High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: indiana

Shelbi VaughanJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSShelbi Vaughan TX set her third and fourth USRs of the year in the discus.


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It looked as though the 100-meter finals would be the peak of the Friday action for the prep stars competing at the USATF Junior Championships at the Robert Haugh Complex, with Tyreek Hill GA and Jennifer Madu TX making up for Dream 100 disappointment in dramatic fashion and securing berths for the World Junior Championships next month in Barcelona.

But something was happening outside the stadium at the end of the session, on the exterior throwing field; a familiar name was seizing the day with yet another amazing record performance.

In the finals of the women’s discus, Legacy (Mansfield, Texas) senior Shelbi Vaughan was again doing what it seems like she’s been doing all spring – breaking records – but this time doing so in a manner exceeding her previous endeavors. On her first throw of the finals, she added more than three feet to the USR with a 196-11. Then on the final throw of the competition, she powered out to an eye-popping 198-9, drawing ever closer to the once unthinkable 200-foot barrier and taking down Suzy Powell’s American Junior record to boot.

Don’t be surprised if there’s more to come in Barcelona. “I’m never really satisfied,” she said.

Vaughan and Hill were two of the biggest winners on a super day for preps on the first of three days of competition (the aforementioned Madu was actually second in the 100). They were especially impressive off the track, taking five of the six field events as US#1s Haley Crouser OR (javelin), Rudy Winkler NY (hammer) and Jarrion Lawson TX (long jump), and US#2 Sean Keller WA (javelin) all joined Vaughan atop the medal stand. None of them quite matched their PRs, but most won in dominant fashion.

On the track, three other finals were contested besides the 100s, with Dondre Echols MD coming from behind for a dramatic triumph in the 110 hurdles and national leader Brianna Nerud running away with the 3,000 steeplechase. Prelims took place in six other events, with US#1s again shining. Mary Cain NY (1,500), Ajee’ Wilson NJ (800), and Eric Futch PA (400 hurdles) paced the efforts in their events, with Futch improving his PR to 51.18.

On a day with few major disappointments, these were two: Defending 100 champ Marvin Bracy FL was a late, late scratch, his hamstring injury preventing him from making it to the line for the prelims. And in the 400 hurdles, 2011 World Youth champ Nnenya Hailey GA appeared to win the first of three prelims in a US#1 58.78, only to suffer disqualification later for hooking a hurdle.

200 at hand for Vaughan

With two fouls and a “safe” throw of 181-4, Vaughan began her meet in pretty unremarkable fashion, but finals were another story. She did have a foul on her fifth attempt, but her fourth and sixth were history-making. First, the 196-11 (her first throw over 60 meters at 60.03), then the 198-9. “Everything was pretty much clicking then,” she said. “I just wish I had a little more wind.”

The previous week at Golden West, where Vaughan set her previous mark, there was plenty of wind, but it “only helped a little.”

See, Vaughan wasn’t just feeling like she could improve her national record Friday, but go over that magical 200-foot barrier. “I’ve been hitting it in practice,” she said, “I’ve been throwing really well … I’ve changed my technique in the back a little bit and it’s helping me throw further.”

Friday’s effort moved Vaughan up to a tie for #2 on the World Junior list, with only Germany’s Anna Ruh ahead of her. A World Youth medalist last year, Vaughan expects to do at least as well at this next level. “I want to make top three, if not win,” she said. And at the Olympic Trials, which begin next Friday, she has high goals as well. She now ranks seventh among all American throwers, pro, college and otherwise. “I’d really like to make the final.”

Behind Vaughan, St. Francis (Minn.) senior Maggie Ewen nearly made Team USA, too, but her 171-0 was just two inches behind “DyeStat Alum” Alex Collatz, the USC frosh who hit 171-2.

Other prep throws stars had big goals Friday, too. In fact, one well-respected scribe had predicted a USR of 184 or 185 feet for Gresham (Ore.) senior Haley Crouser in the javelin. “I thought I could do it, too,” she laughed, when told of the prognostication.

The USR-holder at 181-2, Crouser had to settle for 166-7. “I felt good out there,” she said, “it just wasn’t going very far. The last few weeks, training has been really good, but that’s the way it played out today.”

Crouser said she was more nervous than normal Friday, largely due to the presence of Brianna Bain. The former Aloha (Beaverton, Ore.) prep had improved dramatically at Stanford this spring, finishing second in the NCAA with a best of 180-2. She, too, was not quite up to par, but joins Crouser on Team USA with her 161-2. “I’m excited to be on the team with her,” said Crouser, “to be able to work together to get ready for Barcelona.”

Like Vaughan, Crouser moves up to the next level of IAAF World competition with her second Team USA singlet. And, of course, she’s also preparing for the Trials where she has a great chance to do well in the finals.

Sean Keller and Rudy Winkler were dominant throws champions on the men’s side. Keller, the Heritage (Vancouver, Wash.) senior who represented Team USA at the Pan Am Juniors last summer, won the javelin by 18 feet at 237-6 on his first throw. His US#2 best is 244-1 and with US#1 Billy Stanley PA not competing this weekend, he was the heavy favorite to win. Winkler, the Averill Park (N.Y.) junior who was also a 2011 World Youth finalist, launched the junior weight hammer 232-1 on his third attempt, just five feet off his best and eight feet clear of second place.

The other prep field event winner was Liberty-Eylau (Texarkana, Texas) senior Jarrion Lawson, who leapt 25-5.5 (+1.4w) on his second attempt, then 25-6w (+2.5) – just off his US#1 25-10.75 – and beat collegian 26-footer Jarrett Samuels.

