High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: Cross country

POWERADE FAB 50 BOYS XC: Jersey powerhouse CBA ascends to the top

March, 29, 2012
POWERADE FAB 50Gregg Armstrong/ESPNHSThe Christian Brothers Academy boys celebrate their POWERADE FAB 50 national championship from last fall.

POWERADE FAB 50 Presentation Gallery | POWERADE FAB 50 Presentation Video

They had won a national record 315 consecutive dual meets. They had collected a state best 17 New Jersey Meet of Champions titles. They’d been a Northeast power for years and three times previously had made the Nike Cross Nationals Finals, placing as high as sixth – guided by veteran mentor Tom Heath and sharp assistant Chris Bennett.

But in 2011, the Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, N.J.) boys cross country team reached the top of the mountain. For sustained excellence all fall long, and for their record-low score in taking their first NXN title in December, the Colts earned the 2011 POWERADE FAB 50 national championship. The team was recently presented with their awards at a ceremony at the school’s gymnasium – packed with wildly screaming students, as well as school staff, administrators, families, and local media.

Coming into 2011, CBA had lost their top man from the previous fall – Mike Mazzaccaro – to graduation. But the returning varsity mainstays, bolstered by some seriously improving newcomers, knew they could be even better. “Going back to right after NXN last year, we sat down and we realized we had enough guys that we could come back and really do something special,” said senior George Kelly.

They were the Preseason #1 in the FAB 50 rankings to start and never lost focus, with a perfect season that included victories at the prestigious Eastern States in Manhattan and the Shore Coaches Invite, Group and Meet of Champions titles, and an NXN Northeast triumph that set the stage for Portland.

Although Kelly was the team’s number one man for almost every meet – including a runner-up finish in 15:37 at the Meet of Champs – one of the strengths of the Colts is that several were capable of stepping up for No. 2. For many of the races, it was super soph Mike McClemens, but at NXN Northeast and Finals it was junior Jack Boyle, and at the Shore Coaches Invite, senior Tim Gorman was actually the team leader. Senior Conrad Lippert, junior Billy Bragg, and junior Aaron Libertore also played key roles all season long.

In Portland, with Kelly, Boyle and Gorman finishing within five seconds of each other, they held off the charge by Southlake Carroll to top the podium for the first time. The margin of victory was just four points, so no one knew who won until the announcement of Carroll’s runner-up finish, which led to a celebration on the stage rendered even more memorable by Kelly’s bounding up and down like a pogo stick. There was truly joy in Lincroft.

Kelly, Gorman, and Lippert depart, but returnees like Boyle, McClemens, and Bragg are more than capable of leading CBA to national prominence again next fall – a fact not lost on the Colts’ grizzled mentor.

“Our long range goal is to make sure they (POWERADE FAB 50 award presenters) come back next year,” Coach Heath said to Colt Crazies in the gym, “because we want to be the first (boys) team to win this title two years in a row.”
The Fayetteville-Manlius NY girls XC teamMarnie Carter/ESPNHSThe Fayetteville-Manlius NY girls XC team after winning their second straight POWERADE FAB 50 national championship.

POWERADE FAB 50 Presentation Gallery | POWERADE FAB 50 Presentation Video

The girls of Fayetteville-Manlius (Manlius, N.Y.) have won six consecutive Nike Cross Nationals finals and, now, the first two (and only) POWERADE FAB 50 girls national championships – the latter awarded in a recent school assembly and in recognition of their accomplishments for the entire season.

One might think championships would become routine, but not with the Coach Bill Aris-led Hornets. Every trip atop the podium is different and 2011 was no exception. In 2010, their first POWERADE FAB 50 title year, you could say the theme was “dominance” – as in crushing all opposition like never before. Fay-Man scored a record-low 27 points at the NXN Finals – a score low enough to have beaten the entire remainder of the field as if it was a single team – and won by a margin of 77. Led by runner-up Christie Rutledge, they had three of the top six finishers.

But this past fall was different. While the team lost only one scorer – Courtney Chapman – they reached a point at mid-season when it was clear that if they were going to repeat, they were going to have to do so without Rutledge and fellow top-5 varsity runner Heather Martin – both of whom were sidelined with what were ultimately season-ending injuries.

At the same time, Coach Aris was dealing all fall was his father’s fatal illness, with the senior Aris passing away on Nov. 10. The Fay-Man family would have to rally as never before, with leadership at the top and younger, less-experienced runners rising to the fore in support.

By the time the smoke cleared in Portland, they had done just that. Junior Jillian Fanning went unbeaten through the state meet and NXN Northeast meet, and placed fourth in leading Manlius in the championships. She was a dominant championship runner (she also won the Eastern States race and ranked #1 in the country until NXN Finals) the likes of which the program had rarely, if ever, had.

Senior Katie Sischo was a strong leader, on and off the course, and #2 most of the year. Sischo, junior Katie Brislin, soph Alana Pearl and junior Hannah Smith all scored in the top 20 to secure the victory with 60 points, 24 ahead of state rival and fellow national dynasty Kinetic (Saratoga Springs), and 8th-grader Jenna Farrell and freshman Annika Avery wrapped it up as sixth and seventh girls. And this was all after they went unbeaten during the rest of the season, with victories in the Eastern States, Class A state meet, and NXN Northeast, among others.

“I think their spirit, heart and soul, and can-do attitude set this team apart,” said Coach Aris. “That, with overcoming our setbacks, made it very rewarding.”

“I was just so proud of them and of all of us,” said Sischo.

In 2011, it was about overcoming odds instead of overwhelming dominance – and it was every bit as sweet.

Drazba lands on national stage with big USATF XC finish in big freeze

February, 14, 2012
Maggie DrazbaBob Geiger/ESPNHSMaggie Drazba of St. Mary's, W. Va., completes her amazing run in 2nd place.

At first glance Saturday, it looked like the weather would be the big winner at the USATF Cross Country Championships at St. Louis’ Forest Park. The temperature was at 20 degrees at the time the junior races went off, with a wind chill below zero.

“Those were the coldest conditions that I have run in,” La Costa Canyon (Encinitas, Calif.) senior Darren Fahy told his coach, Bill Vice.

“Well, you better get used to that,” his coach replied. Fahy recently committed to Georgetown University.

The weather was just another setback for Fahy (more on him, later), who would finish 7th in the Junior Men’s race. But among those who seemed to get through the frigid conditions with flying colors was St. Mary’s (St. Mary’s, W. Va.) junior Maggie Drazba. The West Virginia AA-A state champ (fastest in all classes) was the highest prep finisher in either Junior race, taking 2nd in 21:07.7 for 6K behind University of Michigan frosh Shannon Osika (21:04.3) in the Women’s battle.

There were no IAAF World Championship berths on the line for the first time as that meet has gone to an every-other-year format and will not return until 2013. But Drazba will join the 11 other collegians from the two races in qualifying for Team USA for the North America, Central American, & Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships, which will be conducted in Port of Spain, Trinidad on March 17, 2012.

Drazba was not even on the radar in the pre-race discussion, though she also finished the fall off with a 13th place finish at the Foot Locker South Regional.

“I decided to jump in the race in mid January,” Drazba said. “My training was looking good and we thought it was a good chance to get some big meet experience. I had my biggest mileage week in early January. It was 80 miles. I had pretty high mileage coming into it. I backed down a lot last week coming into the meet, because I wanted to do well.”

The pack thinned out quickly during the race. By the halfway point, there were only five runners contending for the lead as Gabrielle Anzalone of the University of Wisconsin set the tempo. But it was Drazba that seemed to want the pace to go faster.

“My strategy was just to stick with them and see what I could do,” she said. “My goal was to qualify for the NACAC team, but I just wanted to do my best. I was just trying to stick with it and stay out of the wind. I did not think that I was pushing the pace.”

In the last 1k, Drazba made a veteran move that only Osika responded to. Osika – a 2010 Foot Locker 8th-place finisher who’s had an amazing winter for the Wolverines, including a 4:38 mile – would kick to win by the three-second margin. Drazba had made her first national team. She was no longer a novice on this stage, no longer an afterthought. A smile from ear-to-ear on her face in the back of the chute confirmed that.

“I thought that I might qualify,” she said, “but finishing in second was more than I could hope for.”

“We knew that she had that race in her,” said her coach Glenda Cottrill. “She is a special runner. She looked so strong throughout the race.”

On this Saturday, it was the runner from the small West Virginia town along the Ohio River turn to shine. In the town of St Mary that has over 2000 people living there, she is a household name. This race opened the door for her to become a household name on the national spotlight.

Fahy’s La Costa teammate Emma Abrahamson, was the second prep in the race in 7th place (21:37.8). Xavier College Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) junior Sarah Fakler was 11th (22:00.1), Eureka (Eureka, Mo.) frosh Hannah Long 13th (22:07.9) and Chilne (Chilne, Ariz.) senior Rolonda Jumbo 16th (22:13.8). Three-time Foot Locker Finalist and Presbyterian Day (Macon, Ga.) junior Grace Tinkey, among the early leaders after being considered the strongest prep entry, faded to 18th.

On the men’s side, the high-schooler expected to finish highest was Fahy, but in addition to the weather adjustment, he entered Saturday’s race after being sick for the last week. This had also happened to him at the Foot Locker National Meet where he ran sick and finished 17th after going unbeaten in California all fall.

The pace in the 8K Junior Men's race was cautious considering the severe weather conditions. Through the 5k mark, there were 10 runners together coming by in a pedestrian 15:47. Coaches yelling at their athletes, “Let someone else lead! Be patient!”

