This year will mark the 5th year of Nike’s national meet and the 1st year with a new name. In the past, the meet has been for teams only. The first (and my favorite) slogan for the meet was Every teammate counts. This year, individuals have been added.

I missed the first year. My husband Leo came home excited about the meet describing the technology as surreal. As a person who spent 30 years working in technology, I thought I have seen just about everything. I was stunned. Last year was the first year I went to the meet alone as my husband went to the Footlocker Western regional. Normally, I run around taking as many photos of what I think may be critical to the race for my husband. I had to try to absorb the race the best I could. I positioned myself by the Jumbotrons in awe of the immediate scoring and noticing how teams went up or down from kilometer to kilometer.

NTN as well as the Oregon-Washington Border clash start the race off with a bang literally. After the runners start, there are fireworks as the race down the field.

Besides the technology and pyrotechnics, the meet aims to have all areas of the nation represented. The location of the various teams catches my eye. This meet is a bit of a homecoming for me. My family moved often. This year brings so many memories. There is a team representing a city not far from my birthplace, a team from the city where I lived when I received my first job out of college, a team from my new home, a team where my high school friend and teammate now lives, teams from cities where I have vacationed as a child and with my husband, and a rival team in my husband’s region when he coached high school girls.

The course can be easily viewed by spectators. There are 3 main features of the course–the mud, the camel back hills, and the hay bales. In the first 3 meetings, the course was rather muddy and the timing chips were taped to the calves as the chips were sucked off by the mud in the open races. This is not the course for anyone afraid of getting his/her shoes dirty. Last year, it was cold, and the ground was frozen. The mud was not as much a factor, and the times were better. The camel back hills provide the best footing on the course, and many runners would use that area to move up. The hay bales played a major role in determining the individual winner and the outcome of several duels. I am sure that many teams and individuals realized that training with hay bales is a must for any team/individual serious about winning.

In the open race, there will be a girls’ and a boys’ team from Kenya. This year, the boys’ championship race will include an international flavor too compliments of the Heartland region. Jakub Zivec who won the Heartland is from the Czech Republic. Since Zivec was not associated with a recognized international student exchange group, he was not able to compete during the high school season until the post season. Not only did he qualify for NXN, he also qualified for Footlocker by winning its Midwest Region. The runner-up in the Heartland is Joash Osoro from Kenya. Joash won the Griak and the North Dakota state meet.

The top returning teams from last year are Albuquerque (3rd in 2007) and the Woodlands (4th in 2007). Albuquerque won the Southwest Region while the Woodlands and its lead runner, Reed Connor, won the South. The top returning individuals are Steve Sulkin (4th in 2007) from Elmhurst and CJ Brown (5th in 2007). Sulkin won the Midwest Region and qualified for Footlocker by seizing the final spot in the Midwest. Brown qualified this year as an individual by finishing 2nd in the South as well as qualifying for Footlocker by taking 3rd in its South Region.

In the Northeast region, a sophomore leads the way. Joe Rosa took first in the Eastern States, 1st at Briarwood, 3rd in the NJ state meet, and 2nd at the NJ Meet of Champions on the famous Holmdel course. He is a young runner who will be interesting to watch for several years. The New York Region was on the same tough Wappinger Falls course. Alex Hatz of Manlius won the region while Clifton Park won the team title.

North Central of Spokane, WA, dominated the Northwest Region. At the Oregon-Washington Border clash, they represented their state well. The interesting feature of the team is the team has a couple runners who could be their lead runner.

Two time Florida state champ Brian Atkinson won the Southeast Region while Jamestown won the team title. Jamestown’s Andrew Colley bettered the time posted by Alan Webb at the Virginia state meet on an altered course.

The California Region is paced by Dana Hills. Typically, the California teams have not done as well on the NXN course. The times posted by the Californians have to make you take notice.

On the girls side, last year’s winner Madeline Morgan is returning as an individual; however, she was the runner-up to Amanda Winslow in the Southeast Region. Last year, Morgan surprised me with her victory at NTN. Morgan posted her PR at the Chili Pepper Invitational with a fine time of 17:40. Manlius is looking to become a 3-time winner. They dominated the New York Region by packing their 4 of their top 5 runners in a 2 second spread. The region also has the second highest returnee in Sam Roecker who placed 3rd in 2007. The girls from New York have done well. A few years ago, I asked Linda Kranick who coaches the Kinetic team with her husband why the New York teams do so well. Linda’s response was that the kids from New York run in all conditions (snow, mud, and rain).

Sudbury won the Northeast Region, and Kelsey Karys of Newton Centre won the individual title. Heidi Caldwell who won the New Hampshire state title and finished 10th at NTN in 2007 finished in 3rd.

In the South, there are several girls who have competed well in the post season. Chelsey Sveinsson of Texas won the region. She was the top freshman at last year’s Footlocker Nationals and qualified in the South by placing 3rd just ahead of 2007 Footlocker champion Ashley Brasovan. Sveinsson won the Chili Pepper Invitational with a time of 17:10. Sarah Andrews of the Woodlands won the Woodbridge Invitational with a time of 16:17 for 3 miles. Amanda Russell and Bailey Belvis qualified for the Footlocker Nationals by placing 6th and 9th respectively in the South Region.

The Southwest Region was won by Laura Tremblay and the Fort Collins team. Alyssa Andrews won the Northwest Region but opted to go to the Footlocker Western Regional. Runner-up Anna Marie Maag led her team to victory. Maag won the Oregon 6A, the Adidas, and the NPN titles. She took 2nd to Andrews at South Whidbey and to Taylor Wallace at the Border clash. Nicole Nielsen placed 3rd in the region and was a Footlocker Finalist last year.

Ashley Decker won the Heartland Region while Eden Prairie won the team title. Decker also qualified for Footlocker by placing 6th in the Midwest. Stephanie Morgan won the Midwest Region, and Geneva won the team title. Morgan won the Ohio 3A championship, placed 4th at Great American, and was a Footlocker Finalist in 2007. Hannah Neczypor won the Tiffin Carnival, Malone, and her district prior to placing 3rd in the Ohio championship.

As with the guys, the California girls posted rather impressive times at their state meet. Saugus which is led by Kaylin Mahoney and Hillary Hayes won the Division 2 state championship with all 7 runners under 18:40. Teeny Adams won the Clovis sweepstakes division and placed 2nd at the division 1 state championship as well as a 3rd at Stanford.

Because these teams run in various climates and terrains, it is hard to compare the teams. There is always a pleasant surprise. It is refreshing to see the way the sincere camaraderie of the teams and enjoyable to see so many people coming out to cheer on the kids. Good luck to all of the teams and individuals.