Every teammate counts.  That’s the slogan of NTN, but this year’s event lived up to its own motto.  The scores on the Jumbotrons seemed very surreal.  Teams jumped or fell by more than one or two places between kilometers.  Watching the totals was interesting.  As displacement runners were counted, teams moved up and down in the scoring.  At the finish, runners tried to pass one or two people to give their team the edge.  It seemed like no one was willing to give up a valuable place to a competitor.  Then, there was the long wait to find out the team scores because the scores were so close.

    This was especially true for the guys’ race.  The early team lead was overwhelmingly the Woodlands.  Naperville wasn’t even in the top five.  Naperville kept inching up eventually taking the top spot while Woodlands dropped down a bit.  It seemed like Albuquerque and Los Alamos were dueling for second.  After the race, the announcer said that there were 2 points separating the winner from the runner up and 10 points separated the top 3 teams.  Eventually, the top 4 teams were announced, but there was still the drama of which team won.  At the awards ceremony after the girls’ race, it was announced that Naperville had won with 125 points, Los Alamos was 2 points behind, Albuquerque was 3rd with 134, and the Woodlands was 4th with 197.  Rounding out the top 10 were Danbury with 203, North Central from Spokane with 220, Brookline with 256, Los Angeles with 261, Elmhurst with 267, and Bergen with 272.

    Individually, the runners from the Woodlands went out quickly.  Colby Lowe of Carroll soon took the lead.  Chris Derrick of Naperville was running in second.  Both young men have been running well all season.  Lowe won the Chili Pepper Invitational, the NTN South Regional, and the Footlocker South Regional and is the 5A boys Texas state champion.  Derrick broke the course record of Nef Aria who came in 4th at Footlocker Nationals in 2002 by 30 seconds at the Culver Invitational, is the IL 3A champ, won the NTN Midwest Regional, and qualified at the Footlocker Midwest Regional with a 2nd place finish.  Ben Johnson of Albuquerque, the NM 4A champ, was in third.  This trio separated themselves from the rest of the field early.  CJ Brown of Carroll, a Footlocker finalist, was running towards the front.  The leaders went through the mile in 4:52.  Shortly after the mile, Johnson moved into second.  He then fell behind the leaders and ran alone well ahead of the chase pack.  Derrick would move up to Lowe’s shoulder, and Lowe would respond.  Derrick forged a lead and pushed through the finish line with a time of 15:39.  Lowe, the runner up, finished in 15:42.  The next pack included Johnson in 3rd at 16:20, Steve Sulkin of Elmhurst in 4th with 16:23 and Brown in 5th with 16:23.  James Riddle of Naperville in 16:26, David Wilson of Bookline in 16:27, James Kostelnik of Los Angeles in 16:28, MacLean O’Donnell of Oak Ridge in 16:29, and Donald Roys of Medina in 16:30 rounded out the top 10.

    Although the girls’ race lacked the mystery of the winner of the team competition, there was a great deal of jockeying for the top spots.  Manlius took the early lead and never relinquished it.  Kinetic took the runner up position early with Newhall, Hanover, and Wicked following with 3 points separating those 3 teams.  Hanover surged into 2nd at the 2k followed by Newhall, Kinetic, and Caution.  Then, Newhall took the runnerup position.  The final team scores for the top 10 were Manlius with 83, Newhall 171, Kinetic 194, Hanover 206, Burnt Hills 209, Caution 215, Fort Collins 241, Wicked 250, Davis 281, and Rose City 295.

    The individual race deviated from the script.  It started out as expected with Katie Flood of Des Moines and Hannah Davidson of Kinetic in the lead.  Like the leaders of the boys’ race, both girls have been running well.  Flood demolished the record for the Iowa state meet, won the NTN Heartland Regional meet, and earned a berth to the Footlocker Nationals by placing 2nd.  Davidson is a 3-time Footlocker National qualifier and 3-time NTN Kinetic team member.  Her team competes with the best weekly.  Davidson dominated her sectional, won the NY State Meet, finished 3rd in the NY Federation, and was the runner up at the NY NTN Regional meet.  The duo passed the mile in 5:45.  Madeline Morgan of Caution was in the top group which was not anticipated even though she won her regional qualifier.  She finished 2nd at the Clara Bowl, 3rd at the Bob Firman Invitational, and 11th at the Great American.  Also, her team team qualified as a wildcard, so it was not a given that she would be running at NTN.  Morgan had a surprise for those who were at NTN, pulled away from the leaders, and finished in 18:54.  Flood was 10 seconds behind.  On the homestretch, Sam Roecker of Burnt Hills drove past Davidson to finish 3rd with a time of 19:06 about 2 seconds in front of Davidson.  Rounding out the top 9 were Katherine Dunn of Newhall in 19:18, Georgia Griffin of Hanover in 19:18, Kaylin Mahoney of Newhall in 19:23, Courtney Chapman of Manlius in 19:23, and Hannah Luber of Manlius in 19:25.  In 10th was a tie between Heidi Caldwell of Hanover and Mackenzie Carter of Manlius.