It has already been a solid cross country experience with a panel discusion last night with Jorge Torres, Tim Hacker and 2011 Foot Locker national champion Molly Seidel participating. Although the temperature is around the freezing point and there is a brisk wind, the course is dry and fast. Look for some scintillating times, especially from the girls the girls. We spoke with numerous runners last night, most of whom have explored this great classic course, including Melanie Nun of Colorado. It's the first step towards San Diego and the world famous Hotel Del Coronado. The best pre-race advice advice comes from Olympian Deena Drossin Kastor, who stated: "Race like it's your last rae, but know that your future will be full of moments to define yourself as an athlete, student and role model."
The Girls' race
It was cool but there were blue skies and, happily, only a mild breeze to greet the runners at the Wisconsin-Parkside course in Kenosha, Wisconsin. With the field as strong as it was a fast pace had been anticipated but surprisingly it was no where what it might have been, when the harriers breeched the mile mark in 5:30. Of course one has to factor into the equation that the initial portion of the race included a hill, which lasts for a significant part of the first half mile.
This race was just one of three being held on “Super Saturday” and there was much riding on the line. Unbeknown to most was the fact the Julia Bos of Michigan although present for the action was reduced to a spectator prior to the race, because of an injury. With the 2011 Foot Locker national finalist on the sidelines, there was effectively one more berth on the flight to San Diego up for grabs but the runners went about their business and flew down the trail at the mile and a-half-mark with a top seven seemingly comfortably in charge. That group included the trio of Maria Hauger of Minnesota, Erin Finn of Michigan & Courtney Ackerman of Illinois running almost shoulder to shoulder at the point. Running just a bit back were Missouri State champion Taylor Werner, Indiana titlist Anna Rohrer, 2011 Missouri champion Hannah Long and Jordyn Colter of Colorado.
That group held a solid fifteen meter lead over Kaylee Flanagan. Flanagan ran in sort of her own ‘no-man’s land’ by herself with only one runner remotely close: the unidentified bib #400. It was another good thirty meters back to the chase back, which included Heather Bates of Colorado, Caaitlin Gervich of Missouri, Anne Holdiman of Iowa, Bianca Mello of Missouri, Annie Heffernan of Ohio , Melanie nun of Colorado & Stephanie Jenks of Iowa. It was yet another ten meters further back to Nicole Hahn of Colorado, Mary Kate Vaugh of Ohio, Danielle Moore of Wisconsin & Haley Harris of Indiana.
Some might have thought that the die had been cast but there was still half a race to go and it was not without its travails for some. Ashley Erba of Indiana had been anticipated to be a likely national finalist, but she had one of those days and was never seemingly in a good position during this race. Her state teammate, Anna Rohrer, who had set a record in her state meet, established yet another with her rather stunning mark of 16:54. Considering that the great Melody Fairchild of Boulder not to mention Claire Durkin of Ohio, who rewrote the record book, the time is most impressive.
Taylor Werner finished alone in second with 17:06 and was followed by Maria Hauger, who earned a return trip to San Diego with17:07. Jordyn Colter, who had been forced to drop out of her state meet, rolled home in quick 17:08. Courtney Ackerman claimed fifth in 17:13 Anna Holdiman closed well to take sixth (17:33). Holdiman edged Hannah Long made it two qualifiers for California from Missouri, who was credited with the same time. Kaylee Flanagan finished eighth and was soon exclaiming “I’m so happy!”. Her time of 17:34 was hardly important, however solid a mark it was.
Bobbie Burgess of Indiana was another runner, who ran a fine closing mile, as she placed ninth in 17:35 and Melanie Nun of Colorado also ran negative splits, which helped account for her tenth place finish in 17:39. The unlucky eleventh place finisher was Tamara Gorman oh South Dakota, who ran a fine 17:44. It was most unfortunate, as this was such a fine field and one expects she would have fared better had she been in South or even the Northeast. Gorman just edged Erin Finn, who had qualified for Foot Locker as a junior & sophomore but Grant Nykaza of Illinois put it bluntly later noting that “it’s far harder to qualify a second time than people may think. Of course with a field as deep as was the one, which competed this morning, it was even harder.
The team award went to Illinois with its total of 76 points. Ackerman & Flanagan led the way naturally but were ably assisted by Kelsey Shrader, Mimi Smith & Brooke Wolfe. Colorado was a close second with 80 points, while Ohio, whose top finisher Mary Kate Vaughn was backed by the sixteenth place finish (18:06)of its Division I champion Jacquelyn Crow.
The men’s race saw a large pack stay together as they negotiated the hill and then the first mile in 4:42. Nicholas Raymond of Michigan decided that the pace was too slow and he stepped it up at that point. He moved ahead in spite of a spike mark, which he received during the mass start and, which called for treatment with hydrogen peroxide after the race.
Raymond continued to lead through the two mile mark in the race, which he hit in 9:34 but shortly after that Jake Leingang moved into second place and into contention. The North Dakota star, who had earned a trip to Foot Locker in 2011, was soon joined by Sam Wharton of Ohio. The amazing thing about a race is that there always exists a number of races within the grand scheme of the race and such was the case with Illinois runner Grant Nykaza, who had been safely tucked among the top seven runners, yet felt very tired in the middle of the race. While Leingang & Wharton were moving to the front, Nykaza began to struggle and he fell back to eleventh position, which he aptly described as the ‘worst place’. That position inspired him to move forward, although in truth, he had intended to make a move during the final kilo.
The final hills, which also entail some tight turns, saw Leingang and Wharton continued to duel even through the final uphill straight into the finish chute. The pair crossed the finish line essentially together with Leingang earning the victory despite both sharing the final verdict of 14:56. During the long history of Foot Locker Midwest few runners have managed to break fifteen minutes on the course, so this was an historic effort. Nicholas Raymond followed then in only six seconds later & was followed in turn by Patrick Perrier of Illinois a second later. Grant Nykaza, having successfully regrouped in the later stages, earned fifth with 15:04edging Samuel Prakel of Ohio, who shared that time. Wisconsin state champion Ryan Kromer took seventh in 15:08 and Connor Mora of Michigan’s added his eighth place effort of 15:09.
Despite the high quality of the final times runners streamed across the finish line and Scott milling of Illinois placed ninth in 15:10. Ohioan Nicholas Elswick(15:12) of Chardon, Ohio emphasized the great tradition of the Buckeye state at Foot Locker by becoming the third from the state to qualify. Danny Aldaba of Nebraska finished in the frustrating position of eleventh in 15:13. It was another five seconds back to Kevin Docherty of Minnesota, who crossed the finish line three seconds ahead of Jackson Bertoli of Indiana.