John Nepolitan/ESPNHSNXN (leftt) and Foot Locker (right) are two contrasting variations on a central theme.Run The Edge columnist Adam Goucher brings an insider's perspective to the ongoing debate about Foot Locker and NXN. He won the 1993 Foot Locker finals at San Diego's Balboa Park. And his brother-in-law, Bret Schoolmeester, is one of the organizers of the NXN championships in Portland. Goucher, and his wife, Kara, have made appearances at both events in recent years.
Who has the edge?
The NXN and Foot Locker championship races are to high school cross country what March Madness is to college basketball! The fastest runners and top teams in the United States get together on two different weekends to do battle over two very different 5,000-meter courses.
Although only one individual can claim the championship at each event (plus the championship teams at NXN), all who participate have earned the right to be on these two starting lines. Both races feature the best of the best but are also a tribute to every high school distance runner who toils day after day in the pursuit of their own maximum potential.
Although some runners are in regions of the country that allow them to run both races, many top athletes have to choose between NXN and Foot Locker. Which one should they choose? Let’s take a look at what each event has to offer and which one gets the edge.
Both events are extremely well run and organized from start to finish.
Live Streaming Broadcast
Foot Locker has fantastic live coverage and commentary from knowledgeable experts from start to finish. NXN also has great coverage but includes video from not only a lead cart and multiple stationary cameras, but also a radio controlled helicopter!
Race Course and Conditions
NXN has mud, hay bales, rain, and cold. It can be a rugged and raw cross country experience. However, some runners are better at mud running than others. Foot Locker has reliably sunny weather and a challenging course that tests athletes on more even footing. The course is difficult and varied enough to be authentically cross country but still fair to all types of runners.
Edge: Foot Locker
Treatment of Athletes
Both events treat athletes like royalty from start to finish. Every participant feels like a star!
As a newer event, NXN is still developing tradition. They do a lot of the same things Foot Locker does well such as athlete and team introductions before the races, but with 32 years of history and tradition to build on, Foot Locker continues to impress athletes with its long line of Olympians who once ran at this meet.
Edge: Foot Locker
The Nike name and brand come with a certain level of prestige especially in the world of distance running. The emphasis on team may take away a bit of the prestige of the individual champion. This is a very subjective opinion, but because of its history, being a Foot Locker individual champion seems to carry more prestige than winning NXN.
Edge: Foot Locker
Foot Locker allows for athletes from different regions to compete on the same team but it is not the same as running with your actual school team. A much needed niche was filled when Nike decided to host a race between the top HS teams in the country instead of relying on the rankings. Team rankings are fun but head to head competition is the only way to really know who is the best.
Live RC helicopter footage and live updated team scoring, put NXN on the cutting edge and striving to give fans a better experience. Foot Locker has kept up with changes in technology but is not pushing the envelop as hard as NXN. In our opinion live updated scoring is the most exciting new technology in the sport!
Opportunity to Make Friends
The spirit of the running and sportsmanship are tremendous at both events. Every athlete walks away with new friends and rivals they will race for years to come.
Opportunity to Meet Great Athletes
The Nike campus is full of the not only elite runners but other top athletes as well. At Footlocker there is an endless parade of who’s who in American distance running (not just Nike athletes)
It is clear from our analysis that both of these events are tremendous and great for the sport. There is room for both and we hope both continue to thrive for years to come. In a perfect world all athletes would have the opportunity to qualify for and run both races. Choosing between them must be a very difficult task for those runners who have to decide. But no matter which one they choose it is sure to be a fantastic experience.