Going into the final 2k loop of the Forest Park course, Fahy decided to make the first move while the group of predominately college runners just sat and let him do the work.

Fahy was in position to win or at least make the top six, despite being under the weather. “I felt good,” he told his coach, “so I decided to push the pace. I felt like I needed to make the move.”

In the hilly back section of the course, Syracuse frosh Jace Lowry made a definitive move that the rest of the pack could not respond to. He cruised to a 3 second win over the University of Minnesota duo of Adam Zutz and Aaron Bartnik. Fahy was the first high school runner to cross the line with his 7th place finish in 25:09.2.

“Despite that he was feeling bad and did not want to run, he ran a great race,” said Vice.

The next two preps were Hebron (Carrollton, Texas) senior teammates Kevyn Hoyos and Robert Domanic, in 11th (25:27.2) and 13th (25:35.3). Cypress Woods (Cypress, Texas) senior Craig Nowak, who was 3rd at NXN Finals and didn’t lose to the above rivals all year, was 16th (25:49.6) this time.
This past week, the Illinois High School Board of Directors voted to unanimously change the wording regarding the participation of athletes in meets sanctioned by the National Governing body. In the case of Track & Field and Cross Country, that meets that are sanctioned by USATF are now fair game for IHSA athletes to participate in, starting in the 2012-13 school year. Prior to this, the ruling was worded so that meets that were only sanctioned and conducted by USATF are allowed with a waiver. Currently in Illinois only two meets are both sanctioned and conducted by USATF, the Dorothy Dawson Zone Invitational at Proviso West High School on February 19th, and the USATF National Indoor Championships on March 10th & 11th in Bloomington. Several High School athletes in Illinois will be heading to those meets in order to receive FAT times and a chance to run on a 200 meter track.

Meets in the 2012-13 school year that are USATF Sanctioned will still require a waiver signed by the principal and submitted to the IHSA with time for them to review and approve the waiver. For Illinois athletes this means that they will be allowed to compete at some of the indoor National Championships like the New Balance (formerly Nike) Indoor Nationals, the many meets held at the SPIRE Track in Geneva Ohio, the University of Kentucky Club meet and several others throughout the Midwest. Both the Indiana and Michigan High School Associations do not recognize indoor track as a season, and as a result there are several indoor meets that are USATF sanctioned and many high school athletes from those states compete in those meets. In the past, athletes and teams from Illinois had participated in those meets inadvertently due to the confusion surrounding the previous by-law.

When asked about the change, IHSA Track & Field Chair Ron McGraw stated, “I am supportive of this change and very happy the membership felt it was an appropriate time to provide more flexibility in this area. It is exciting for our athletes and good for Illinois High School Track and Field for Illinois athletes to be allowed to represent Illinois in some of the premier national events (starting in 2012-13). I anticipate that the IHSA Board of Directors will review IHSA Policy 16 at some time prior to the start of next school year to establish a maximum number of non-interscholastic competitions that would be allowed by an athlete during any single school year or season.”

Some of the top USATF Sanctioned High School Meets
New Balance Indoor Nationals
The SPIRE Indoor Scholastic Meets
Trine, Indiana High School Invitational
Indiana Track Club High School Open in Bloomington, IN
Mideast Indoor Classic at Wabash College
University of Kentucky High School Open
Many others listed here
Indiana Open Meets

Coverage of the 2012 USATF XC Championships
Forest Park, St. Louis MO

LINKS: Meet Home Page | Junior Entries
Runnerspace.com Webcast
Scroll down for schedule

  • St. Mary's WV jr Maggie Drazba, the WV state champ and 13th at FL South, was the top prep in either junior race, taking 2nd with 21:07.7 for the Junior Women's 6k. DyeStat alum (8th in 2010 Foot Locker Finals) Shannon Osika, a U of Michigan frosh, won overall in 21:04.3. La Costa Canyon CA soph Emma Abrahamson was 7th (21:37), Xavier Prep AZ jr Sarah Fakler 11th (22:00), and Eureka MO frosh Hannah Long 14th (22:07).
  • In the Junior Men's race, La Costa Canyon CA sr Darren Fahy was the top prep, finishing 7th in 25:09.2 for 8k, just out of the money for NACAC team. Former Indiana prep Jacy Lowry (now a Syracuse frosh) won in 24:54.3. Hebron TX senior teammates Kevyn Hoyos (25:27) and Robert Domanic (25:35) were 11th and 13th, topping fellow Texan and Cypress Woods sr Craig Nowak's 16th (25:49).
  • Phillips Andover Acad. MA sr Cayla Hatton, who was 2nd last weekend in the NB Indoor GP girls mile, ran a very strong 13th in the Open (senior) Women's race with 28:26.6 for 8k. Sara Bei topped Molly Huddle in a battle of DyeStat alums for the win, both clocking 26:50.1.

PREVIEW: Fahy, Tinkey lead prep entries

By Bob Geiger and SteveU

The year 2012 is a very unusual one in international cross country: For the first time, since the meet was inaugurated back in 1973 (previously ICCU Championships since 1903), there will be no IAAF World Cross Country Championships. The sport’s international governing body made the decision in 2009 to go to an every-other-year format beginning with 2011, so the only Team USA berths on the line are for the NACAC Cross Country Championships, a continental meet taking place March 17, 2012, at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Hence, there’s less incentive for preps (or collegians or elites) to travel to St. Louis in the middle of February to battle over hill and dale in the Junior or Senior races.

Still, a hardy handful of top high schoolers from last fall’s harrier wars will take part in the Junior event, as well as some “DyeStat Alums,” and there will be some storylines worth following.

Junior Men’s 8K Race: Fahy’s chance at redemption

If there’s one prep to watch with an eagle eye Saturday, it’s Darren Fahy. The LaCosta Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) senior was ranked in the top 3-4 in the country much of the year as he went undefeated through Foot Locker West, winning the Stanford and Mt. SAC Invitationals, as well as the D2 state meet. In front of the home crowd at Balboa Park for Foot Locker Finals, however, Fahy was a crushing 17th. Before he starts the track season, this is a chance at redemption for the Californian – if he can fare well in what might be dismal weather.

At least another half dozen preps bear significant watching. Three of the other top entries are Texans. Cypress Woods (Cypress, Texas) senior Craig Nowak was tremendous last fall, taking his 5A state meet and then embarking on a nationals double quest: He was third at NXN South, then won Foot Locker South. After a tremendous third in Portland at the NXN Finals, he wound it up with a somewhat disappointing 14th in San Diego. So maybe he’d like a little redemption, too, but he’s still one of the most intriguing entries given that he’s considered a miler above all in track and could be tearing it up on the indoor oval.

That same Texas 5A meet saw Hebron seniors Kevyn Hoyos and Robert Domanic take third and fourth. At NXN South, Hoyos was 2nd and Domanic 7th, so while Hoyos then was 34th in Portland, Domanic went to Charlotte and placed 10th at Foot Locker South and 20th in the finals. Saturday, they’ll be racing together again.

Finally, not surprisingly the St. Louis location for USATFs has drawn some top Missouri runners. Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.) senior Zach Herriott was 4th at NXN Midwest, then 9th in the Finals. Festus (Festus, Mo.) senior Drew White was the 3A state champ, then 17th at NXN Midwest.

The favorite in the Junior Men’s race will be Ohio State freshman Michael Bradjic. Bradjic, who as a prep broke Bobby Kennedy's state meet course record, just competed last month in the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country Team Challenge, where he finished seventh to help lead the USA squad to the team title.

Junior Women: Tinkey leads contenders

In the Junior Women’s race, a pair of USATF Junior XC veterans from Arizona and a 3-time Foot Locker Finalist are among the prep contenders.

The latter would be Presbyterian Day School (Macon, Ga.) junior Grace Tinkey, who was 6th in the Finals in December after taking 10th and 20th as a soph and frosh, respectively. Tinkey recently ran 10:04 for 3000 meters at the Jimmy Carnes Invitational in Florida. The Arizonans include Chinle senior Rolonda Jumbo, who was 9th as a frosh in 2009, then 31st and 12th the past two seasons. Xavier College Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) junior Sarah Fakler was 11th here last year for a NACAC berth.

As for local favorites, watch for impressive Eureka frosh Hannah Long, who was 2nd in the Missouri 4A state meet and 11th at Foot Locker Midwest. Then a pair of Californians to watch for are two-time NXN Finals top-20 finisher Rebecca Mehra (Palos Verdes senior; 3rd in 2009, 16th in 2011) and Emma Abrahamson a soph for powerhouse La Costa Canyon. From West Virginia, there’s St. Mary’s jr Maggie Drazba, state champ and 13th at Foot Locker South.

Some post high school runners to look out for include Julie Nacouzi, who was a member of Team USA at last year's IAAF meet in Punta Umbria, Spain, and 3rd at the 2010 Foot Locker Finals. There’s also former Michigan preps Gabby Anzalone (now at Wisconsin; 11th in 2010 Foot Locker) and Shannon Osika (now at Michigan and a sub-4:40 miler; 8th in 2010 Foot Locker), for New York prep Shaylyn Tuite (now at Syracuse; 7th in 2010 NXN Finals).


