SteveU's NXN Individual Top 10s

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
9:42
PM ET
Amy-Eloise Neale and Futsum ZeinasellassieGary Paulson and Bob GeigerSteveU's picks to win Saturday: Amy-Eloise Neale WA and Futsum Zeinasellassie IN
BOYS TOP 10
1. Futsum Zeinasellassie IN
2. Craig Nowak TX
3. Izaic Yorks WA
4. Anthony Armstrong WA
5. Tony Smoragiewicz SD
6. Jake Leingang ND
7. Elliot Clemente FL
8. Danny Martinez, Jr. CA
9. Daniel Vertiz TX
10. Kevyn Hoyos TX
11. Nick Ryan NY
12. Sergio Gonzalez CA
13. Michael Clevenger IL
14. Malachy Schrobilgen IL
15. Luis Martinez NM
16. Dylan Blankenbacker CA
17. Mike Marsella RI
18. Luis Gutierrez CA
19. Clayton Young UT
20. Josh Thorson MN

Breakdown: If the wind is moderate and the forecast of a dry, 45 degree day holds up, Futsum Zeinasellassie could break Craig Lutz’s 2-year-old course record and become the first-ever to duck under 15:00 in the meet. But regardless of how fast the race is, the North Central (Indianapolis, Ind.) senior is a strong favorite. Look for the unbeaten US#2 runner to pull away from the field mid-race and force the rest to fight for second.

And who might win that fight for second? Probably the three contenders with the best kicks are Craig Nowak, Anthony Armstrong and Izaic Yorks. Only Nowak (Cypress Woods, Texas senior) has run as fast as 4:08 for 1600 and has had a strong sprint finish in almost every race this year. Look for him to hang on long enough to use it. Kamiakin (Kennewick, Wash.) senior Anthony Armstrong is a fine kicker, too, and has utilized that weapon effectively, but rival Izaic Yorks (Lakes, Wash.) almost got him at Mike BorderClash 13 and could be primed to finally do so Saturday.

One who could alter the outcome of the race with his racing style is Belen Jesuit (Miami, Fla.) senior Elliot Clemente, who has shown this fall he loves to go out hard. He did so in his near-record 14:58 in NXN SE. He could back off due to the muddy course (yes, still muddy, just dry by comparison to past years) or the elevated completion. But he’ll probably stick to his strategy and force others who’ve never raced him to decide to go with him or not. Futsum will likely lay off for 1-1.5 miles, then make his winning move, and Clemente will probably get passed by a few more before finishing a still-strong 7th.

GIRLS TOP 10
1. Amy-Eloise Neale WA
2. Julie Macedo DE
3. Sarah Baxter CA
4. Jillian Fanning NY
5. Katie Knight WA
6. Amanda Fox IL
7. Haley Pierce DE
8. Samantha Nadel NY
9. Mary Cain NY
10. Samantha Nightingale MO
11. Brianna Nerud NY
12. Sarah Fakler AZ
13. Maria Hauger MN
14. Karis Jochen TX
15. Erin Hooker CO
16. Elle Purrier VT
17. Madi McLellan TX
18. Katie Sischo NY
19. Hagen Reedy CA
20. Laura Hollander CA

Breakdown: The girls field is very hard to pick, with at least five potential national champions. On paper, very little can clearly separate US#1 NXN NY champ Jillian Fanning (Fayetteville-Manlius, N.Y.), #3 California champ Sarah Baxter (Simi Valley, Calif.), #4 NXN SE champ Julie Macedo (Charter School of Wilmington, Del.), #5 Katie Knight (North Central, Wash.) and #7 Amy-Eloise Neale (Glacier Peak, Wash.) – the latter two having split four big head-to-head clashes.

None of these girls is a notoriously fast starter, so look for them to run together – possibly with others hanging on – for at least a mile. Then the big question will be, who will make a move? Macedo, Baxter and Fanning, in particular, have shown they can make some devastating mid-race moves, but all of these girls will be hard for the other to break.

So figuring on at least four to be in contention with 600 to go, look for a girl with the best mile in the field, with a good kick, and someone who’s strong and knows the course. That would be Neale, who has lost twice, but is pretty hard to beat when she’s on. She is the top returnee from 2010, at 3rd, and it’s easy to picture her hammering the final 250 better than anyone else.

Another to keep an eye on, that could surprise, is uber-talented middle-distance star Mary Cain. She was a distant third behind Fanning at NXN NY, but the week before she had run 17:40 on that same Bowdoin Park course at NY Feds, seven seconds faster than Fanning’s NXN 17:47. No one in the field can run a mile on down like Cain can (4:17 1500, 2:03 800 relay, 55 400), so if she’s there at the end and still has legs, watch out.

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