Joy for Hill and Madu

There were few happier faces than Tyreek Hill’s after the 100 final – or even the 100 prelim. You could see, when the Coffee County (Douglas, Ga.) senior won the second prelim in 10.28 (-0.9w), that there was a great release of unbridled joy and perhaps relief. Hill had proven he could do it at this level after what happened in New York – where in the Dream 100 he had false started and made a first-ever cross-country journey and national competition an empty experience.

“I just went home and worked on my start,” he said. “Just ran some hard 100s in practice and just worked on finishing, too.”

The final featured the likes of Dream 100 third-place finisher Abraham Hall TX and LSU All-American Aaron Ernest, a DyeStat Alum, but Hill never gave them a chance, powering down the middle of the track and crossing the line again in obvious exaltation. It was another 10.28, this time into a 1.8 headwind, and a big .18 ahead of Ernest.

“I wanted to run faster, but I’m really happy with the win,” he said. “I’m very excited to go to Barcelona, to meet new people and learn new languages … all the hard work has paid off.”

Hard work – especially this past week – paid off for Jennifer Madu, too. The 2011 World Youth champ had an outstanding spring in Texas, culminating with four gold medals at the 5A state championships. But in last week’s Dream 100, she was a well-beaten fifth in 11.61.

Well, it turns out Madu’s sprinting rhythm was a little off. “I’ve been playing softball and getting used to sprinting between the bases and stopping,” she said. “After the state meet in track, our softball team went to state, too. I hadn’t been working that hard on the track.

“I allowed my body to rest and got my mind straight,” the Plano East senior continued, “then I hit the track hard last week.” In the prelims, Madu was just behind US#1 (and Dream 100 champ) Shayla Sanders FL with her 11.52 (-0.4w). Then running on the outside in the final, she showed form as good as ever with an 11.57 (-0.2) that was .01 ahead of the Floridian for second.

In both the prelims and the final, collegian Dezerea Bryant – a relayer for Team USA at the 2010 World Juniors – was dominant, running 11.38 and 11.43 for the win. But Madu earned the second spot and will make her second international trip. “It feels so good,” she said.

Two other preps won championships on the track. In a men’s 110H final crowded with preps sporting mid-13s PRs, Potomac (Oxon Hill, Md.) senior Dondre Echols came from behind and won with a US#5 13.56 (-1.8w). His strong finish carried him past US#2 Jordan Moore GA (4th, 13.85) and #4 Devon Allen AZ (3rd, 13.66), the prelims leader at 13.59. US#3 Donovan Robertson OH had an early stumble and took seventh and in second to join Echols for Barcelona was Pitt frosh Josh Thompson.

Showing the same dominance in the event that she has all year (both 2k and 3k), North Shore (Glen Head, N.Y.) senior Brianna Nerud rolled to a 10:23.87 – off her US#1 10:19.91, but not bad for running alone in the early evening heat. She makes her second straight international team after making the World Youth 2k ST finals in 2011.

Lots of qualifiers

With US#1 performers Ajee Wilson NJ, Mary Cain NY, Tanner Sork WA and Eric Futch PA leading the way, there were lots of prep qualifiers into finals slated for Saturday or Sunday. Wilson, the top-seeded Neptune senior, cruised to victory in the first of three women’s 800 heats in 2:08.00. The big surprise came in heat three, however, when second-seeded collegian Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State allowed the pace to go slow and then was outkicked by Billings (Mont.) senior Danielle Aragon, 2:10.45-2:10.46. Because it started slow, there were no time qualifiers from the heat and 2:03-runner Houlihan was out. Three other preps made the final.

The first heat of the men’s 800 was captured decisively by national leader Sork in 1:52.09. Will Crocker IL was the other prep who advanced.

In the women’s 1,500, nine preps made it through as the two heats were taken by US#2 Andover Academy (Mass.) senior Cayla Hatton (4:25.64) and Cain, the Bronxville (N.Y.) soph (4:24.25). 2011 World Youth finalists Cami Chapus CA (Dream Mile champ, US#2 miler, #3 1,500) and Hannah Meier MI (New Balance Nationals Indoor mile champ) both looked fine in advancing, but an eye-opener was Griswold (Iowa) frosh Rebekah Topham PR’ing with 4:28.92 to get to the final. California state champ Nikki Hiltz and Dream Mile third-place finisher Alli Cash KS also moved on.

While collegians led the way in the men’s 1500 prelims, the top high schoolers did great, as well. Strong Dream Mile finishers Josh Lampron MA (4:02.98 last week), Izaic Yorks WA (4:04.28) got through, as expected, and coming back after a rough last-place outing in New York was Craig Nowak TX, who kicked in right behind Yorks in heat one. “I really don’t know what happened (in the Dream Mile), except I just had an off race,” said Nowak. “It’s been a long season. But I had a good week training this past week.”

The 400 hurdles were a mix of triumph and heartbreak for top preps. On the men’s side, the aforementioned Penn Wood (Lansdowne, Pa.) senior Futch, the Penn Relays champ coming in with a 51.67 PR, showed top form with a new US#1 51.18. Robertson, the 300H US#1 who would later finish seventh in the 110H final (above), made it in, too. But in the first women’s heat, Hailey had the above-mentioned 58.78 that appeared to be a new US#1. After the DQ was announced, Hailey and her mother discussed the matter at great length with officials, but to no avail. “They said she clipped the hurdle, or went around it, but we just didn’t see it,” she said.