8:30 a.m. High School 4 km
9:00 a.m. Community Race 4 km
9:45 a.m. Masters Women's 8 km
10:45 a.m. Masters Men's 8 km
11:45 a.m. Junior Women's 6 km
12:30 p.m. Junior Men's 8 km
1:15 p.m. Open Women's 8 km
2:00 p.m. Open Men's 12 km
Coverage of the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country International Challenge
Sat., Jan. 7, 2012 - Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland

LINKS: Meet's Own Site


  • In the junior men's race Mead (Spokane, Wash.) junior Andrew Gardner placed fifth in the 6-kilometer race and was the third American, finishing behind winner Kirubel Erassa and fourth-place Eddie Owens. Gardner was timed in 20:11 and was just 15 seconds behind Erassa at the finish.
  • Stanford freshman Aisling Cuffe placed second the 4K junior women's race. Early on Erin Finn (West Bloomfield, Mich.) had the lead. U.S. preps Molly Seidel (Hartland, Wis.) and Katie Knight (Spokane, Wash.) ran well enough to finish third and fourth overall.


SCHEDULE (All times U.K.)

08:30 Information, baggage and toilets open
09:55 Senior Women Inter District & U23 Celtic Nations
10:20 U15 Girls Inter District
10:30 Bupa Junior Great Winter Run 2.5K
10:45 U15 Boys Inter-district XC
11:00 Bupa Great Winter Run - 5K
11:05 U13 Girls Inter –district XC
11:25 3 Boys Inter –district XC
11:55 Bupa Great Edinburgh X Country Junior Men’s 6km (Inc. U17ID & U20 Celtic Nations)
12:30 Bupa Great Edinburgh X Country Junior Women’s 4km (Inc. U17ID & U20 Celtic Nations)
13:05 Bupa Great Edinburgh X Country Men’s 8km
13:45 Bupa Great Edinburgh X Country Women’s 6k
14:15 Bupa Great Edinburgh X Country Men’s 3km
14:30 Senior Men’s Inter District &U23 Celtic Nations

Tackling an appetite for two sports at once

December, 23, 2011
Peak Performance ChaseJohn Nepolitan/Scott RipleyFoot Locker finalist Sophie Chase of Virginia has managed to balance competing in two sports at the same time.
Champion runners Sophie Chase of Lake Braddock High in Burke, Va., and Nicole Mello of Hickman High in Columbia, Mo. have a lot more in common than being two of the nation’s up-and-coming distance stars.

They were both Foot Locker national cross country finalists this past season.

They’re both juniors. They’re both strongly-built young women at 5-feet-7 and 118 pounds. And, with much more activity on their plates than running, they both love to eat.

“I l-o-o-o-o-v-e breakfast,” said Mello, who placed 20th at Foot Locker after taking seventh in the Midwest Regional. After breakfast, in school, Mello said she snacks every hour, on energy bars, fruit, and peanut butter crackers.

“I eat a really big breakfast, a really big lunch and a really big dinner,” said Chase, 11th at Foot Locker in her second trip to the finals.

Chase loves breakfast as much as Mello does. She has oatmeal, a bagel and cream cheese, banana and yogurt. “And a lot of milk,” she added. “I’m big on milk.”

These two cosmic appetites are rooted in what Chase and Mello share the most: they are successful multi-sport athletes who started swimming at age 5 and currently swim and run in the same seasons. Both girls swim for club teams as well as their high school teams. Both run track and cross-country. Hence, for nourishment, both girls eat like there’s no tomorrow.

Non-Stop Training and Racing

In an era of youth sports specialization, these girls are in the vanguard of the next horizon — two-sport specialization in which a high school athlete goes pretty much full tilt in two sports year-around. Depending on your point of view, this is either a recipe for disaster — potential injury, burnout, conflicts among coaches and parents -- or an exciting challenge for exceptional teenagers who can use each sport as a building block while honing time management skills.

Amid their non-stop workouts and meets (how would you like to be on laundry detail in their households?), Chase and Mello have found ways to keep things in balance.

Peak Performance Mello
John Nepolitan/ESPNHSNicole Mello of Hickman in Columbia, Mo. jogs to the starting line of the Foot Locker finals as she is introduced. Mello balances competitive swimming with her running.
“Sophie benefits from swimming by getting in the extra cardio work without the pounding,” says Lake Braddock track and cross country coach Michael Mangan. “We work out the racing schedule ahead of time. It’s not an issue.”

“My running helps my swimming, and my swimming helps my running,” said Mello. “I feel odd on a day when I don’t have both sports. My body can tell when I really need a good swim.”

From a fitness standpoint, running and swimming are compatible cousins.

There’s no question that from their years in the pool Chase and Mello brought fantastic cardiovascular development into running. Chase started running in high school. Mello ran the Junior Olympics on a youth track squad before high school.

The war stories that track and cross country coaches often tell about multi-sport conflicts usually center on the consensus public enemy No. 1: soccer.

“The club movement is infringing on high school,” says Roger Evans, girls cross country and track coach at Simi Valley High in California, home of 2011 Nike Cross Nationals champion Sarah Baxter. Evans said that the issues usually revolved around traveling team soccer, but may also involve other travel sports like basketball and softball. In many communities, traveling team sports have few breaks and conflict with track and cross country.

Three Sports, Honors Classes… What Gives?

At Pearl River High in New York, girls track and cross country coach Dan Doherty has had runners doing three sports simultaneously—travel basketball and soccer in addition to track. “And usually,” said Doherty, “those same kids are taking all the honors classes. You wonder, ‘What are their parents thinking?’ Something’s got to give.”

Soccer’s impact on running made recent headlines when a top runner and soccer star from California, Sarah Robinson, a sophomore at Gunn High in Palo Alto, gave up her Foot Locker nationals berth to participate in a U.S. soccer under-17 training camp that same week. Robinson had placed fourth in the West Regional. This past fall she attended cross country and soccer practices daily.

As Doherty points out, since there is no such thing as “Little League Track,” most young athletes will enter a high school cross country or track program with years of family commitment to other sports. Coaches have no choice but to try and work out an accommodation with parents or risk losing talented runners.

Oftentimes, parents, groomed on community teams, do not appreciate the magnitude of a high school varsity program.

“Why are we the second fiddle?” asks Doherty.

The head coach at Hillsborough High where I assist in New Jersey, Rich Refi, asked the same question when a freshman girl missed meets for traveling softball and at times another freshman missed practice to attend a sibling’s club soccer match. Refi had worked out a schedule with the softball player in which she could do both sports. The girl was conscientious and a pretty good runner.

However, her busy season took its toll and in mid-season her parents pulled her out of cross country.

Chase, 17, joined high school cross country to get in better shape for swimming. “I didn’t think I would be much of a runner,” she said. Chase had run a 5:41 mile in middle school P.E. As a freshman, her 5k cross country times went from the mid-19s to the mid-17s. She placed third in state 3A, leading Lake Braddock to the team championship.

Mix and Match, From Track to Pool

Aside from parental issues, it takes a tremendous amount of planning and calculation to make the two-sport specialty work. This winter, Chase will run indoor track while swimming for both the high school team and her club, Mason Makos. Chase is a champion breaststroker who made the 2011 NCSA Junior Nationals in the 100 breaststroke. She’s also a 4:52/10:25 track performer outdoors.

Upcoming, Chase will do track practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then she’ll swim with her club from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday she’ll skip track while doing the high school swim practice along with some weight training. Friday’s an easy run then a swim meet at night. She’ll run Saturday and Sunday, with no swimming. Chase tries not to miss hard workouts, and also tries not to do a hard run on the same day as a hard swim.

“It’s definitely difficult,” said Chase, who maintains a perfect 4.0 GPA in the classroom. “Last year, I felt burnt out at the end of the winter season. But this year I’m a stronger athlete.”

Chase’s strength comes from smart eating, constant hydration and a good night’s sleep, 7 1/2 to 8 hours a night. Last year, she received dietary counseling from a nutritionist, who gave her a meal plan that included meat, fish and plenty of fresh vegetables. Her snacks after cross country practice and before swim practice were on the order of chocolate milk (shown to be an excellent recovery drink in various studies), fruit and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“Some girls who don’t put enough nutrition into their bodies will not be able to hold their strength for long,” said Chase.

That goal is no problem for Mello, who logs up to 7,000 yards at swim practice and feasts on her mother’s lasagna. Mello’s mother, Magda, is a nutritionist. Her father, Cesar, is a former world-class swimmer and coach. (Mello has an older sister swimming in college and a twin swimming with her at Hickman.) Like Chase, Mello is a top-notch student with a 3.9 GPA. “My parents always stress that academics come first,” she said.

Last fall, Mello, who turns 17 in May, was up at 4:40 a.m. for 5:30 club swim practice before school. After school, she did cross country. With her busy schedule, Mello wound up ninth in state Class 4 in 19:42. In the postseason, training on her own, she made it to seventh in the Foot Locker Midwest, running 17:43.

Sleep Issues Critical For Good Health

With her morning swim work, Mello said she gets only six hours of sleep a night, a deficiency associated with high injury risk. In the fall of 2010, Mello suffered a stress reaction in her foot and had to wear a boot. She still competed and qualified for state. According to news reports, Mello came to the state meet on crutches, removed the boot and ran, placing 11th. After that, Mello took a full recovery.

One key safety valve for Mello is that she does not run indoor track. In the winter, she swims only for Hickman, not the club, which resumes in spring. Each season has a priority, she said.

The key for all of this to work — other than heaping portions of lasagna — is for open communication among coaches, parents and athletes, so expectations are shared and compromises, when necessary, are understood. While it might be natural for track and cross country coaches to feel defensive, you can’t take a hard-line, all-or-nothing posture at the outset, or you’ll likely lose a youngster with potential.

Doherty said that if you enable the newcomer to experience success, you could win them over into running, especially as they develop new friendships.

