December 9, 2007
In the 22 years the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships have been held at Morley Field, people have wondered what would happen if it were run on a sodden course in a driving rain.

Answer: nothing unusual.

At least that covers half of the question as yesterday the nation's top 40 boys and girls high school runners faced a course drenched by pouring rain that fell up to 90 minutes before the start of the first race.

But when the time came to run, so did the sunshine.

And as for the course itself, except for a few muddy spots there were no problems.

“I ran the course (Friday), and it was good compared to what we'd run on in the Midwest Regional and league championships,” said boys winner Michael Fout of LaPorte, Ind. “It seems after each race I say this, but this is now my favorite course.”

And the girls champion?

“It's cross country, I'm not afraid to get a little dirty,” said 87-pound, 4-foot-11 Ashley Brasovan of West Palm Beach, Fla.

Both runners employed surprisingly similar strategies to post victories in the event where it seems being a favorite or – heaven forbid – a previous champion, makes it even more difficult.

Fout allowed others to lead for most of the race and then, just before going up the fabled Upas Street hill for the second time, stepped on the accelerator.

By the time he reached the steep incline, Fout had opened a wide lead and then held off a late charge by runner-up Christopher Derrick to clock a time of 14 minutes, 50 seconds, winning by seven seconds over the 3.1-mile course.

“I stayed relaxed, even though the mile time was faster than I expected (4:28) and when others started to slow down, I made my move,” said Fout, headed for Arizona State University in the fall.

“Once I made that surge, I never looked back.”

Similarly, Brasovan let 2005 champion Jordan Hasay set a torrid early pace and when a group of three hit the top of the second hill, took off sprinting across the flat crest.

That allowed her to open a gap on Hasay and eventual runner-up Kathy Kroeger, last year's winner, finishing in 17:20 to win by eight seconds.

“At about the 2-mile mark I was ready to admit we were all racing for second place when I realized (Hasay) was slowing down,” said Brasovan, who, like Kroeger and Hasay, is just a junior and could set up a race next year with three former champions.

“Suddenly I was getting closer and closer, and I realized I had a lot more energy. Once I got in the lead, I was kind of scared because I'm not much of a kicker, but I wasn't going to look back.”

Both Western Regional champs Hasay and Riverbank's German Fernandez, who ran with a calf injury but refused to use that as an excuse, finished third.

Hasay won as a freshman and was asked if she could ever see anyone winning four straight titles.

“No one will ever win four straight,” said Hasay, who actually slipped back to fifth before rallying down the stretch. “You need to have a great day, and how many people have a great day four straight years?”

Especially when one year it's 80 degrees – and, once every 30 years or so, it might rain.