FL West favorite Luke Puskedra (UT) leads the way at NTN SW
(Photo by Gary Murray)
The best in the West converge at Mt. SAC Saturday for the Foot Locker West Regional Championships. Both the boys and girls seeded fields are stacked with talent. Fantastic battles highlight the scene. In the boys race German Fernandez (CA) v. Luke Puskedra (UT) should battle, while Jorday Hasay (CA) is not quite as invincible as last year it seems. See who the favorites are.
Race to San Diego: Foot Locker West Preview
1. German Fernandez (Sr., Riverbank, CA) - The senior star won numerous meets throughout the season, smashing course records and winning by well over a minute in nearly every race. At the California State Meet last weekend Fernandez won the race in course record time, 14:24, and beat the second best time of the day by over 40 seconds. His legend is starting to build around the country as Foot Locker nears.
2. Luke Puskedra (Sr., Judge Memorial, UT) - Puskedra won the Bob Firman Invitational and Nike Team Southwest Regional race, two of his biggest wins this season. However, his biggest feat came at the Utah State Meet where he broke the course record set by Josh Rohatinsky (the NCAA CC Champ in 06).
3. Miles Unterreiner (Sr., Gig Harbor, WA) - Unterreiner continues to build momentum as the regional race nears. The past six weeks have treated the Washington runner very well. He won his division of the state meet and won the BorderClash between Oregon and Washington.
Miles Unterreiner leads the Washington contingent
(Photo by Dave Clark)
4. Trevor Dunbar (Jr., Kodiak, AK) - Dunbar finished less than a second out of first at the NTN Northwest Regional competition in his first major test of the season. The Alaska native ran straight through the competition during the Alaskan regular season, which ended nearly two months ago. The junior is the fourth returnee from last year's regional competition.
5. Jim Walmsley (Sr., Horizon, AZ) - Walmsley impressed spectators all season long in Arizona. He seems to have taken another step in his training and racing, marking him as one of the top runners in the region. Walmsley finished a solid third at the NTN Southwest Regional behind Puskedra and Albuquerque Academy star Ben Johnson.
6. Jonathon Lafler (Sr. Tahoma, WA) - The credentials Lafler piled up over the past six weeks have been impressive. The senior fourth in his state meet race, following up with a big win at the NTN Northwest Regional and placing second behind Miles Unterreiner at BorderClash.
Jonathon Lafler (WA) & Elliot Jantzer (OR) at Nike BorderClash
(Photo by Dave Clark)
7. Chris Schwartz (Jr., Foothill, CA) - Schwartz is one of the top non-seniors in the field. Coming off of a phenomenal performance at last weekend's California State Meet, Schwartz could qualify rather easily if he can stay in control early. He ran the second fastest time of the day last weekend behind only German Fernandez. Not yet on start lists.
8. Stephen Clark (Sr., Skyline, UT) - Two of Clark's biggest performances this season came while placing in second. Earlier in the year Clark finished second in a very strong field at the Bob Firman Invitational. He then finished with the second fastest time of the day at the Utah State Meet. Both second place finishes came at the hands of Luke Puskedra.
9. Ryan Prentice (Sr., Mt. Rainer, WA) - Prentice returns as the number three retunree from last year's regional competition. Prentice had a strong season, where he capped off his Washington state season with a fine win in the 3A race. Do not be surprised to see some of the Washington boys working together.
10. Bryan Tibaduiza (Jr., Galena, NV) - Leading one of the best squads in the Southwest, Tibaduiza runs under the radar of most people. Coming from Nevada tends to do that to most runners since they don't face much national competition. The junior won his state meet by 26 seconds, while also placing fourth in the strong NTN Southwest Regional field.
Best of the Rest: One runner who should make a big splash, especially now that he isn't fasting is Mohamed Abdalla (Sr., Willow Glen). The California native finished with the fifth fastest time at his state meet this past weekend and seems to be coming on at the right time. Running alongside Abdalla will be Jeremy Acosta (Sr., Highland, CA), Steven Crum (Sr., Corona, CA) and James Attarian (Sr., Dublin, CA). Each California athlete put up impressive marks this season, and finished strong at the state meet. Acosta looks to repeat his feat last season at Foot Locker West. He returns as the number two returnee, although his season has been filled with a few ups and downs.
Perhaps the strongest group of runners come from Washington. Rob Webster (Sr., Puyallup), Joey Baywater (Sr., Lake Stevens) and Kevin Rosaaen (Sr., Wilson) may join the three other Washington boys ranked in the top ten at Foot Locker West. Webster finishied second behind Unterreiner in the 4A race at state, while Rosaaen finished third. Baywater is the top Foot Locker returnee from last year and should challenge despite a lower finish at the state meet. An extra month of training should bode well for him.
Bryce Burgess (Sr., Franklin, OR) and Elliot Jantzer (Jr., Phoenix, OR) lead the way for the Oregon runners. Burgess stamped himself as a pre-race favorite after winning the Oregon State 6A title. He backed that up with a fourth place finish at BorderClash. He is also the fifth returnee from Foot Locker last season. Jantzer won the state 4A title, and finished a spot ahead of Burgess at the BorderClash.