Evans agreed. He’ll facilitate dual loyalties with freshmen, feeling that by sophomore year they’ll likely choose one sport or the other, oftentimes running.

Of course there are no guarantees. Doherty had a girl on his team who also played soccer and developed a bad case of shin splits. The doctor told her to lay off for a couple of weeks. “When I told the mom that her daughter had to lay off from soccer as well as track,” she said, “That’ll be the day.”

High School Track/XC Stories of the Year

December, 23, 2011
Lukas Verzbicas and Edward CheserekJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSLukas Verzbicas and Edward Cheserek, shown here after the epic NBIN 2-mile where they went 8:40.70 and 8:42.66, between them grabbed headlines all year long.
From the fast distance runs by Lukas Verzbicas and shot put USRs by Ryan Crouser in February to the sizzling battle between Edward Cheserek and Futsum Zeinasellasie at Foot Locker in December, 2011 was definitely a year to remember. Here are DyeStat's Top Stories:

Lukas Verzbicas: Distance Dominator

After beginning the 2010-11 school year with an unprecedented Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker XC double, Carl Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.) senior Lukas Verzbicas achieved something even greater when he became the first to triple in the 5,000 meters, two-mile and mile in an indoor or outdoor prep championship at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York.

Verzbicas set a prep record in the 5,000 meters (14:06.78) Thursday, then ran the second fastest two-mile in history (8:40.70) and kicked to a 4:10.67 mile victory on Sunday. In outdoor track, he only competed twice but made history each time. He lowered the prep two-mile record to 8:29.46 at the Prefontaine Classic, then ripped a 3:59.71 to win the Adidas Grand Prix Dream Mile in New York, becoming the fifth prep to break 4:00.

Verzbicas signed with Oregon, but he spent less than two months with the Ducks this fall, leaving to pursue of his dream of making the Olympics in the triathlon.

Fayetteville-Manlius Girls’ Cross Country Perseveres

While gunning for its sixth straight Nike Cross Nationals title this fall, the Fayetteville-Manlius (Manlius, N.Y.) girls’ cross country team lost two of its five top returning runners to injury, including 2010 NXN runner-up Christie Rutledge. And head coach Bill Aris was dealing with the passing of his father.

But the team stayed strong and rallied behind junior Jillian Fanning, who finished fourth individually at NXN, to hold off a challenge from powerful in-state rival Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) and triumph once again at Portland Meadows. The squad also finished No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Throws Titan Ryan Crouser Sets Two USRs Despite Injury

Despite injury issues that caused him to miss more than a month of action outdoors and relegated him to throwing from a standing position to win a state meet shot/discus double, Sam Barlow (Gresham, Ore.) senior Ryan Crouser still had an epic 2011 that included three national records. Foremost were an earth-shaking 77-2.75 indoor shot put USR at the Simplot Games in February and a 237-6 outdoor discus USR at an open meet in Oregon in July (also part of the best shot/discus double ever).

Four Multi-events U.S. Records For Gunnar Nixon

Edmond North (Edmond, Okla.) senior Gunnar Nixon set out in 2011 to surpass every track and field multis event available to him and by the end of June had done so in style, earning the Gatorade National Track and Field Athlete of the Year award. In March, he hammered home the final stretch of the event-ending 1000 meters to take the pentathlon record by a single point. Between April and June, he eclipsed marks set by Curtis Beach in 2009 in all three decathlons available to preps – with open/collegiate hurdles, shot put and discus (7,524 pts. at Arcadia Invite in April), with high school hurdles, shot put and discus (8,035 points at Great Southwest Classic in June), and with “Junior” hurdles, shot put and discus (7,748 points at the USATF Juniors, also in June).

Ed Cheserek: 7 Course Records In 7 Races, Then National Title

St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) junior Ed Cheserek was expected to be the top cross-country runner in the country in 2011 and didn’t disappoint. He set course records in his first seven races, through the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, topping superlative standards at nationally renowned venues like Van Cortlandt Park and Sunken Meadow in New York, and Holmdel Park in New Jersey. At the Foot Locker Finals in San Diego, he held off a great challenge from North Central (Indianapolis) senior Futsum Zeinasellassie – a fast friend and fierce rival, who was also unbeaten – to capture the title by less than a second in 14:52.

Six Golds for Team USA at World Youth Champs in France

Team USA’s high school stars earned six gold medals and 16 total medals at the IAAF World Youth Championships (athletes under-18), a week-long event in Lille, France. Golds were captured by Neptune (N.J.) junior Ajee Wilson in the 800 (2:02.64), Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Academy (Atlanta, Ga.) junior Nnenya Hailey in the 400 hurdles (57.93), St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) junior Arman Hall in the 400 (46.01), St. Mary’s (Berkeley, Calif.) junior Trinity Wilson in the 100 hurdles (13.11 seconds), Plano East (Plano, Texas) junior Jennifer Madu in the 100 dash (11.57), and the Team USA boys medley relay (World Youth record 1:49.47).

Chapus, Weissenbach Form Stunning Distance Duo in California

Juniors Amy Weissenbach and Cami Chapus became arguably the greatest girls distance duo ever at any high school with their spring/summer individual and collective performances. Weissenbach’s efforts were topped by a state-meet winning 2:02.04 800, #3 in prep history and best-ever in a high-school only race, which was a huge reason why she won the Gatorade National Track and Field Athlete of the Year award. Chapus became the nation’s top miler (4:42.71), as well as #1 at 1500 meters (4:17.12) and #2 at 1600 meters (4:40.88). Together, they were bookends on the distance medley relay team that destroyed the US record at New Balance Outdoor Nationals by nine seconds with an 11:22.23 clocking.

Aisling Cuffe’s Titles, Records Earn DyeStat Athlete of the Year

Cornwall Central (Cornwall, N.Y.) senior Aisling Cuffe added to her dominant Foot Locker Finals triumph in late 2010 (which earned her the Gatorade Cross-Country Athlete of the Year award) with indoor and outdoor track national championship performances that ultimately earned her DyeStat’s AOY award. She captured the New Balance Indoor Nationals 2M in March with 9:56.85, 2nd-fastest in prep history, then blasted a 9:54.22 national record for the same distance at New Balance Outdoor Nationals

Girls Year of the Javelin

Every now and then, a single event in track and field witnesses a confluence of outstanding performers in a single year that are so good that they collectively deserve recognition. In the girls javelin in 2011, Legacy (North Las Vegas, Nev.) junior Avione Allgood took down the national record with a heave of 176-8, and was one of four to better 173 feet as she and Chander (Chandler, Ariz.) senior Hannah Carson, Othello (Othello, Wash.) senior Christine Kirkwood, and Gresham (Gresham, Ore.) soph Haley Crouser finished the year 1-5-6-7 on the all-time list.

Morgann LeLeux Vaults to 5 national titles, USR

Generally, the more tests a top-ranked national athlete undertakes, the greater the chance of picking up one or more defeats becomes. But during a year where she also struggled mightily with Epstein-Barr Virus, pole vaulting Catholic (New Iberia, La.) senior Morgann LeLeux was everywhere and suffered nary a loss. She claimed both the New Balance Indoor and Outdoor national titles, the USATF Junior crown, and the Junior Olympic championships under both the AAU and USATF banners. The third of those also qualified her for the Pan American Juniors, in which she was also victorious. And if that wasn’t enough, she broke the US outdoor record with a 14-2.75 at her region meet in April.

Seidel, Finn, 3 from Spokane on U.S. team

December, 21, 2011
USA Track and Field has named five prep athletes to its junior teams that will compete at the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country Team Challenge on Jan. 7 in Scotland.

The six-member sides are comprised of a mix of college freshmen and high school students. The junior women's team is led by Standford freshman Aisling Cuffe, the Dyestat female Athlete of the Year in cross country and track and field for he 2010-11 school year. She is joined by Kaitlin Flattman and Jessica Jackson, both from the University of Arkansas. Additionally, Foot Locker finals winner and runner-up Molly Seidel (Hartland, Wis.) and Erin Finn (West Bloomfield, Mich.), and Nike Cross Nationals third-place finisher Katie Knight (Spokane, Wash.).

The junior men's squad includes Princeton freshman Eddie Owens, Ohio State's Michael Bradjic, Oklahoma State's Kirubel Erassa and Virginia Tech's Thomas Curtain. The are joined by two high school runners, both from Spokane. Nathan Weitz and Andrew Gardner were third and sixth, respectively, at the Foot Locker finals.

It is the first year the event has included a junior component. The U.S. team will race Great Britain, Northern Ireland and a select European team in both senior and junior races. The top four finishers on the junior teams factor into the scoring. For more information, visit USATF.org

Catarina Rocha has a Foot Locker pedigree

December, 19, 2011
RochaDonna Dye/ESPNHSCatarina Rocha, left, and her mom, Gina, pose for Donna Dye's camera at the Foot Locker national finals in San Diego.
Two-time Foot Locker finalist Catarina Rocha of Peabody (Peabody, Mass.) was unaware that both of her parents ran in the national championship event until just over a year ago.

Rocha, a junior who finished seventh on Dec. 10 at San Diego’s Balboa Park, said she had never heard of the Foot Locker meet until she came out for the cross country team at the start of the 2010 season.

As it turns out, she has a special place in the history of the meet. Rocha is the first child of two previous finalists to quality for the championship.

“I didn’t even know,” she said. “(My parents) don’t make a big deal out of it.”

The family’s history with the meet extends all the way back to the first Kinney Cross Country Championship in 1979. Catarina’s uncle, Fernando Braz, ran in the inaugural race and was 15th.