Futsum makes his choice: Northern Arizona

April, 12, 2012
Futsum ZeinasellassieJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSFutsum Zeinasellassie, reacting after winning the Arcadia 3,200, has picked Northern Arizona to continue his education and running career.

INDIANAPOLIS -- 2011 Nike Cross Nationals champ and two-time Foot Locker Finals runner-up Futsum Zeinasellassie has finally made his college choice – just a couple of days after the best performance of his career on the track.

The North Central (Indianapolis) senior has committed to Northern Arizona, according to his coach Rick Stover in a report published by Indystar.com. At Arcadia Saturday, Zeinasellassie had said he was weighing the pros and cons of five schools he has visited: Indiana, Purdue, Butler, Northern Arizona and Oklahoma State. Bahlbi Gebreyohanns, his older brother, runs at Northern Arizona as well.

Zeinasellassie has won six state titles in Indiana (three cross country and three 3,200) going into this spring. His winning 8:47.75 at Arcadia was an all-time Indiana best. He also won the Gatorade National Cross Country Boys Runner of the Year award last fall.

Splits tell tale of epic Arcadia 3,200

April, 11, 2012
Craig NowakJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSCraig Nowak (1446) was in the middle of the action during the Arcadia 3,200, mustering up the best kick of anyone for third in 8:49.12, second best in Texas history.

Four laps into the 3,200 meters at the Arcadia Invitational, Craig Nowak had a sinking feeling over what he saw on the clock: 4:33. He and the other runners at Arcadia’s signature event needed to pick up the pace if they wanted to dip under nine minutes.

“I was extremely nervous,” the senior from Cypress Woods (Texas) said. “I knew I was I great shape and I’d heard all the great things about the race at Arcadia. I was thinking ‘I can’t come all this way and not break nine.’”

Collectively, 31 runners went through the midpoint of the eight-lap race between 4:31 and 4:36. Twenty-three of them ran the second half of the race faster than the first. Winner Futsum Zeinasellassie of North Central (Indianapolis) ran 4:33.37 for the first half and 4:14.38 for the second, according to FAT split data compiled by EPI Sports.

And no one closed as hard as Nowak, who ran 27.25 seconds for his final 200 and 56.33 for his final 400.

“I was more excited than any race I’ve ever been in,” he said. “When I saw 7:52 on the clock with one lap to go, I thought if I ran like 63 I’d get my goal time.”

Nowak finished third – behind Zeinasellassie and Cibola (Arizona) junior Bernie Montoya – in 8:49.12. That’s the second-fastest 3,200 time ever by a Texas runner.

And in the wave of runners over the finish line ahead there were a total of six new state records: Indiana (Zeinasellassie), Arizona (Montoya 8:48.25), North Dakota (Jake Leingang 8:51.23), Montana (Zach Perrin 8:55.24), Idaho (Dallin Farnsworth 8:55.28) and Delaware (Sam Parsons 9:00.61).

The pace probably came off perfectly. Zeinasellassie ensured a fast first lap when he bolted out to a 64.77. Then, the entire field slowed down on Lap 2 to 72-73. The third lap picked up to 67-68 for most of the field and the fourth lap was slightly faster.

Jonah Diaz of Palos Verdes (Calif.) was in the lead at the midpoint (4:31.72). And Tony Smorgawiecz of Rapid City Central (S.D). edged into the lead on the fifth and sixth laps as the pace improved a bit more.

“It was a big group, but Jonah picked it up and so did Tony,” Nowak said. “They set up the middle of the race.”

Montoya asserted himself with a seventh lap in 61.54 and Zeinsellassie, back in the lead, ran 61.91. Montoya’s burst propelled him into the lead on the back stretch and he was the first to 3,000 meters (8:18.81), a half-second up on Zeinasellassie and three seconds ahead of Nowak.

Zeinasellassie caught Montoya with about 75 meters left and won it in 8:47.75 for an Indiana record. Montoya (previous PR: 9:22) was next in 8:48.25 for an Arizona record. And on it went.

Nowak feels he could have been in the hunt if he’d gone with the leaders from 600 out, instead of try to reel them back in from 400. It’s a recurring theme for him, because he has finished with similar late flourishes as Nike Cross Nationals and the Brooks PR Invite mile.

But three days later, the afterglow had not worn off.

“It’s boosted my confidence tremendously, in a big way,” Nowak said.

Futsum on college, Cheserek

Zeinasellassie is the one of the top recruits nationally who has not yet made a decision on which scholarship offer to accept.

He said Saturday that he is still weighing the pros and cons of the five schools he has visited: Indiana, Purdue, Butler, Northern Arizona and Oklahoma State. The first three schools are all close to home, in Indiana, and the fourth is where his older brother, Bahlbi Gebreyohanns, runs.

UPDATE (4/12): Zeinasellassie has chosen Northern Arizona, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Zeinasellassie also commented on the absence of Foot Locker champion Edward Cheserek from Arcadia’s 3,200.

“I wish he was in this race, but he would have been 10 seconds or 20 seconds ahead of me,” Zeinasellassie said. “He’s having a great track season, so good luck to him the rest of the season.”

