This Saturday the Foot Locker West Regional will be held on the fabled Mt. SAC course in Walnut, California. At stake are the final berths in American prep’s one true national championship and a trip to beautiful San Diego. Yes folks they run a classic and challenging course and you have to face your peers in competition to qualify here: nothing is handed to anyone. Between the competition, the course and simple fate there will be some surprises but what follows is a look at the qualifications of some of the top entrants. There is no particular order, as it is rude & crude (not to mention does an injustice to the athletes) to ascribe a number to a high school runner and everyone ought to be able to find favorites on their own. I would note that this look includes runners, who are currently registered and it is possible to still register, so there hopefully will be some additions.
The state of Washington has a strong contingent, as usual and it will be unofficially led by Andrew Gardner of Mead, who has already qualified twice and recorded top five finishes. He is undefeated this fall and has shattered records at Mountain West and at Adidas Concordia, where his 14:45 shattered the record of Trevor Dunbar, who placed second at Foot Locker Nationals in 2008. Andrew has also won at Richland & the Meadlander plus the State 4A title. Joining him on the line will be Patrick Gibson of Squalicum, who is one of the top returnees after a solid race here last year. Patrick has won at Sehome and at South Whidbey. Gibson is also the State 2A champion and he backed that victory at the Oregon – Washington Border Clash. Finishing close behind Gibson at State was Poli Baltazar of Aberdeen, who ran 15:16 in Pasco. The Evergreen Conference champion also won at Sunfair this year but more importantly he has geared his campaign this fall to atone for an off day last year and looks ready for a fine race. A sophomore to watch is John Dressel of Mt. Spokane, who placed 2nd at State in 3A and then was 3rd at the Border Clash. He was second at the Tracey Walters meet and follows the great tradition of harriers from Spokane. Also from the Spokane area is Nicholas Hauger of Shadle Park, who won the Highlander & Fort Steilacoom Invites as well as the John Danner at Portland Meadows. Hauger placed 4th in the 3A State race. While we are looking at the Spokane area Deer Park’s Daniel Amann, who won at Moses Lake and Curtis. Another to watch is Tom Bradley of Blaine, won his division at the Westside Classic before placing second behind Gibson in 2A. Notably we won the Northwest Conference, where he inflicted the only loss of the season on Bradley. Other Washingtonians to watch are Logan Giese of Verndale, who placed 2nd at Mead & 4th in his Regional, & Dillon Quintana of Mt. Baker, who was 4th at Mt. Baker before winning the State 1A title.
Oregon had a great tradition in distance running but its glory years were just prior to Foot Locker Kinney, which began in 1979, as both Steve Prefontaine and Bill McChesney Jr. were prior to the great Foot Locker experience. It has been some time since Galen Rupp, Alec Wall & Stuart Eagon appeared at Balboa & even some time since Kenny Klotz & Isaac Stoutenburgh made it in 2005 but Oregon has a good shot in returning with Julian Heninger making a run on Saturday. Julian won the Wilsonville and Seaside Invitationals and was fourth in the 6A Meet. Oregon has had some rather rough luck in recent campaigns with Bryce Burgess & Matt Melancon just missing with eleventh place finishes. If he can reverse that turn of fortune, he could be in San Diego.
Idaho on the other hand had a long period without being represented at nationals, which Taylor Farnsworth, Cody Helbling & Dallin Farnsworth reversed recently. Look to Elijah Armstrong to follow in their foot steps. The State 4A champion won the Tiger/Grizz, Pocatello & Rigby titles and had the courage to turn down Nike in spite of the company’s usual rude behavior and take his chances here. That is the courage of a champion & it deserves to be rewarded. Joining Elijah will be Driztin & Haydin Herndin, who both placed in the top ten in the 4A Division plus Kaden Clay of Highland, who was 2nd at Conley.
Ben Saarel of Utah is another runner with the courage of believing in himself, as he too turned down the Mud Bowl for another shot at San Diego. The State 3A champion in a blistering 14:56 can expect that the third time is the charm after a 35th place finish as a sophomore and an ever so close 11th place effort last year. Saarel is also the winner of the Murray Invitational.
Montana will be led by two stalwarts in Zach Perrin and Troy Fraley. Perrin is from Flathead & has won at Ronan & at Butte. He also garnered the Montana AA title in 15:25. Fraley is from Glacier & placed third at Mountain West as well as at State.
Alaska will have a number of runners but Levi Thomet & Cole Christiansen will lead the way. They will be following in the great Kodiak tradition of Trevor Dunbar and led by Coach Marcus Dunbar, who will compete in the Open race on Saturday. Thomet is the state’s top runner & champion and has recorded victories at Bartlett & Skyview. Christian has usually placed second behind his team mate including the State meet but he also scored a victory in the Kodiak Invitational, where he reversed the decision.