Three years later, Jose Rocha (he goes by Joe now), competed in the 1982 race in Orlando. He also placed 15th.

John Dye/ESPNHSCatarina Rocha approaches the finish line at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships on Dec. 10.
And two years after that, in 1984, Gina Braz, Fernando’s little sister, ran in San Diego, where she finished 21st.

Fernando, Joe and Gina all left their mark at Boston College as well. Joe Rocha and Fernando Braz still hold down the Nos. 1 and 2 all-time performances in the 10,000 meters in BC history. Gina was a standout on the BC cross country team.

It was in college, running for the Eagles, where Gina met Joe. She was a freshman and he was a junior. Their common past as Kinney national finalists would have been part of their earliest conversations.

“We talked about it a little bit,” Gina said. “We probably talked about our experiences (at the meet), but they were at different sites.”

Joe said his memories of the 1982 race have faded over the years.

“The only think I remember is spending the day at Disney World and being tired before the race,” he said.

Gina and Joe continued to run after their marriage. Joe qualified for the 1988 Olympic Trials in the 10,000 but was injured before he got the starting line. Gina qualified for the Olympic marathon trials in 2004 but got hurt during the race and didn’t finish.

Braz-Rocha coaching connection

Fernando and Joe coach together in Peabody. Fernando is the boys track and field coach for the indoor and outdoors seasons. Joe is the head cross country coach and has the girls during indoor and outdoor track.

So it would only be natural that in this environment Catarina would be groomed for running success, right?

Well, not necessarily. Catarina grew up playing soccer (although she did run cross country in middle school) and when she entered Peabody as a freshman she turned out for soccer and made the varsity lineup.

“As she was growing up we never pushed her in any direction,” Gina said. “Our hope is that she would find something she was passionate about. She was in soccer and that’s what we supported her in.”

Gina played basketball in middle school, too. But at Peabody she decided to try indoor track and she fell in love with it.

Still, in the summer before her sophomore year, Catarina’s parents figured that she was going to return to soccer. They were surprised when she signed up to join her father’s cross country team.

“She never said that she wanted to be a runner, but she had a little bit of success her freshman year running the mile,” Joe said. “We had invested so much time and money into soccer that, as a parent, we were like ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’”

Catarina was firm in her decision to pursue running and she hasn’t looked back since. As a sophomore she won the Division I state meet and placed second in the all-state meet.

Her father wanted to take a few boys to the Foot Locker regional meet and Catarina asked if she could go too. She tagged along – and placed eighth to earn a trip to San Diego.

“We were really surprised that she qualified,” Gina said.

Catarina was still brand new to high school cross country. She finished 31st.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I went for the experience. It was kind of cool to watch everyone else.”

As a junior, Catarina took her training a bit more seriously and brought her 5,000-meter times down.

Moving up at Foot Locker

At San Diego, she had a handle on what to expect. She planned to stay in the top 15 for as long as she could. She held her ground in the chase pack – behind eventual 1-2 Molly Seidel and Erin Finn – and moved up from ninth to seventh in the last final 400 meters. She improved on her 2010 performance at Balboa Park by 56 seconds.

It was the best result in family history. And she could potentially come back for another crack at it in 2012.

“We play things down a little,” Gina said of the family’s history with the meet.

Catarina has been the one asking the questions, prying information from her parents about their experiences. She has never seen photos or videos of her parents’ races at the Kinney championships.

“I wasn’t at the level (Catarina) was at,” Gina said. “I was 21st. I was overwhelmed with the competition there. But I was also far more nervous watching Catarina than I was running it.”

Those who watch Catarina run say that her form is reminiscent of her father. But her racing instincts, and her kick, come from her mother.

“I am very proud of her as a dad and very proud as a coach,” Joe said. “I knew she was ripe to run in the 17:30s. At the regional she ran conservative and was just trying to (qualify). One of her strengths is that she knows what she wants to do. She rises to the competition even though it is still very new to her.”

Running, and the Foot Locker (Kinney) Finals, are in her blood.

“It’s kind of cool knowing your dad and mom and uncle did it,” Catarina said. “And now me. I’m part of that history now.”

The family legacy may not end with Catarina. She has two younger brothers as well as cousins (children of Fernando and another uncle, Helder) who are on their way up as well.

Sully's Foot Locker Stats: All-Time records and results through 2011

December, 12, 2011
Andrew GardnerJohn Dye/ESPNHSMead, Wash. high school has 7 All-American showings at Foot Locker, the most of any school, including 2 by Andrew Gardner (center).

Foot Locker Finals Index

Foot Locker Finals – Results Stats through 2011
compiled by John Sullivan

Edward Cheserek, 1st New Jersey (joins 1 other winner from New Jersey)
Josh Brickell, 8th Georgia (equals Kirubel Erassa)

Molly Seidel, 1st Wisconsin (old State best 2nd by Suzy Favor in 1985)
Abbey Leonardi, 4th Maine (old State best 5th by Susannah Beck in 1985)
Grace Tinkey, 6th Georgia (old State best 7th by Kyla Barbour in 1995)

Edward Cheserek, 14:51.5 New Jersey (old record 15:09.6, Bob Keino, 1993)

Grace Tinkey, 17:37.0 Georgia (old record 17:47.4, Mindy Lukens, 1984)

14:51.5 Edward Cheserek, St Benedict HS, NJ (old record 15:16, Brandon Jarrett, 2007)
14:52.1 Futsum Zeinasellassie, North Central HS, IN (his own 15:10 in 2010)
15:20.5 Nathan Weitz, Shadle Park HS, WA (his own 15:52 in 2010)
15:24.4 Thomas Graham, Cary Academy HS, NC (his own 15:39 in 2010)
15:28.0 Sean McGorty, Chantilly HS, VA (old record 15:43.1, Eric Post, 1995)
15:28.9 Dallin Farnsworth, Highland HS, ID (old record 15:44, Taylor Farnsworth, 2006)
15:29.2 Ahmed Bile, Annandale HS, VA (his own 15:33 in 2010)
15:33.7 Darren Fahy, La Costa Canyon HS, CA (his own 15:51 in 2010)
15:45.4 Jonathan Green, St John HS, MA (old record 16:13.2, Chris Georgules, 1990)

17:23.9 Erin Finn, West Bloomfield HS, MI (her own 17:38 in 2010)
17:35.3 Abbey Leonardi, Kennebunk HS, ME (old record 17:55.0, Laura Duffy, 1986)
17:35.6 Karlie Garcia, Oakmont HS, CA (her own 17:59.7 in 2009)
17:37.0 Grace Tinkey, Presbyterian Day HS, GA (her own 17:53 in 2010)
17:37.3 Catarina Rocha, Peabody HS, MA (old record 18:08.0 by her mother, Gina Braz, 1984)
17:46.1 Angel Piccirillo, Homer-Center HS, PA (her own 18:34 in 2010)
18:07.9 Cami Chapus, Harvard-Westlake HS, CA (old record 18:36, Lindsay Flacks, 2003)
18:14.5 Anna Maxwell, San Lorenzo Valley HS, CA (her own 18:27 in 2010)
18:16.1 Taylor Manett, Rockford HS, MI (old record 18:35, Katie Haines, 2007)
18:32.1 Caroline Kellner, W Windsor-Plainsboro So, NJ (old record 18:34, Katie Kellner, 2008)

14:51.5 JR Edward Cheserek, St Benedict, NJ (old JR record 14:54.4, Marc Davis, 1985)

None (17:39.1 Makena Morley, MT is #5 on freshman list, 17:33.9 Laura Leff, NY is #14 on soph list)

Boys (at least 5)
7 Mead, WA by 6 athletes (including Andrew Gardner 2010-11)
6 Klamath Union, OR by 3 athletes
6 Wheeling, IL by 2 athletes
5 Jesuit, CA by 4 athletes

Girls (at least 5)
6 Smoky Hill, CO by 4 athletes
6 Saratoga Springs, NY by 3 athletes
5 Agoura, CA by 2 athletes
5 Boulder, CO by 2 athletes
5 Reno, NV by 2 athletes

Boys (at least 15)
79 California
30 Illinois
25 New York
25 Ohio
23 Indiana (including Futsum Zeinasellassie in 2011)
23 New Jersey (including Edward Cheserek in 2011)
22 Texas (including Daniel Vertiz & Craig Nowak in 2011)
22 Virginia (including Sean McGorty & Ahmed Bile in 2011)
19 Washington (including Nathan Weitz & Andrew Gardner in 2011)

18 Michigan
17 Massachusetts
16 Colorado

Girls (at least 15)
84 California (including Karlie Garcia in 2011)
47 New York (including Laura Leff in 2011)
27 Virginia (including Sophie Chase in 2011)
25 Pennsylvania (including Angel Piccirillo in 2011)

23 Illinois
21 Ohio
22 Colorado
19 Michigan (including Erin Finn, Julia Bos & Lindsey Burdette in 2011
19 New Jersey
16 Texas (including Karis Jochen in 2011)

8 California
5 Michigan
4 Illinois
2 Massachusetts
2 New Jersey (includes Edward Cheserek in 2011)
2 Ohio
1 Arizona
1 Colorado
1 Indiana
1 Kansas
1 Maryland
1 New Hampshire
1 North Dakota
1 Texas
1 Virginia
1 Wisconsin

8 California
4 New York
3 Colorado
2 Connecticut
2 Vermont
2 Virginia
1 Florida
1 Hawaii
1 Idaho
1 Indiana
1 Maryland
1 Michigan
1 Montana
1 New Hampshire
1 New Jersey
1 Ohio
1 Tennessee
1 Wisconsin (Molly Seidel 2011)

16 Midwest
9 West
6 Northeast (including Edward Cheserek in 2011)
2 South

11 West
11 Northeast
7 Midwest (including Molly Seidel 2011)
4 South

15 Midwest
14 West
3 Northeast
1 South (in 2011)

15 Midwest (in 2011)
10 Northeast
8 West
0 South

Edward Cheserek’s 14:51.5 is the 8th best winning time and #12 overall.