Event 34 Men 3200 Meter Run Invitational (FinishLynx Image)
Name Year School Finals
1 Futsum Zienasellassie 12 Ind. N Cen (In) 8:47.75
64.77 (64.77),2:17.44 (72.67),3:25.83 (68.40),4:33.37 (67.54),5:39.89 (66.53),6:48.75 (68.86),7:50.65 (61.91),3K-8:19.38 (28.73),8:47.75 (28.38)
2 Bernie Montoya 11 Cibola (Az) 8:48.25
67.40 (67.40),2:20.73 (73.33),3:27.77 (67.05),4:35.33 (67.57),5:40.99 (65.66),6:49.33 (68.35),7:50.86 (61.54),3K-8:18.81 (27.95),8:48.25 (29.44)
3 Craig Nowak 12 Houston CyprW(TX 8:49.12
64.85 (64.85),2:17.68 (72.83),3:25.95 (68.28),4:33.04 (67.09),5:39.87 (66.83),6:48.47 (68.61),7:52.80 (64.33),3K-8:21.87 (29.08),8:49.12 (27.25)
4 Jake Leingang 11 Bismarck(ND) 8:51.23
65.83 (65.83),2:19.44 (73.61),3:26.49 (67.06),4:33.91 (67.43),5:40.67 (66.76),6:48.84 (68.18),7:52.66 (63.83),3K-8:22.15 (29.50),8:51.23 (29.08)
5 Michael Clevenger 12 MacArthurGen(IL) 8:54.12
67.14 (67.14),2:19.54 (72.40),3:27.31 (67.78),4:34.49 (67.19),5:41.26 (66.77),6:49.60 (68.34),7:54.97 (65.38),3K-8:25.45 (30.49),8:54.12 (28.67)
6 Darren Fahy 12 La Costa Cnyn/SD 8:54.51
66.94 (66.94),2:18.10 (71.16),3:26.25 (68.16),4:33.86 (67.61),5:40.46 (66.61),6:49.52 (69.06),7:55.12 (65.61),3K-8:26.48 (31.36),8:54.51 (28.04)
7 Blake Haney 10 Stockdale /ce 8:54.65
66.03 (66.03),2:18.69 (72.67),3:26.70 (68.01),4:33.42 (66.73),5:40.32 (66.90),6:49.28 (68.96),7:55.46 (66.19),3K-8:25.61 (30.15),8:54.65 (29.05)
8 Zach Perrin 11 Flathead (Mt) 8:55.24
65.69 (65.69),2:19.07 (73.39),3:26.19 (67.12),4:33.69 (67.50),5:40.19 (66.51),6:49.16 (68.97),7:53.94 (64.78),3K-8:23.90 (29.97),8:55.24 (31.34)
9 Dallin Farnsworth 12 Highland (Id) 8:55.28
65.46 (65.46),2:18.13 (72.67),3:25.90 (67.77),4:32.89 (67.00),5:40.03 (67.14),6:49.30 (69.28),7:54.61 (65.31),3K-8:26.06 (31.45),8:55.28 (29.23)
10 Craig Engels 12 Ronald Reagan(NC 8:55.51
66.11 (66.11),2:18.83 (72.72),3:26.75 (67.92),4:33.95 (67.21),5:40.97 (67.02),6:48.95 (67.99),7:52.92 (63.97),3K-8:24.16 (31.25),8:55.51 (31.35)
11 Leland Later 12 New Trier (Il) 8:55.61
66.08 (66.08),2:18.52 (72.45),3:26.82 (68.30),4:34.68 (67.87),5:41.40 (66.72),6:49.55 (68.15),7:55.45 (65.91),3K-8:26.17 (30.73),8:55.61 (29.44)
12 Jack Keelan 11 St.Ignatius (Il) 8:55.86
66.43 (66.43),2:20.38 (73.95),3:27.96 (67.59),4:35.13 (67.18),5:41.68 (66.55),6:49.76 (68.09),7:55.69 (65.93),3K-8:26.45 (30.77),8:55.86 (29.41)
13 Thomas Graham 12 Cary Acad (Nc) 8:56.21
66.54 (66.54),2:19.20 (72.66),3:26.61 (67.42),4:33.90 (67.29),5:40.53 (66.63),6:49.11 (68.59),7:53.27 (64.16),3K-8:24.76 (31.50),8:56.21 (31.45)
14 Tony Smoragiewicz 12 Rapid City C (Sd 8:57.10
65.64 (65.64),2:18.18 (72.54),3:25.75 (67.57),4:32.64 (66.90),5:39.59 (66.95),6:48.24 (68.65),7:53.14 (64.90),3K-8:24.52 (31.38),8:57.10 (32.58)
15 Jacob Thomson 11 Holy Cross (Ky) 8:58.12
66.89 (66.89),2:18.93 (72.04),3:27.18 (68.26),4:34.99 (67.81),5:43.11 (68.12),6:50.37 (67.27),7:58.10 (67.73),3K-8:29.04 (30.95),8:58.12 (29.09)
16 Brock Baker 11 Oakland (Tn) 8:58.51
67.04 (67.04),2:19.94 (72.91),3:26.97 (67.03),4:34.13 (67.17),5:40.76 (66.63),6:48.96 (68.20),7:53.05 (64.10),3K-8:24.05 (31.00),8:58.51 (34.47)
17 Billy Gaudreau 12 St. Margarets/SS 9:00.24
66.69 (66.69),2:18.80 (72.12),3:27.23 (68.43),4:35.44 (68.22),5:43.24 (67.81),6:51.98 (68.74),7:59.42 (67.44),3K-8:30.67 (31.26),9:00.24 (29.58)
18 Sam Parsons 12 Tatnall (De) 9:00.61
66.34 (66.34),2:20.07 (73.73),3:27.17 (67.11),4:34.53 (67.36),5:41.58 (67.05),6:49.83 (68.25),7:55.83 (66.01),3K-8:28.20 (32.38),9:00.61 (32.42)
19 Korey Krotzer 12 Auburn Riv (Wa) 9:01.11
65.56 (65.56),2:18.77 (73.21),3:27.03 (68.26),4:34.89 (67.87),5:40.75 (65.86),6:49.69 (68.95),7:57.08 (67.39),3K-8:29.12 (32.04),9:01.11 (32.00)
20 Jonah Diaz 12 Palos Verdes /ss 9:01.42
67.01 (67.01),2:18.40 (71.39),3:25.33 (66.93),4:31.72 (66.40),5:39.41 (67.69),6:48.57 (69.17),7:54.96 (66.39),3K-8:27.33 (32.38),9:01.42 (34.09)
21 Tyler Yunk 11 Belvidere N (Il) 9:03.09
66.88 (66.88),2:20.29 (73.42),3:27.62 (67.34),4:34.23 (66.62),5:41.78 (67.55),6:50.70 (68.92),7:59.22 (68.53),3K-8:32.52 (33.30),9:03.09 (30.58)
22 Thomas Joyce 12 Campolindo /nc 9:03.23
66.82 (66.82),2:20.06 (73.24),3:27.43 (67.38),4:35.58 (68.16),5:42.75 (67.17),6:51.68 (68.94),8:00.34 (68.66),3K-8:32.69 (32.35),9:03.23 (30.55)
23 Drew White 12 Festus (Mo) 9:04.08
66.39 (66.39),2:19.06 (72.67),3:26.58 (67.52),4:34.41 (67.83),5:41.95 (67.55),6:50.90 (68.96),7:58.24 (67.34),3K-8:31.27 (33.04),9:04.08 (32.81)
24 Bryan Guijarro 12 Knight /ss 9:07.42
65.04 (65.04),2:17.93 (72.90),3:25.98 (68.05),4:33.14 (67.17),5:40.08 (66.95),6:48.90 (68.82),7:56.41 (67.51),3K-8:30.89 (34.49),9:07.42 (36.54)
25 Cameron Miller 12 Stockdale /ce 9:08.08
65.94 (65.94),2:17.08 (71.14),3:25.10 (68.02),4:33.64 (68.55),5:41.42 (67.79),6:50.46 (69.04),7:59.76 (69.30),3K-8:33.89 (34.14),9:08.08 (34.19)
26 Sam Roberson 12 Needham Br (Nc) 9:08.58
66.64 (66.64),2:20.50 (73.86),3:26.92 (66.42),4:34.15 (67.23),5:41.02 (66.87),6:49.18 (68.17),7:56.47 (67.29),3K-8:31.26 (34.80),9:08.58 (37.32)
27 Keifer Johnson 12 ThunderRidge(CO) 9:11.01
66.61 (66.61),2:20.02 (73.41),3:27.41 (67.40),4:35.07 (67.67),5:42.16 (67.09),6:51.23 (69.08),8:02.70 (71.47),3K-8:37.51 (34.82),9:11.01 (33.50)
28 Kevin Bishop 12 Monta Vista /cc 9:13.24
66.27 (66.27),2:18.49 (72.22),3:26.30 (67.82),4:34.22 (67.92),5:41.84 (67.62),6:51.01 (69.18),8:02.96 (71.95),3K-8:37.88 (34.93),9:13.24 (35.36)
29 Gil Walton 12 McCallie (Tn) 9:18.11
66.63 (66.63),2:19.34 (72.72),3:27.70 (68.36),4:35.23 (67.54),5:43.82 (68.59),6:55.24 (71.43),8:09.07 (73.83),3K-8:43.85 (34.78),9:18.11 (34.26)
30 Troy Fraley 11 Glacier (Mt) 9:26.78
65.95 (65.95),2:19.38 (73.43),3:26.51 (67.14),4:34.86 (68.35),5:43.63 (68.78),6:58.27 (74.64),8:13.73 (75.47),3K-8:50.56 (36.83),9:26.78 (36.23)
DNF Anthony Armstrong 12 Kamiakin (Wa)
65.30 (65.30),2:19.80 (74.50),3:27.76 (67.97),4:36.28 (68.53),5:46.04 (69.76),7:01.58 (75.55),8:20.70 (79.12)

