had qualified in 2009 for nationals. Still, when the leaders passed the mile mark in 5:27, it was Grabill, who led the way.

Nacouzi moved into the lead soon after, so that as the runners made their ascent up the “switch-backs”, it was the Santa Rosa girl leading the charge. Close behind her followed Grabill and Foster. The switch backs can seem to come at a runner forever and they served to stretch out the chase-pack yet, when they reached the stadium at their bottom (9 minutes), it was still the former trio leading the way. Alli Billmeyer moved into fourth at that time. Alli, however, was feeling the effects of some sort of sickness and was not at full strength this day and would fall back a bit later.

Grabill reclaimed the lead after the stadium and led a parade of runners, who were strung out in a long line, up the dreaded “poop out hill”. The amply named hill saw Nacouzi trail Grabill and the long procession found Carrie Verdun of California, Maddie Meyers of Seattle, Kendra Weitz of Spokane, Clare Carroll (I think as she could not be clearly viewed) and Catrina McAlister in pursuit.

The runners soon raced out of sight, as they made their way up the hill and then made the decent shortly after that. That hill often has led to the demise of many aspirations and on this day it was taking its toll on Kinsey Gomez of Idaho. Kinsey had finished 11th last year in spite of an early fall, which caused a broken wrist. Fate had not been kind to her this year as well, for she broke down in the Sunfair Invitational in mid-season and arguably had still not recovered from the effects of dehyrdration. Although she had positioned herself well early, she began to feel the stress. Her friend Priscilla Timmons from Washington, who was not having her best day either, caught Kinsey and tried to urge her to run together but it was not to be. Timmons came home 27th, while Gomez finished in 48th & needed medical attention. Alli Billmeyer placed 40th between them incidentally.

Although “poop out” had claimed a number of runners, there were still eleven runners with realistic hopes at a berth at nationals, when they attacked & then crested “reservoir hill” and Rolonda Jumbo was still in the mix as well. Julia Foster briefly took the lead at the top just prior to the 14 minute mark in the race & she was followed by Grabill & Nacouzi. Making a move into contention to become a finalist at that point was Anna Maxwell of California as well.

There was some real jockeying for contention, when they zipped down the hill. Grabill regained the lead & was followed by Nacouzi & Foster. Behind the trio was Maddie Meyers, who was content in knowing her return to San Diego was secured and there was not reason to extend any more energy than necessary. Nacouzi soon followed with her own surge and was at the front again, when she reached the “air strip”, which begins the race to the stadium.

Nacouzi, who had run few meets all season & even had missed her state meet, had plenty of energy at the end and thrust her arms up in triumph, as she hit the tape in a time of 18:09. Molly Grabill followed in second with 18:15, while Maddie Meyers earned third in 18:18: the first three runners earned their second trip to San Diego. Closing well was freshman Clare Carroll, who edged Carrie Verdon for fourth, as both were timed in 18:22. Kendra Weitz finished sixth with 18:23 and more importantly made the first big step in etching her name in history, because her brother Nathan would soon earn his own berth to San Diego making them the first brother - sister combination to earn berths at nationals in the same year. Interestingly enough I had speculated that Shane & Shannon Moskowitz of Washington might accomplish the feat last year and it was a Washington family that achieved it this year.

Catrina McAlister made sure that her fine season would continue by taking 7th in 18:27 & Anna Maxwell’s 18:29 was good for 8th. Julia Foster faded a bit after her early challengers yet still scored a ticket on next Thursday’s plane flight from Albuquerque with he 18:31. Susannah Hurst of Salt Lake City garnered tenth a second later but Grace Orders placed 11th in 18:34 and will be the first alternate should someone be unable to make the trip next week.

Meghan Breadmore of San Diego placed 12th in 18:47 - the same time credited to Hannah Valenzuela, who had moved up well late to take 13th. Adriana Olivas ran 18:48 for 14th and Erin Hegarty of Richland, Washington ran a fine race taking 15th. Erin’s placement was just prior to Rolonda Jumbo, who came close to qualifying for the second time in three years. It was a good day for Washington runners at Mt. SAC, as Chandler Olson of Woodinville finished 19th with her time of 19:03. Other runners of note were Utah champion Summer Harper, who placed 21st and Nevada’s Katie Gorczyca, who had an off day and placed 45th.