Molly Seidel’s 17:21.4 is the 17th best winning time and #41 overall.

Boys (since NXN added Individuals in 2008)
2 Lukas Verzbicas IL - 1st NXN, 1st Foot Locker
3 Futsum Zeinasellassie IN - 1st NXN, 2nd Foot Locker
5 Craig Lutz TX - 1st NXN, 4th Foot Locker 2009
7 Daniel Vertiz TX - 2nd NXN, 5th Foot Locker 2011
7 Jakub Zivec MN - 2nd NXN, 5th Foot Locker 2008
11 Drew Shields IN - 7th NXN, 4th Foot Locker 2008
12 Tony Smoragiewicz SD - 9th NXN, 3rd Foot Locker 2010

Girls (since NXN added Individuals in 2008)
3 Rachel Johnson TX - 1st NXN, 2nd Foot Locker 2010
5 Chelsey Sveinsson TX - 1st NXN, 4th Foot Locker 2008
9 Katie Flood IA - 1st NXN, 8th Foot Locker 2009
13 Ashlie Decker IA - 4th NXN, 9th Foot Locker 2009
14 Lindsay Flanagan NY - 5th NXN, 9th Foot Locker 2008
17 Rachel Johnson TX - 6th NXN, 11th Foot Locker 2009
20 Allison Woodward WI - 14th NXN, 6th Foot Locker 2010

21 Jorge Torres, Wheeling HS, IL (13-5-2-1)

Girls (sum is 50 or less)
11 Marie Lawrence, Reno HS, NV (2-2-2-5)
15 Jordan Hasay, Mission Prep HS, CA (1-10-3-1)
25 Kathy Kroeger, Independence HS, TN (6-2-1-16)
32 Katy Radkewich, Beaumont HS, OH (20-7-3-2)
33 Cathy Schiro, Dover HS, NH (19-10-3-1)
33 Megan Thompson, Hazelwood Central HS, MO (22-3-6-2)
37 Zoe Nelson, Flathead HS, MT (20-1-8-8)
38 Kauren Tarver, Serrano HS, CA (10-7-5-16)
40 Kira Jorgensen, Rancho Buena HS, CA (14-4-1-21)
44 Aurora Scott, various schools, VA (7-2-9-26)
44 Rebecca Mitchell, Geneva HS, IL (6-3-9-26)
47 Deena Drossin, Agoura HS, CA (11-17-13-6)

2-MILE PR FOR INDIVIDUAL CHAMPS (includes high school times run before and after Foot Locker)
Edward Cheserek’s 8:42.66i 2-Mile PR is the 2nd best out of all 30 Foot Locker champions

Molly Seidel’s 10:20.59 2-Mile PR is the 13th best out of all 29 Foot Locker champions

Sully's Foot Locker Stats: All-Time appearances through 2011

December, 12, 2011
Sophie ChaseDonna Dye/ESPNHSSophie Chase, with mom Caroline, is the 8th girls' Foot Locker Finalist from Lake Braddock, Va., the most of any school

Foot Locker Finals Index

Through 2011 Foot Locker Region meets
compiled by John Sullivan

Schools with the most Foot Locker National appearances
BOYS (at least 5 appearances)
12 The Woodlands, TX (formerly called McCullough) by 9 athletes
11 Mead, WA by 9 athletes (including Andrew Gardner 2010-11)
9 Kingwood, TX by 4 athletes
7 Jesuit, CA by 5 athletes
7 Wheeling, IL by 2 athletes
6 North Hunterdon, NJ by 5 athletes
6 Klamath Union, OR by 3 athletes
5 York, IL by 5 athletes
5 Chantilly, VA by 4 athletes (including Sean McGorty 2011)
5 Baylor, TN by 4 athletes
5 Mt Tabor, NC by 3 athletes
5 West Springfield, VA by 3 athletes
5 Lyman, FL by 2 athletes
5 Southlake Carroll TX by 2 athletes
5 St Xavier, KY by 2 athletes

GIRLS (at least 6 appearances)
17 Saratoga Springs, NY by 7 athletes
12 Lake Braddock, VA by 8 athletes (including Sophie Chase 2010-11)
9 Smoky Hill, CO by 4 athletes
8 Virginia, VA by 4 athletes
7 Rockford, MI by 5 athletes (including Taylor Manett 2011)
7 Boulder, CO by 4 athletes
7 Beaumont, OH by 3 athletes
7 Robinson, VA by 2 athletes
6 Reno, NV by 3 athletes
6 Southlake Carroll, TX by 3 athletes
6 North Hunterdon, NJ by 3 athletes
6 Centreville, VA by 3 athletes
6 Agoura, CA by 2 athletes

BOYS & GIRLS COMBINED (at least 8 appearances)
18 Saratoga Springs, NY by 8 athletes
14 The Woodlands, TX (formerly called McCullough) by 11 athletes
12 Mead, WA by 10 athletes (including Andrew Gardner 2010-11)
12 North Hunterdon, NJ by 8 athletes
12 Lake Braddock, VA by 8 athletes (including Sophie Chase 2010-11)
11 Rockford, MI by 7 athletes (including Taylor Manett 2011)
10 Smoky Hill, CO by 5 athletes
10 Virginia, VA by 5 athletes
10 Agoura, CA by 4 athletes
9 Klamath Union, OR by 5 athletes
9 Southlake Carroll TX by 5 athletes
9 Kingwood, TX by 4 athletes (all boys)
8 York, IL by 8 athletes

Schools with appearances in the most consecutive years
BOYS (at least 4 years in a row)
4 The Woodlands, TX (formerly called McCullough) 2002-2005 & also 1984-1987
4 Central Catholic, OR 2002-2005
4 Wheeling, IL 1995-1998
4 Kingwood, TX 1992-1995
4 Southlake Carroll, TX 2005-08

GIRLS (at least 5 years in a row)
6 Smoky Hill, CO 2000-2005
5 Saratoga Springs, NY 2002-06
5 Santa Rosa, CA 1994-1998
5 Centreville, VA 1993-1997

Schools with 3 or more runners in the same year

3 Kingwood, TX 1993 & also 1994

4 Saratoga Springs, NY 2005 & also 2004
3 Virginia, VA 1979

BOYS & GIRLS (at least 1 of each)
5 Saratoga Springs, NY 2005
4 Virginia, VA 1979
3 Midlothian, VA 2007
3 Southlake Carroll, TX 2005
3 Smoky Hill, CO 2003
3 Rockford, MI 2000
3 Virginia, VA 1980

Families with the most Foot Locker National appearances (at least 2 members)
7 Jorge (1995-98) & Ed (1996-98) Torres, Wheeling, IL
6 Megan (2000-02) & Katelyn (2002-04) Kaltenbach, Smoky Hill, CO
6 Nick (1987-88) Radkewich, Lyman, FL & Katy (1993-96) Radkewich, Beaumont, OH
5 Fernando (1979) & Gina (1984) Braz, Peabody, MA and Jose (1982) Rocha (married Gina), New Bedford, MA and Catarina (2010-11) Rocha (Jose & Gina’s daughter), Peabody, MA
5 Marie (2003-06) & Collier (2003) Lawrence, Reno, NV
5 Laura (1994-97) & Jessica (1993) Heiner, Centreville, VA
5 Brad (1992-94) & Brent (1993-94) Hauser, Kingwood, TX
4 Vickie (1979-81) Cook (mother) Alemany, CA & Cami (2011) Chapus (daughter), Harvard-Westlake, CA
4 Kathryn (2009-10) & Erika (2009-10) Fluehr, Community School of Naples, FL
4 Martin (1989) & Kippy (2002) Keino, Fork Union, VA and Bob (1992-93) Keino, Ridgewood, NJ
4 Jodie (1985-87) & Stacy Ann (1983) Bilotta, North Hunterdon, NJ
4 Eric (1984-85) & Mark (1984-85) Mastalir, Jesuit, CA
3 Tyler (2008-09) & Blake (2011) Udland, Millburn, NJ
3 Katie (2008) & Caroline (2010-11) Kellner, West Windsor-Plainsboro South, NJ
3 Jama (1991) Bile (uncle), Fork Union, VA & Ahmed (2010-11) Bile (nephew), Annandale, VA
3 Nadya (2006-07) & Nastia (2007) Bishton, Mountain Ridge, AZ
3 Garrett (2002-03) & Elliott (2006) Heath, Winona, MN
3 Ayalew (2005) & Sintayehu (2005-06) Taye, Cushing Academy, MA
3 Diego (2004-05) & Danny (2005) Mercado, West Covina, CA
3 Andy (1997-98) & Sara (2002) Powell, Ames, MA
3 Golden (1999) & Amber (2001-02) Harper, Orem, UT
3 Laura (1999-00) & Jackie (2001) Zeigle, Bingham, UT
3 Kathy (1981-82) Bishop Amat, CA & Annie (1995) Ebiner, St Lucy's Priory, CA
3 Carrie (1992-93) & Heather (1994) Garritson, Buena Park, CA
3 Matt (1992-93) & Micah (1993) Davis, Mead, WA
3 Theo (1991-92) & Tim (1992) Martin, Page, AZ
3 Brant (1988-89) & Kyle (1989) Armentrout, Mt.Tabor, NC
3 Christopher (1987) & Calley (1988-89) Nelson, Florence, CO
3 Emily (1988) Cartwright, Keene, NH and Bret (1985) & Natalie (1984) Cartwright, Mascenic, NH
3 Susan (1986-87) & Sarah (1987) Bliss, Francis Howell, MO
3 Andrea (1981-82) & Susan (1986) Volpe, Lake Braddock, VA
2 Lindsay (2008) & Kaylee (2011) Flanagan, Lake Park, IL
2 Taylor (2006) & Dallin (2011) Farnsworth, Highland, ID
2 Angelina (2003) Northwestern, SC & Mark (2011) Blackmon, West Charlotte, NC
2 Bobby (2007) & Danny (2009) Niccols, Regis Jesuit, CO
2 Ryan (2000) & Chad (2006) Hall, Big Bear, CA
2 Ceci (1980) Hopp (mother) Greenwich, CT & Anne (2005) St Geme (daughter), Corona Del Mar, CA
2 Bobby (2002) & Eric (2003) Mack, North Forsyth, NC
2 John (1999) & Sean (1999) Jefferson, Atlantic, FL
2 Jesse (1992) & Scott (1987) Cody, Rindge & Latin, MA