Devon Allen shines brightest at Arcadia

April, 8, 2012
Arcadia Allen Brophy John Nepolitan/ESPNHSDevon Allen stretches for the finish line at the end of the 200 meters on Saturday at the Arcadia Invitational.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The maximum number of events an athlete can enter at the Arcadia Invitational is four.

No one apparently told Devon Allen, because he won five times over two days at the country's biggest in-season high school track meet. And if he happened to step into a sixth or seventh event, he might have won those too.

The junior from Brophy Prep (Phoenix) was unstoppable over two days at Arcadia, earning four gold medals Saturday on top of the one he picked up Friday. Allen ran the second leg on Brophy Prep’s winning 4x100 relay team (41.15), swept the hurdles races (13.52 in the 110s, 36.39 in the 300s), and also beat an elite field in the 200 (21.10).

The hurdles performances were both Arizona all-time records. On Friday, Allen had anchored the shuttle hurdles relay – crashing on the final barrier and then getting back to his feet to complete his team’s win.

Allen was named the outstanding boys performer of the meet, although his victory in his fifth event (the 200) may be vacated from the meet records because of the four-event limit.

“I came here feeling pretty confident about the hurdles and I thought our 4-by-1 team could win if we had good hand-offs,” Allen said. “In the 200 I just wanted to run fast.”