Anyone, who anticipated caution and a game of chess in the young men’s race, was in for a surprise, as Jantzen Oshier of Trabuco Canyon blasted away from the start. In spite of wearing a shirt with “snail’s pace” emblazoned on it, he did his impersonation of Wade Meddle’s “fly and die” race of the previous year. Oshier led the way around the corral area and was a good twenty meters ahead of Billy Orman of Arizona, who raced alone in second. He in turn held a good five meter lead over a legion of runners, who trailed in hot pursuit. Included in that group were Kevin Banard of Clovis & Sergey Sushchikh of Mill Valley, California.

Oshier zipped past the mile mark in 4:39 and increased his lead as he charged up the switch-backs. Orman was in a no-man’s land at the point being forced to trail at a distance, yet racing well ahead of the pack. That condition would not change as they passed the stadium and then raced to the air strip, where they crossed over to the other side of the course. Oshier crossed the air strip at the 7:55 mark in the race. If anything Oshier had increased his lead, while Orman followed well behind. Orman’s lone pursuer at that point was Dallin Taylor of Utah, who followed ten meters behind him. The race was still wide open as far as the berths would go and a pack of seven runners, made up of Darren Fahy of Carlsbad, Matt Carpowich of San Diego, Daniel Milechman of Cal, Sushchikh and Matt Melancon of Eugene, Oregon.. It was another twenty meters back to a pack of six runners, which included Andrew Gardner of Spokane.

The two mile mark was visited at the 9:40 mark with Oshier still dominant, while Darren Fahy moved into third behind Orman. Oshier led the way up “poop out” but finally Orman began to cut into the lead. Gardner began to thread his way through the pack at that point as well but the real action would follow by the reservoir, as Orman was reeling in Oshier & Gardner was closing on Orman. Orman moved into the lead shortly before cresting the top of reservoir hill but was passed in turn by Gardner. Matt Carpowich & Nathan Weitz had their own private battle for 4th another twenty meters back and to make matters even more interesting a bit further back was a pack of aspirants, which included Fahy, Michelan, Taylor, Melancon, Sushchikh plus Kevin Barnard & Christopher Kigar of California.

Gardner gave way to Orman on the downhill and the Arizona flash cruised home to triumph with a time of 15:28: the fastest time on the course since Nurani Sheikh of Salt lake City streaked home in 15:255. (Note in 2007 German Fernandez won on the alternate course due to inclement conditions.) For his part Gardner, who is only sophomore, glided home second in 15:35 and will join his hero & mentor Shane Moskowitz, who now runs for Oklahoma State, as a Foot locker qualifier from Washington. Oshier claimed third three seconds later & Matt Carpowich’s 15:44 edged Nathan Weitz by a second to take fourth. Carpowich will get to run nationals in his home town & Weitz will join his sister in an historic trip to San Diego.

Darren Fahy led the next group of qualifiers with his 15:49 and Dan Michelman followed in 7th a second later. Dallin Taylor’s 15:51 was good for 8th and Christopher Kigar earned 9th. Sergey Sushchihk closed well to score the last ticket to San Diego and Matt Melancon had the misfortune to be in the hardest of finishing places in 11th. To his credit he had given his all in the rest and left nothing out on the course, which is something of which he should be proud. Kevin Barnard placed 12th & Jeff Bickert of California was 13th. Hawaii’s Margarito Martinez finished 14th ahead of Luis Guitierrez of Rancho Cucamonga. Others of note were Brandon Pugh of California in 16th, Ian Burgess of Portland, Oregon, who garnered 18th, & Wyoming champion Alex Sorenson was 47th. Burgess could certainly relate to Melancon’s fate, as he awaits a call as a finalist, for he was on hand in 2007, when his brother Bryce (now running for Oregon) finished eleventh.

Still in all it was a great day of racing and this year’s edition as to the great tradition that Foot Locker has built in its 32 years of sponsorship. We look forward to San Diego next weekend.