Honorable mention:
Galen Rupp (2002-03) Portland Central Catholic, OR married Keara Sammons (2004-05) Smoky Hill, CO
Dathan Ritzenhein (1998-00) Rockford, MI married Kalin Toedebusch (1999-00) Rockford, MI
Ryan Hall (2000) Big Bear, CA married Sara Bei (1997-98 & 2000) Montgomery, CA
Steve Slattery (1996-97) Mt Olive, NJ married Sara Gorton (1997) Mt Pointe, AZ
Matt Lane (1995) Yarmouth, ME married Erin Sullivan (1997-98) Mt Mansfield Union, VT
Adam Dailey (1993-94) Stephen F Austin, TX married Jessica Koch (1994-95) Round Rock, TX
Adam Goucher (1991-93) Doherty, CO married Kara Grgas-Wheeler (1993-94) Duluth East, MN
Bob Henes (1985) Woodbridge, OH married Laurie Gomez (1987) Boardman, OH
Jose Rocha (1982) New Bedford, MA married Gina Braz (1984) Peabody, MA (and now their daughter Catarina 2010-11)
Gavin Gaynor (1982) Hancock County, KY married Stacy Bilotta (1983) North Hunterdon, NJ
John Easker (1980) Wittenberg-Birnamwood, Wi married Cathy Branta (1980) Slinger, WI

4-time Qualifiers

Jorge Torres Wheeling, IL 1995-1998

Note – another 22 are 3-time qualifiers, including Futsum Zeinasellassie. He made it in 2008 (freshman), didn’t run Region as a Soph, then made it as a Jr and Sr (2011).

Jessica Tonn, Xavier HS, AZ 2006-09
Emily Sisson, Marian HS, NE, Millard North HS, NE & Parkway Central HS, MO 2006-09
Jordan Hasay, Mission Prep HS, CA, 2005-08
Kathy Kroeger, Independence HS, TN, 2005-08
Shelby Greany Suffern HS, NY 2005-08
Aurora Scott, Western Branch HS, VA, Oaktree Academy, VA & home schooled 2004-07
Kauren Tarver, Serrano HS, CA 2004-07
Marie Lawrence Reno HS, NV 2003-06
Kate Niehaus Spring Valley HS, SC 2002-05
Nicole Blood Saratoga Springs HS, NY 2002-05
Zoe Nelson Flathead HS, MT 2001-04
Rebecca Mitchell Geneva HS, IL 1996-99
Laura Heiner Centreville HS, VA 1994-97
Jackie Kerr Thomas Jefferson HS, VA 1993-96
Katy Radkewich Beaumont HS, OH 1993-96
Carrie Garritson Buena Park HS, CA 1990-93
Meghan McCarthy Robinson HS, VA 1988-91
Megan Flowers Trinity Valley HS, TX 1988-91
Deena Drossin Agoura HS, CA 1987-90
Megan Thompson Hazelwood Central HS, MO 1986-89
Kira Jorgensen Rancho Buena HS, CA 1985-88
Donna Combs Ballard HS, KY 1982-85
Cathy Schiro Dover HS, NH 1981-84

Seidel digs deep and pulls out victory

December, 10, 2011
Molly Seidel and Erin FinnJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSMolly Seidel and Erin Finn fight up the final hill.

Foot Locker Finals Index

It’s been a wild ride for US#2 Molly Seidel through four years of cross country in Wisconsin – and that was before the final 600 meters on Saturday at Balboa Park.

Seidel, who attends small private University Lake School (with less than 100 students), beat the reigning state champion in her first race as a freshman, when she barely knew what she was capable of. She was once disqualified at the end of the race for having rolled the waist band of her oversized shorts, causing the state association to amend one of its uniform rules.

And a year ago, Seidel was at home, hobbling around on crutches while the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships went on without her. Her leg began to ache on a trip to Hawaii and when she returned home to run in the Midwest Regional, it was obvious something was wrong. She ran and placed 11th – one spot out of a trip to San Diego. She later discovered that she had a staph infection in her leg.

On Saturday, Seidel’s up-and-down career ended on a mountaintop. She passed early flier Erin Finn twice in the last half mile and won the girls championship in 17:22 – and became the first Wisconsin winner of the race.

“This is incredible, after last year and the disappointment,” Seidel said. “A year ago I was at home, just getting off my crutches. I was thinking ‘What could have been had I been at Foot Locker? ‘This is complete (redemption). It’s incredible right now, just total disbelief.”

Laura Leff
John Dye/ESPNHSLaura Leff takes 3rd in the Foot Locker Finals girls race.
The girls race lost some of its star power when so many of the top 10 individuals chose to run at Nike Cross Nationals, but the race still lived up to Foot Locker’s high standards and produced nearly as much drama as the ballyhooed boys showdown.

Finn, the Michigan champion from West Bloomfield High, sped out to an early lead and then kept pressing, and gapping, the field. Finn was up by as much as 50 meters and it looked like she might break the field with her gutsy all-in move. She had finished 7th last year and was the highest returnee, but then was a distant 3rd to Seidel at Foot Locker Midwest. Saturday, Finn looked like a potential national champion.

“It definitely crossed my mind that it could be another Aisling Cuffe (type) win,” Seidel said, referring to the 2010 race. “I just tried to stay hopeful.”

Seidel, the Midwest champion and pre-race favorite, steered through the early traffic and took a position near the front of the chase pack, where she could see Finn up ahead by eight seconds.

As the runners approached the hill for the second time, Seidel closed the gap and moved ahead of Finn and into the lead.

As she summited the hill, she had more than five meters on Finn.

But then the runners turned and went down the sharp grade along Upas Street, and Finn flew back into contention and sped past.

“I knew that she was stronger than me on hills,” Finn said. “But I was stronger than her on the downhills. I knew if I had any chance of staying with her I had to pass her on the downhill.”

But over the final 400, Seidel refused to let go of her goal and pressed herself to respond once again.

“The last 400 was one of the toughest I’ve ever raced,” Seidel said.

Even though it was her first appearance at Foot Locker, she had clearly done her homework. She knew how the 2010 race had gone, and 2009 as well.

“Two year ago Megan Goethals came up from behind Chelsey Sveinsson and got her and I was definitely scared of that (happening to me),” Seidel said. “I pushed it the last minute until I hit that tape.”

Finn felt good about her second place finish, and the thought that she will have another chance next year.

“I just felt good going out (to the front),” Finn said. “I know it’s not the winner that’s first at mile one or mile two. It’s really what I’ve always done. For the end of this year (second) is pretty good.”

Sophomore Laura Leff of West Genesee High in Syracuse, N.Y. was a surprise third, 10 seconds back of Finn. She had placed 5th at Foot Locker Northeast after taking 2nd at the New York Feds meet. Northeast teammate Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunk High in Maine, a 3-time finalist (2nd in NE region all 3 years) was a career-best fourth in 17:36.

The 1-2 finish of Seidel and Finn led the Midwest to the team title with 42 points, 10 better than the Northeast.

Karlie Garcia, who missed a year with ailment and injury after qualifying as a freshman, returned to Foot Locker and made it to fifth place. The junior from Oakmont High in Roseville, Calif. was second the California Division III race and won Foot Locker West.

“It feels really good,” Garcia said. “It’s an accomplishment.”

Cheserek, Zeinasellassie forge bond

December, 10, 2011
Ed Cheserek and Futsum ZeinasellassieJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSEd Cheserek and Futsum Zeinasellassie grind up the hill the final time.

Foot Locker Finals Index

Futsum Zeinasellassie didn’t come to San Diego to make friends with Edward Cheserek. He wanted to stay serious, focused and win.

“I was trying not to talk to him all week,” Zeinasellassie said. “I wanted to focus on this race because I wanted to beat him so bad.”

But on Thursday, the entire group of Foot Locker finalists went for a jog outside the Hotel del Coronado. Zeinasellassie was with was surrounded by the other qualifers from the Midwest when another runner approached. It was Cheserek.

“He came up to me and said ‘Are you Futsum?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’” Zeinasellassie said.

And from that moment, whatever tension might have existed between them evaporated into thin air. Cheserek attached himself to Zeinasellassie and hung out in his hotel room.