He is the first male athlete to win three individual events at Arcadia since Xavier Carter (2003).

Records bonanza in 3,200

More history was made in the meet’s signature event, the boys 3,200, where 16 runners charged across the finish line in less than nine minutes and six state records were broken.

Over a dramatic final lap, unheralded Bernie Montoya kicked into high gear and rocketed past Futsum Zeinasellassie with about 280 to go.

The Nike Cross National champ was momentarily stunned to see Montoya cruise past him and gathered himself to make a final attempt at the win. Zeinasellassie caught Montoya with 80 meters left and pulled clear, taking the win in 8:47.75.

It turns out Zeinasellassie and Montoya connected at NXN in Portland. They met at breakfast and then warmed up and cooled down together after the cross country championship, which Zeinasellassie won (Montoya was 12th).

“I just got this adrenaline rush,” said Montoya, who PR’d by 34 seconds. “Me and Futsum are good friends. I was so excited to get past him and maybe win this, but he got me in the end.”

Said Zeinasellassie: “When he went by me I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Is that (Montoya) or somebody else?’ I couldn’t respond to that (surge). I had to hope he would die a little bit in the last 100.”

State records tumbled in Indiana (Zeinasellassie), Arizona (Montoya 8:48.25), North Dakota (Jake Leingang 8:51.23), Montana (Zach Perrin 8:55.24), Idaho (Dallin Farnsworth 8:55.28) and Delaware (Sam Parsons 9:00.61). Zeinasellassie took down a Rudy Chapa equivalent two-mile record from the mid-1970s to set a new mark in the Hoosier state.

Forty-six boys broke 9:20 in the invitational and seeded sections of the event, including sophomore Blake Haney of Stockdale, Calif., who was seventh in the invitational race in 8:54.65, and freshman Elijah Armstrong of Pocatello, Idaho, who was third in the seeded race in 9:04.78.

Baxter repeats as girls 3,200 champ

Simi Valley sophomore Sarah Baxter led wire-to-wire to defend her Arcadia title in the girls 3,200, pulling away from Marina’s Laura Hollander in the final 300 meters to win in 10:08.02. She earned the girls’ athlete of the meet award.

Baxter ran a 4:52 anchor leg for Simi Valley in a second-place finish in Friday’s 4x1600 relay.

On Saturday, Baxter, Hollander and North Central (Spokane, Wash.) junior Katie Knight pulled away from the field by the start of the third lap. Those three were together for laps 3-4-5-6 before Knight fell off the pace.

Hollander, from Huntington Beach, Calif., has shaved more than a minute off her PR in the past year.

In the girls mile, Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak (Snohomish, Wash.) won her second straight title by running 4:51.43. Neale went through the first 400 in 72 seconds and staked a 10-meter lead on the field. On the second and third laps, fellow Washingtonian Maddie Meyers, the 2010 champ, moved up to challenge Neale, but then fell back again. Less than an hour later, Neale returned to the track and ran the 800, kicking too late to challenge winner Savannah Camacho of Templeton (Calif.), who won in 2:07.61. Neale was second in 2:10.00.

Illinois duo Aaliyah Brown and Shamier Little dominated the girls individual sprints. Brown won the 100 easily (11.48) and outleaned Long Beach Poly’s Arianna Washington to win a close 200 (23.96 to 23.97).

“It feels really good to run some good times. I’ve been trying to bust a 23 for over two years now,” Brown said.

Little, of Lindblom (Chicago), won the 400 in 53.79 and was also fifth (100) and third (300) in the hurdles races.

While Long Beach Poly’s Traci Hicks sped off with the 100 hurdles title (13.63), the 300 hurdles came down to a dramatic finish. Jordie Munford of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. and Jaide Stepter of Canyon del Oro (Tucson, Ariz.) were running side by side approaching the final hurdle when both of them lost the rhythm of their steps.

Munford reached out her hands and pushed over the final barrier and still managed to break the tape in 41.93, ahead of Stepter, who stutter-stepped before clearing the final hurdle and crossing in 42.22. Munford was disqualified, moving Stepter to first place.

Raymond Bozmans from Fort Collins, Colo. backed up his stunning early season results with a blistering 10.41-second clocking in the 100 meters. Then he returned in the 200 and finished in a near-tie with Allen.

In the 400, Champ Page of Henry Wise (Md.) ran 47.31 to beat Arnold Carrillo of McQueen (Nev.), who finished in 47.43 and Rashard Clark of Dorsey (Calif.), who posted 47.54.

Canadian Tyler Smith kept finding extra gears on the final lap of the 800, pulling away and winning the title in 1:49.23. It’s his third big 800 win in the U.S., coming on the heels of indoor wins at the Simplot Games and Brooks PR Invite.

In the mile, Brad Nye from Davis (Kaysville, Utah) replayed his victory from New Balance Nationals Indoor, summoning a kick at 300 that drove him into the lead. He held off Marcus Dickson of White River (Buckley, Wash.) to win the race in 4:08.80. Dickson, who will be his teammate at BYU, was next in 4:09.41.

Cochran PRs in the discus

Ethan Cochran of Newport Harbor, Calif. improved to 209-8 to win the discus, a mark that ranks fifth in Arcadia Invitational history and ranks US#1 this season.

“It’s exciting,” Cochran said of the early season success. “I can’t wait until the end of the year to see how it all comes together.”

Cochran is specifically targeting 213-11, which is the California state record. He also won the shot put with a best of 62-10.

