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Friday, December 9, 2011
Foot Locker Girls Predictions and Preview: Seidel, Garcia, then it's wide open

By Steve Underwood

Sophie Chase and Grace Tinkey
Sophie Chase and Grace Tinkey, 2-3 at FL South, are two experienced finalists who should be in the top 10 or better

DyeStat’s SteveU, compiler of the Individual Top 25 rankings all season and an annual predictor of national meets, weighs in with his top 20 for Foot Locker Finals and a race analysis.

TOP 20 PREDICTIONS


1. Molly Seidel WI
2. Karlie Garcia CA
3. Julia Bos MI
4. Abbey Leonardi ME
5. Sophie Chase VA

6. Angel Piccirillo PA
7. Erin Finn MI
8. Cali Roper TX
9. Grace Tinkey GA
10. Kelsey Braithwaite UT

11. Taylor Manett MI
12. Megan Moye VA
13. Makena Morley MT
14. Hannah Oneda MD
15. Cami Chapus CA

16. Olivia Ortiz FL
17. Catarina Rocha MA
18. Laura Leff NY
19. Jordan McPhee WA
20. Holly Bishof NJ


Analysis: Although most would call University Lake (Hartland, Wis.) senior Molly Seidel – the Foot Locker Midwest champ – the favorite, the Girls Final race would best be described as a wide-open affair, full of top-5 and All-American opportunities for those who can put together their best race Saturday. After five years with standouts like Aisling Cuffe, Megan Goethals, Chelsey Sveinsson, Jordan Hasay, Ashley Brasovan, and Kathy Kroeger putting together multiple finishes at or near the top, this year’s field has only one returnee from the top 14 – West Bloomfield (Mich.) junior Erin Finn, 7th in ’10.

Seidel is really no more experienced in a national XC final than her peers, but she gained a heap of valuable exposure to the highest level in track last spring when she was 3rd and 5th in the NBON mile (4:46) and 2-Mile (10:20) – times that equal or exceed anyone’s in the field. This fall, she’s raced 4k until the post-season, but put up the fastest set of times in state history. When it came time for redemption from her FL MW 11th in ’10, she had a dominating performance for a 6-second victory. Here, look for her to win in 17:15.

Of the other regional champions, Oakmont (Roseville, Calif.) junior Karlie Garcia seems the best equipped to give Seidel a run. In fact, don’t be surprised if she leads much of the early going. After finishing 15th as a freshman, then struggling through injury issues last fall, Garcia has been extremely consistent this fall, including a Mt. SAC D3 win (2nd best time of the whole meet) and 2nd at D3 state behind now-injured Carrie Verdon (and 3rd overall). She did what she was supposed to do, too, last weekend and looks ready to do it again.

From the Northeast, 2-time regional runner-up Kennebunk (Maine) senior Abbey Leonardi looked like she’d finally move up to the top spot, but was outkicked by Homer City (Pa.) senior Angel Piccirillo – herself a 2010 finalist but best known for 2 Penn Relays mile wins. Both were unbeaten before FL NE and both are good top 10 contenders.

The Foot Locker South race had four returnees, but no real favorites and Willis (Texas) senior Cali Roper – who races 3200m most of the year – emerged the winner in 17:02. It’s hard to tell how she will react to a meet like this, her first national meet at any level. Lake Braddock (Burke, Va.) junior Sophie Chase was 2nd in Charlotte and had a fine unbeaten slate the rest of the fall. She was 8th at FL S and 38th in the Finals last year. Third-place finisher and First Presbyterian (Macon, Ga.) junior Grace Tinkey qualified twice from 10th place at the South race in ’09 and ’10, finishing 20th and 15th, and could move up from that.

Also worth watching is the quartet from Michigan, as that state gained four qualifying spots for the second straight year – a big deal in the Midwest where the talent tends to be spread out. The Michigan girls were 7-8-11-18 last year, led by Finn. The most impressive in the region race, though, was national neophyte Grand Rapids Christian (Grand Rapids, Mich.) junior Julia Bos – six ticks behind Seidel and 20 ahead of Finn in 3rd. As is the case with Roper, no telling how she’ll responded to her first national meet of any kind, but like Garcia she’s been very consistent all fall.