The two African-born runners dominated high school cross country this fall for their respective U.S. high schools. And Saturday at Balboa Park, their competition produced one of the best boys finals ever. After trading surge and counter-surge over the final two miles, Zeinasellassie tried to push away up the final ascent of the hill.

Cheserek was unwilling to let Zeinasellassie go. He began sprinting up the hill until he had pulled back to even, and then back into the lead.

They roared down the final hill along Upas Street and it became a sprint to the finish. That favored the 4:03 miler, Cheserek, and he got the finish line in 14:51 – one second ahead of his new friend.

“We’ve become friends and been chillin’ together,” said Cheserek, who came to New Jersey’s St. Benedict’s Prep School a year and a half ago from Kenya’s Rift Valley.

Cheserek has deep connections to Kenya’s running culture and was a national champion for his age group in the 10,000 meters before coming to New Jersey. (He said he has a younger brother, 15, who ran 1:48 for 800 earlier this week).

Zeinasellassie, who was born in Eritrea and moved to the U.S. with his family five years ago, said he feels a bond with Cheserek.

“He’d come to my (hotel) room, but we never talked about the race,” Zeinsellassie said. “He reminds me of myself two years ago. The way he behaved with me, I was just like him.”

Cheserek is no stranger to national level competition in the U.S., but he is still catching up socially and culturally. Zeinasellassie, on the other hand, said he has come to feel more at home in the U.S.

Zeinasellassie was seventh at Foot Locker as freshman in 2008 and second last year to Lukas Verzbicas. He won the Nike Cross Nationals individual title last week in Portland.

The two runners, ranked 1 and 2 virtually all season, followed one another intently on the internet. But until Thursday they had never met in person.

“I had read a lot (about Zeinasellassie),” Cheserek said. “So I wanted to say ‘Nice to meet you.’”

Zeinasellassie tried to prepare for multiple race scenarios. Should he go hard early? Should he try to move late?

Beating a runner who had broken course records each time he raced this year was a riddle that he was not able to solve – at least this time.

“He would run as hard as he (could) for 25 seconds and then slow down,” Zeinasellassie said. “And I would think at the time, ‘OK, he’s done’ and I would pick up the pace and try to move. But it didn’t work because then he would do it again.”

If their budding friendship didn’t cement the bond between them, perhaps Saturday’s engrossing competition did. They will go into history linked by their 2011 clash at Balboa Park.

“Hopefully we’ll stay in touch,” Zeinasellassie said. “And I’ll make my college choice in a little bit and he might come to the same college. We’ll see what happens. But I really like him and I think he likes me, too.”

Cheserek has a short turnaround before starting indoor track next week. But he confirmed that he’d like to stay in touch with his new friend.

Nathan Weitz
John Dye/ESPNHSNathan Weitz takes 3rd at Foot Locker Finals.
“Of course,” he said. “Futsum’s a very nice guy.”

The top two finishers ran out of eyesight of the rest of the field. Behind them, Nathan Weitz of Spokane (who attends the tiny Oaks Classical Christian Academy and competes for Shadle Park), rallied late and edged Bismarck, N.D.’s Jake Leingang for third place. Weitz finished in 15:21 and Leingang was next in 15:22.

Daniel Vertiz of San Antonio, Texas was fifth and led the South to its first-ever region “team” victory.

Andrew Gardner, of Spokane’s Mead High School, nosed out Tony Smoragiewicz of Rapid City (S.D.) Central for sixth. They both ran 15:24.

Vertiz, Leingang and Smoragiewicz joined Zeinasellassie as top-10 finishers one week after running at the Nike meet in Portland.

“They’re both really great events,” Vertiz said. “I’m glad I don’t have to choose because I don’t know what one I’d do. The biggest thing I did to stay fresh and not burn out was to try have fun at both events. I was having fun, enjoying myself.”

Smoragiewicz, who entered his final high school cross country season on the heels of the World Junior Triathlon in China, said he felt like he never felt like he completely recovered from a strenuous competition schedule.

Since Jan. 1, Smoragiewicz has been away from home 96 days.

He’s looking forward to his mom’s home cooking and Christmas in the Black Hills.

“I’m going to take some time off from everything and relax and recover,” he said.

Ed Cheserek and Molly Seidel turn back tough challenges from Futsum, Finn

December, 10, 2011
Edward Cheserek Futsum ZeinasellassieJohn Dye/ESPNHSEdward Cheserek outkicks Futsum Zeinasellassie for the boys Foot Locker Finals title.
Foot Locker Finals Index

The boys championship battle at Saturday’s 33rd Foot Locker Finals at Balboa Park in San Diego lived up to the hype.

Boy, did it ever.

Exchanging blows like heavyweight boxers – there simply isn’t a better comparison – US#1 St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) junior Edward Cheserek and #2 North Central (Indianapolis) senior Futsum Zeinasellassie fought tooth and nail for the last two miles before Cheserek used the decisive weapon in his arsenal: a ragged kick in the final 300 to finally beat his rival and new friend, 14:52 to 14:53.

The other big boys storyline was whether Cheserek could break Reuben Reina’s 1985 course record of 14:36. But after mile splits of 4:48 (leader CJ Albertson, with Cheserek and others several seconds back) and 9:50, it was clear the standard was going to survive at least another year – with Cheserek promising to give it a better shot in 2012. “Just winning,” he said, regarding what his thoughts were today. “I wasn’t really thinking about the record.”

Molly Seidel
John Dye/ESPNHSMolly Seidel wins the girls Foot Locker Final.
The girls championship was just as competitive in its own way, with US#2 University Lake (Hartland, Wis.) senior Molly Seidel twice coming from behind to top fellow Midwesterner West Bloomfield (West Bloomfield, Mich.) junior Erin Finn, 17:22 to 17:24. Seidel and Finn led the Midwest to the girls team title, but on the boys side, the South claimed the crown for the first time ever.

When the gun started for the boys race, it was clear right away that winning took precedence over record-chasing for Cheserek and Zeinasellassie. Albertson, the aforementioned senior from Buchanan (Clovis, Calif.), took the lead in the first mile when it was clear no one else wanted to, and passed the half mile in 2:21 and mile in 4:48.

Immediately after the mile, however, Cheserek surged hard and caught Albertson, with Zeinasellassie and much of the pack following suit. From that point on, the two African-born standouts pulled away and made it their race. During the next 1.8 miles or so, they took turns chasing each other and alternating pace much in the manner fans have seen in Olympic and World Championship races between world-class Kenyans, Ethiopians and other Africans. However, neither pushed hard enough at any point to break the other, neither seeming to want to take that big a risk, but rather test and possibly wear down the other.

Zeinasellassie made a serious move before the base of the final hill, only to have Cheserek counter with a furious sprint up the hill, as fast as most have ever seen that segment. But Zeinasellassie came right back on him at the crest and the pair stayed together until just before the 3-mile mark when Cheserek began the final sprint that Zeinasellassie couldn’t quite match.

Almost 200 meters back, Cary Academy (Cary, N.C.) senior Thomas Graham – second to Cheserek in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals 5k last spring – had held third since the middle of the race. But Shadle Park (Spokane, Wash.) senior Nathan Weitz (FL West runner-up) had the best kick of the pack, powering down the stretch for third in 15:21. He was followed by Bismarck (Bismarck, N.D.) junior Jake Leingang (15:22) and San Antonio Reagan (San Antonio, Texas) senior Daniel Vertiz (15:23) – both doubling back well from Nike Cross Nationals last Saturday. Graham finished ninth and early leader Albertson 36th. US#3 FL West champ Darren Fahy, fronting the chase pack earlier, faded to 17th.

In the girls race, the early leader bore very serious consideration. It was the aforementioned Finn, who was the highest returning finisher from last year’s final with seventh. Finn was US#1 early in the season, but had slipped on the list after a very narrow state meet win and a distant third behind Seidel and fellow Michigander Julie Bos at FL Midwest.

But Saturday, Finn looked like the overpowering runner who has dominated D1 Michigan most of this year, putting 50 meters between herself and the field while passing the first two markers at 2:37 and 5:20. As the race moved toward halfway, Seidel moved into second alone, while three-time FL NE runner-up Kennebunk (Kennebunk, Maine) Abbey Leonardi, FL West champ Oakmont (Roseville, Calif.) junior Karlie Garcia, three-time finalist Presbyterian (Macon, Ga.) junior Grace Tinkey, and Montana frosh Makena Morley (Bigfork frosh) were among those fronting the chase pack.

Finn passed 2 miles in 11:08, but as the second hill approached, it was clear Seidel was catching her. The Wisconsin star moved strongly up the hill and it looked like the winning move, but she flagged a bit at the top and then coming down, as Finn used her considerable downhill skills to retake the lead and rev up the crowd.

Still, it was clear that unless Seidel was completely gassed, she had 4:46 miler’s speed that Finn didn’t have. With about 400 to go, Seidel went ahead for good and held on for the two-second victory.

“This is incredible, after last year and the disappointment,” said Seidel. “A year ago I was at home, just getting off my crutches. I was thinking, ‘What could have been, had I been at Foot Locker?’ This is complete redemption. It’s incredible right now, just total disbelief.”

One of the bigger surprises of the day followed as West Genesee (Syracuse, N.Y.) soph Laura Leff – fifth in her FL NE race – came on very strong for third in 17:34. She was followed by Leonardi (17:36), Garcia (17:36) and Tinkey (17:37). Unlike last year when most of the top finishers were seniors, nine of the top 12 will have another shot in 2012.