Klyvens Delaunay of Claremont (Calif.) swept the horizontal jumps with wind-legal marks of 23-11.50 and 49-4.25.

Peter Chapman of Murrieta Valley (Calif.) cleared 16-6.50 to win the pole vault.

Sophomore Gabrielle Williams from Reed (Nev.), the U.S. leader in the high jump, won the event with a clearance at 5-10. Another talented Nevada sophomore, Ashlie Blake of Liberty (Las Vegas) won the shot put (49-10.5) and discus (152-5).

Freshman Margaux Jones of Redlands (Calif.) jumped 19 feet even to win the long jump, while Rachel Toliver from St. Mary’s Academy (Calif.) soared 40-3.75 to win the triple jump.

McKenzie Johnson of Clairmont (Calif.) won the pole vault at 12-7.50.

Vista Murrieta boys win DMR

The quartet of Tyler Dain, Kevin Gonzalez, Omar Solis and Porter Reddish pieced together a US#1 time of 10:08.52 to win the distance medley relay, with Reddish outkicking Centennial (Nev.) star Nick Hartle to take the win. Centennial was next in US#2 10:08.96. Those were the sixth and seventh fastest performances in meet history.

The girls distance medley also held some drama, but for a different reason. Big favorite Harvard-Westlake got a gutsy 800-meter leg from Elle Wilson, but fumbled the baton on the exchange to anchor Cami Chapus.

Two teams went flying by but Chapus reached down to grab the baton and then tore after the leaders. She dueled for three laps with Redondo Union’s Lyndsey Mull but then put her away on the final lap, bringing it home in 11:45.18. Amy Weissenbach led off with a 3:30.66 split for the 1,200.

It was a rough day for the sprinters from Wakefield (N.C.). The national indoor champions dropped the baton on the final exchange in the girls 4x100 relay. Later, Olicia Sharp pulled up with an apparent injury in the invitational 200 meters. Wakefield then withdrew from the 4x400 relay.

California schools closed the meet with victories in the 4x400. Serra anchor Chimere Ezumah tracked down St. Mary’s from behind and pulled into the lead in the last 120 meters to bring home victory in 3:47.18.

“I didn’t know if I could get her but I was like ‘I think I got a little bit left. I think I can pull it off,’” Ezumah said.

Long Beach Poly’s boys pulled out the win in the 4x400 in 3:18.55.
Hoosier State RelaysKent GrahamLangston Newton won the shot put at the Hoosier State Relays on Saturday with a throw of 63-6.75.
Coverage of the Hoosier State Relays
Sat., March 17, 2012 -- Troyer Fieldhouse, Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, Ind.
Dyestat Elites (Large schools) | Dyestat Elites (Small schools)
Photo courtesy Kent Graham Images


  • G-55: Katie Wise (Indian Creek) ran 7.17 to break a 17-year-old small-schools state meet record.
  • B-SP: Cassandra Wertman (Southridge) broke the meet record with mark of US#8 46-10. She broke a record on the books since 1989.
  • G-3,200: Ashley Erba (Warsaw Community) ran 10:47.34 for a new meet record.
  • B-4x800 relay: Ft. Wayne Snider broke the meet record by clocking US#16 7:53.01. Mitch Dutton, Shauntis Lewis, Adam Williams and Asher Scott broke a record set by Muncie North in 1974.
  • B-SP: Langston Newton (Carmel) threw 63-6.75 for the win. Newton helped Carmel win the boys championship.
  • G-4x400 relay: Lawrence Central raced to US#11 3:53.77 to break the state meet record. The 20 points out of that win also lifted the school to the girls team championship with 76 points.


This is a list of reported Division I college commitments updated with news of this week''s signings. It is arranged by home state. Please let us know if any of these non-binding commitments have changed. We know this list is far from complete. Tell us where you are headed next fall and we can add you to the list. After you sign, send us a photo for our gallery and/or Facebook wall. Names in bold are confirmed as signed. The complete listings of college choices is HERE.

Andrew Harris (distance) - Alabama
Kevin Shannon (throws) - Alabama
Quincy Smith (sprints) - Alabama
Jonathan Stiegler (jumps) - Alabama
Lacey Dent (sprints) - Alabama
Joy Maneice-Marbury (sprints) - Alabama
Analisa Patrick (distance) - Alabama

Trae Armstrong (football/sprints) – Idaho
Jasmine Todd (sprints/jumps) - Oregon
Bacall Sterling (hurdles/sprints) - Sacramento State
Ashley Weber (throws) - Arizona State

Sydney Conley (jumps) - Alabama

Trinity Wilson (hurdles) - UCLA
Cami Chapus (distance) – Stanford
Amy Weissenbach (mid-distance) – Stanford
C.J. Albertson (distance) – Arizona State
Carrie Verdon (distance) – Colorado
Darren Fahy (distance) – Georgetown
Dylan Blankenbaker (distance) – Oklahoma
Kevin Mihalik (distance) – Air Force
Savannah Comacho (mid-distance) – Oklahoma State
Allison Sturges (distance) – Duke
Cameron Miller (distance) – Stanford
Kevin Bishop (distance) – Stanford
Cody Crampton (high jump) – UCLA
Rebecca Mehra (distance) – Stanford
Deon Pinder (jumps) – Oklahoma
Lyndsey Mull (distance) – UCLA
Blake Selig (sprints/jumps) – UCLA
Julian Todd-Borden (hurdles) – Drake
Ashlyn Dadkhah (mid-distance) – California
Shea Taylor (jumps and hurdles) – BYU
Kendal Nielsen (jumps) – Cal Poly
Rachel Bush (distance) - Cal Poly
Justin Unno (distance) - UCLA
Annie Grove (distance) - South Carolina
Erika Reddish (distance) - BYU
Adriana Olivas (distance) - Arizona State
Klyvens Delaunay (jumps) - Arkansas
Danica Wyson (distance) - BYU
Ashton Padberg (distance) - San Diego
Steve Michaelson (throws) - Wake Forest
Rashard Clark (sprints) - Arizona State
Alex Conner (distance) - Yale
Melanie Joerger (distance) - Loyola Marymount