1. Jordan Hasay (Jr., Mission Prep, CA) - Easily the favorite heading into Saturday's regional girls seeded race, Hasay dominated her competition all season long. Big wins across the board signaled that this junior is ready to make another run at a national title. She posted a 17:05 win in her race at the California State Meet last weekend.
2. Christine Babcock (Sr., Woodbridge, CA) - Coming off a very impressive state meet victory, Babcock seems to be finding her stride at the right time. The senior's season finished with a 17:04 effort at the California State Meet, the best time of the day, beating out Jordan Hasay's time by one second. That type of performance speaks volumes. Not yet on start list.
3. Nadya Bishton (Sr., Mountain Ridge, AZ) - Continuing her undefeated season, Bishton looks for a test of will power for perhaps the first time this year. Bishton won her state meet and the NTN Southwest Regional. She also is the number three returnee from last year's regional where she finished a strong fourth place overall.
Nadya Bishton (AZ) winning the NTN Southwest Regional
(Photo by Gary Murray)
4. Nastia Bishton (Sr., Mountain Ridge, AZ) - Some think it would be hard for an athlete to trail their sibling in every race, but that strategy seems to work well for Bishton. Nastia finished right behind her sister Nadya in every meet this season of significance. Her runner-up efforts at state and the NTN Southwest Regional give her a lot of momentum heading to this weekend's meet.
5. Leah Francis (So., Juneau-Douglas, AK) - A long training period in Alaska should prepare Francis plenty well for this weekend. A small break in training came when she traveled down to Boise, Idaho, beating a strong field at the NTN Northwest Regional. Big wins in Alaska simply cannot tell the talent this young lady harnesses.
6. Jessica Tonn (So., Xavier Prep, AZ) - Tonn finished third last year at the Foot Locker West Regional as a mere freshman. This year her dominance in state was not what many expected. Tonn finished behind the Bishton sisters at state. She also finished second in the Super Sweepstakes race at the Mt. SAC Invitational earlier in the season.
7. Laurynne Chetelat (Sr., Davis, CA) - Few talk about Chetelat outside of California, labeling the west coast as an area owned by Jordan Hasay and Christine Babcock. However, Chetelat ran consistent and strong all season long. Her third place effort in the Mt. SAC Invitational Super Sweepstakes said a lot, while she ran the third fastest time of the day in the California State Meet last weekend. Overlooking Chetelat is not a good option on race day.
8. Nicole Nielsen (Jr., Borah, ID) - Big performances have come often for Nielsen this season. The Idaho runner won the early season Bob Firman Invitational in her home state, beating some very solid competition. Two second place finishes came at her state meet and the NTN Northwest Regional, both indicating that Nielsen is ready for a big-time race.
9. Hailey Knettles (Sr., Judge Memorial, UT) - Knettles put forth some mighty efforts this season to put herself in the top ten pre-race favorites. The senior followed the same path teammate Luke Puskedra ran, winning her state meet with the fastest time of the day. Earlier in the season Knettles finished second behind Nicole Nielsen at the Bob Firman Invitational.
10. Heidi Turner (Fr., Bozeman, MT) - It isn't rare to see a freshman doing well on the national level on the girls side of things, but it is rare from the Big Sky state. Montana freshman Turner is the top runner in the state since Foot Locker champion Zoe Nelson. Turner easily won her state meet this season by 26 seconds and tuned up for Foot Locker regionals with a fourth place effort at the NTN Northwest competition. Not yet on start list.
Best of the Rest: The Washington state girls have a strong group of runners that all have a shot to grab one of the ten spots. While we are not sure which of these girls are running quite yet, their contenders should be Bellamine Prep teammates Nicole Cochran (Sr.) and Kayla Evans (Sr.), Andrea Nelson (So., Shadle Park), Bronwyn Crossman (Sr., Squalicum) and Ruby Roberts (So., Kingston, WA). Nelson, Crossman and Roberts each won big in their state races, while Cochran won the Nike BorderClash race. Evans finished second in the 4A race at state, while placing third at BorderClash. The depth of this group rolls in their favor when thinking at least one should qualify.
Taylor Wallace (Jr., Henley, OR) ran second at the BorderClash meet while leading the way for Oregon. She also was the top runner in the state, winning the 4A championship. Wallace can contend with nearly anyone. A few others surely to challenge are Idaho champ Kinsey Gomez (Couer d'Alene), and Shalaya Kipp (Jr., Skyline, UT).
Lastly, the California gang is well represented. Front runners such as Kauren Tarver (Sr., Serrano), Claire Collison (Sr., Crescenta Valley), Meghan Marvin (So., Clovis) and Sarah Sumpter (Sr., Healdsburg) lead the way. Tarver is an experienced Foot Locker runner and tends to come on strong at the end of the season. She was eighth in this race last season. Collison and Marvin finished with the fifth and sixth fastest marks at their state meet last weekend, while earning those same times in the Super Sweepstakes at the Mt. SAC Invitational earlier in the season. Sumpter ran the fourth fastest time of the day at the California State Meet.