Hawaii will be represented by its state champion Davis Kaahanui, while Arizona will have its second place finisher Ryan Silva to represent it. Californian athletes receive free passes to the meet run by the shoe company with worker in Indonesia and some take the proverbial bird-in-the-hand option but California will be well represented by over a thousand runners. Myles Smith ran 15:18 for St. John Bosco and placed 2nd in D3, while Jose Penaloza of Godinez ran 15:19 in his 6th place effort in D2. Others to watch are Richard Ho (7th in D1 – 15:21), John Whelan (2nd D5 - 15:36) and John Lawson of Sir Francis Drake (2nd D4 – 15:34) and Caleb Webb of Big Bear, who was three seconds behind him. Steve Fahy, whose brother Darren made it last year, is just a junior but the La Costa Canyon runner has had a fine season, which was better than his 8th in D2. He placed second at the Bronco & Mt. Carmel plus was 3rd Mt. SAC Invites. Tal Braude is another to watch with victories at the Bronco & Mt. Carmel and a 2nd at Mt. SAC plus a 7th at Stanford.
There will be a quality field in the girls’ seeded race as well, although 2011 qualifiers Anna Maxwell of California & Jordan McPhee of Washington have decided to end their seasons. Although they will be missed there will still be a strong group to contest the berths for a flight to San Diego and in fact there are three runners, who will attempt to return led by Julia Maxwell of Branson, who won the California D5 race in 17:26. She also won a division at Mt. SAC & placed 7th at Stanford. Clare Carroll of Vista Del Lago placed 2nd at Sacramento & at Stanford & was sixth on the challenging Crystal Springs course, while Karlie Garcia of Oakmont has won at Nevada Union & was second at the CVC meet.
Montana will be represented by 2011 national finalist Makena Morley of Bigfork, who is undefeated with victories at Ronan, Flathead, Mountain West Invitational and at Polson. She also won her State ‘A’ title. Sarah Fakler of Xavier in Arizona will look to join her former team mate Jessica Tonn as her schools’ finalist at the big dance and the State champion has won at Sole Sports plus the Desert Twilight.
Washington will be represented by Katie Bianchi of Glacier Peak, who placed third in the highly competitive 3A Division at State. She won at Sehome and has second place finishes at Sundodger, Bellevue and at Hole-In-the-Wall plus a 6th at Stanford. It would be more than fitting to see Katie earn a spot at Balboa Park. Sanne Holland of Cheney placed second in 2A and has earned a victory at the Meadlander plus a second at Pasco, while Brittany Aquino of West Valley – Spokane ran a gutsy race by taking the lead early in 2A before coming in third. Also registered but apparently deciding not to run this year is Woodinville star Chandler Olson, who has been one of the top finishers at West the past two years. The District winner is certainly more than capable of qualifying.
Oregon has a limited amount of representation but Erin Clark of South Eugene is one to watch. Although often over-shadowed by her State champion team mate Sara Tsai, Clark is a gifted runner, who has earned a State title on the track. She has a second at Ulitmook plus thirds at Danner & Concordia and it would seem rather fitting for her to earn a trip to the Harrier Mecca of San Diego. With a best time of 17:32 she should be in contention down the stretch.
Idaho may be one of the smaller states as far as population goes yet they will be well represented in California. Rachel McGovern of Pocatello is the State 4A champion and has also won at Burley & Rigby. Mikayla Malaspina of Vallivue placed third in 5A after winning at Bugtown, Driscoll & at Ward and she knows the course after racing here last year. Her teammate Cheryn Trapp won at Weiser and placed second at Driscoll & Bugtown. Presli Hutchinson of Highland won the Tiger/Grizz and was 4th at State in 5A, while Sierra Manzer of Kuna won at Nyssa before placing second in 2A.
Alaska will have Brooke Lizotte of Lathrop, who earned victories at Interior & Delta and was 2nd at Bartlett before finishing third at State. It has got to be a challenge to continue training over two months past your State meet, especially in Fairbanks but she did race once after State at Concordia (Oregon) and she is a story just in being here. It would even be a much better one should she extend her season one more week.
Utah has two very solid hopefuls in Lucy Biles and Emily Rich. Biles is from Herriman and has been victorious at Wasatch & at Park City. She won her Regional in 17:34 for three miles & then won State 4A in 17:45. It will be interesting to see if she turns down NXN. Emily Rich of the storied Bingham program is the State 5A champion and has triumphed at Westlake, Royal & Cardinal.
Nevada State champion Katie Gorczyca is one we have watched all season and she is the titlist. She was third at Central Park and 11th at Stanford. Hawaii state champion Dakota Grossman should also be in the mix and possibly second place finisher Marissa Suan.
Not to be overlooked is Californian Kelly Lawson of La Costa Canyon, who placed 8th at State in D2 in 18:10 on an off-day. Kelly won the Bronco & Mt. Carmel Invites and was 7th at Mt. SAC. Other Californians to watch are Kiara McIntosh of Paloma Valley, who ran 17:50 in D1 for fourth, Kylie Nishisaka of Marina, who ran 17:50 for 7th and Leigh Moffett of Clovis North, who ran 18:00 (12th) – all raced in D1. Danielle Shanahan of Bishop Montgomery finished second in D4 & Caroline Pietrzyk of Malibu came in sixth.
Good luck to all the runners with the temerity to face a challenging classic course and quality competition. No matter how everyone finishes each runner will now be a part of an historic race with a great tradition of over three decades. That alone is something special .