NXN Northwest Preview

Eagle Island State Park will host the NXN  Northwest Regional once again.  The course should offer a reasonable challenge with its uneven terrain, challenging hill and 150 meters of sandy beach, which must be traversed.  It seems that the sandy area is a bit longer and deeper than it has been in the past and, hint, it is better packed near the shore even though you have to run a little futher.   The hill is run shortly after the beach, which makes it more of a challenge, as if it were not enough of one on its own and more importantly it has to be climbed twice.  It becomes more formidable on the second ascent, so pacing oneself is more important than usual. All together this means that the successful teams and individuals should have a solid  test aside from the one, that they present each other.

  Beyond the pure joy of following  good competition the race offers some intriguing aspects, as the harriers begin the second season of XC.  To start with it should present round two of the duel between defending NXN regional champion Katie Knight of North Central & Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak. Last Saturday in Washington's 3A race fans witnessed a   two-and -a-half mile duel between the national caliber pair.  After that fans witnessed an almost stunning break-away by Knight, which resulted in a startling final mark of 17:11.  The pair have a long-running friendly rivalry and both have defeated the other more than once but usually there is little gap at the end, so their toeing the line once again should provide another great race.  As often is the case there are a number of talented challengers, so it is incumbent for the pair to remember that have company.   Last weekend in Delaware Haley Pierce & Julie Macedo ran their league race, as it was a two-person race.  Both are national class runners but after going all out against each other neither runner claimed the victory.   With Pierce collapsing for a DNF Macedo began to struggle and in the end another runner swept past surprising even herself.  As always it is best to monitor one's strength as the race unfolds and tomorrow's race has a number of girls. who are more than capable of coming home first.

    In the field will be Oregon's 5A champion Megan Fristoe & 6A champion Paige Rice,  Both will be running in far better conditions than at State, so throw out last week's times and pencil them into the picture.   Both have broken 18 minutes with Megan going 17:39.   Idaho champion Alice Keller will be in the mix along with Alexa Efraimson of Camas.   Alexa did not attempt to stay with Knight & Neale, as only Kendra Weitz kept pace until the end but Alexa came on strong to claim third, and she also broke 18 minutes.   This race gives her a chance to insert her name firmly in the national rankings.  Idaho champion Emily Nist of Bishop Kelly has the ability and experience to make things interesting, as do South Eugene runners Sara Tsai & Erin Clark.   If Sam McKinnon, who lost precious time due to a foot injury, returns to the form she displayed at the Danner race, she will be formidable.   Not to be forgotten are Marina Roberts & Kaitlyn Kaluzny of Washington, Ashley Maton & Piper McDonald of Oregon (Summit) plus Emily Hastings, Mikayla Malaspina of Idaho and Jordan Mathes of Idaho plus Caroline Hardin of Bozeman, who is a two-time champion and won State with 17:25 at altitude.   Hardin is not an after thought by any means, but we have not seen her and she therefore is difficult to quantify.  Expect her to have much to say about the girls' title.

     The boys' field is also strong but offers a shift in script from last week's Washington race.   At  Pasco last Saturday Anthony Armstrong & Natahn Weitz swept down the final straight in a thrillling duel, which was partially set up by Izaic Yorks of Lakes.  Jacob Smith overhauled Andrew Gardner in a stirring 4A race.  While Weitz & Gardner have set their sights on Foot Locker (San Diego over Portland, especially in December, is a no -brainer), so the spot-light turns to Armstrong of Kamiakin, who hopefully is no longer hampered by foot problems, and Smith of Wenatchee.  Not to be overlooked is Yorks, who pushed Armstrong & Weitz to near their limits and now has another chance to insert himself firmly in the national discussion.   Idaho champion Dallin Farnsworth had broken a number of records on his way to a second State title and his only loss was a third place effort at Stanford.  Look to him to be with the leaders and he has the advantage of knowing the Eagle Island course.  Along with those four are a number of others, who can inject themselves into the final equation, and at the top of the list are Oregon champions Kyle Thompson (6A) & Travis Neuman (5A).  Both have not really been challenged in State and should welcome a chance to mix it up with a dynamic  bunch.   Adam Peterman, I believe, will be on hand and the Montana State champion should add further drama & competition.   Korey Krotzer of Auburn Riverside has placed fourth in Washington twice and Nicholas Boersma will be a force, if he runs like he did at Sundodger.   Also capable of making things interesting are a group of runners with something to prove after their state meets.  That group includes Erik Harris, 2010 state champion of Idaho, David Leavy, Jackson Baker & Brian Eimstad of Oregon plus Washington's Marcus Dickson.  These along with Alex Dillard, Jon Obeso, are but a few of more than capable runners.

    Of course this is NXN and team is supposedly the name of the game and there are a number of very high quality teams.   Leading the way is Summit of Oregon, which has a very deep team to back of Megan Fristoe.   Ashley Maton & Piper McDonald are fine runners, who can be expected to run with the first chase pack.  Maton has broken 18 minutes & McDonald has been close.  Added to the group are Sara Fristoe & Kira Kelly, who would be the top runner on 90% of teams, so the Storm is loaded with six fine runners and a margin for error.   Glacier Peak had an off day at State and may have worked a bit hard that week, but do not expect two off days in a row.  With Katie Bianchini GP has a solid 1 - 2 punch and team mates, who have been good enough to have them ranked all year on a national level.  Camas pulled the upset last week and has Alexa Efraimson to lead a solid group, while Tahoma topped Bellarmine at State after being edged by them the week before that.   At State Tahoma had two runners--Abby Atchinson and Elizabeth Oosterhout--in the top ten.   Mountain View has Sam McKinnon & Jordan Mathes and, if things go right for them they will be tough.  South Eugene has Sara Tsai & Erin Clark & can depend upon Paige Kouba to be not too far behind them.  Bozeman is a highly respected team, which is very capapable as well and, of course, they have Caroline Hardin to show the way.  Boise is a team worth watching along with Hellgate from Montana.  Jesuit and St. Mary's Academy as well as Crater are three Oregon teams with ability and they have experience in this race, which is invaluable.  

   Looking at the boys' teams Gig Harbor is theWashington state champion with a young but solid squad to go against the Bozeman boys, who have had a fine season led by Jacob Woodland.   South Eugene is the 6A Oregon champion with Brian Eimstad & Jack Wilson to lead them. Crater placed second in Oregon 6A with the leadership of Jon Obeso & Neil Siebert, while Summit won Oregon 5A and has Eric Aldritt to go with Travis Neuman.  Hermiston has a dynamite top four including Jose Macias & Alejandro Cisneros and Central Catholic has a young but fast maturing team led by Kyle Thompson.  Henry jackson is also here, I believe, and they also are to be watched.   The Jesuit girls were the victim of a St. Mary's upset a few years ago here, but this year's boys' team, led by David Leavy & Hunter McGuirk, has something to prove and could be that upset special.

   The field includes teams from all over the Northwest including Alaska and Saturday's race has the makings for inspired racing.   Apologies to teams overlooked due to name changes but good luck to all, who race tomorrow.