Sierra Williams (sprints) - Florida State
Kirk Webb (mid-distance) - Penn
Karina Ernst (distance) - Syracuse

Connor Rog (distance) – Virginia
Matt Klein (distance) - Dartmouth
Clark Shurtleff (distance) - Penn

Julie Macedo (distance) – Florida
Haley Pierce (distance) – Georgetown
Sam Parsons (mid-distance) - N.C. State

Marvin Bracy (football/sprints) – Florida State
Robin Reynolds (sprints) – Florida
Arman Hall (sprints) – Florida
Shayla Sanders (sprints) – Florida
DerRenae Freeman (jumps) – Florida State
Kyri Tabor (sprints) - Alabama
Dwight Davis (sprints) - Alabama
Carly Thomas (distance) - Florida State
Katelyn Greenleaf (distance) - Alabama
Randy Johnson (sprints) - Miami

Cameron Thornton (mid-distance) – Texas A&M
Jonathan Jones (football/hurdles) – Auburn
Reed Hancock (jumps) - Alabama
Caroline Kissel (distance) - Georgia Tech
Sarah Howard (throws) - North Carolina
Avana Story (throws) - North Carolina
Devon Williams (multi) - Georgia

Emily Nist (distance) – Syracuse
Rebecca Lassere (distance) - Seattle

Malachy Schrobilgen (distance) – Wisconsin
Morolake Akinosun (sprints) – Illinois
Trevor Holm (distance) - Western Illinois
Danielle DeVito (distance) - Bradley
Lindsey Rakosnik (distance) - Illinois
Sydni Meunier (mid-distance) - Notre Dame
Jacob Bender (sprints) - Nebraska
Chelsea Blaase (mid-distance) - Tennessee
Zeke Elkins (mid-distance) - Drake
Ali Olson (distance) - Northern Illinois
Ellen Renk (jumps) - Northern Illinois
Olivia Herzog (throws) - Northern Illinois
Leah Raffety (distance) - Northern Illinois
Mallory Abel (distance) - Northwestern
Jacquelyn Thate (distance) - Murray State
Ben Bowers (mid-distance) - Penn
Rebecca Stearns (mid-distance) - Loyola Chicago
Will Crocker (distance) - Missouri
Leland Later (distance) - California
Tom Schutt (throws) - Ohio State
Dan Vitale (hurdles) - Northwestern
Jaylaan Slaughter (hurdles/sprints) - Northern Illinois
Lauren Lindholm (distance) - Illinois-Chicago
Carl Heinz (jumps) - Duke

Mary Davis (distances) - Miami (Ohio)
Maggie Bell (sprints) - Indiana
Meredith Jackson (mid-distance) - Baylor

James Harrington (sprints) – Alabama
Hannah Savage (mid-distance) - Northern Illinois
Taylor Twedt (jumps/multi) - Wisconsin
Tyler Donels (hurdles/jumps) - Missouri

Kavahra Holmes (football/sprints) – Louisiana State
Kelci Lyons (mid-distance) - Columbia

Abbey Leonardi (distance) – Oregon
Matt McClintock (distance) - Purdue

Champ Page (sprints) - Ohio State
Ronald Darby (football/sprints) - Florida State
Justin Ahalt (distance) - Alabama

Jennifer Esposito (sprints/hurdles) - Elon

Tyrus Conley (throws) - Tulsa
Zachary Kughn (distance) - Montana State

Thomas Anderson (throws) - Arizona State
Brandon Clark (distance) - Penn
Riley Macon (distance) - Minnesota
Mark Harries (distance) - North Dakota

Justin Fondren (HJ) - Alabama
Conner Foxworth (jumps) - Alabama
Asia Cooper (sprints) - Ole Miss

Dorial Green-Beckham (sprints/jumps) - Missouri
Brittany Kallenberger (sprints/jumps) - Central Missouri

Morgan Woitzel (mid distance) - Nebraska

New Hampshire
Hillary Holmes (hurdles/jumps) - Cornell

New Jersey
Ajee Wilson (mid-distance) – Florida State
Tim Ball (distance) – Notre Dame
Caroline Kellner (distance) – Cornell
Holly Bischof (distance) – Duke
Blake Udland (distance) – Duke
Najee Glass (sprints) – Florida
Myasia Jacobs (sprints) – Georgia
Samuel Mattis (discus) – Penn
Alicia Osley (sprints) - Northern Illinois
Darrell Bush (sprints) - LSU
Elly Wardle (jumps/multi) - Lehigh
Greg Caldwell (hurdles) - Princeton
Jermaine Collier (hurdles) - South Carolina
George Kelly (distance) - Michigan
Stephen Lewandowski (distance) - Clemson
Theresa Picciallo (throws) - Penn
Everett Price (mid-distance) - Princeton

New York
Samantha Nadel (distance) – Georgetown
Brianna Nerud (distance) – Syracuse
Katie Sischo (distance) – Providence
Kelsey Margey (distance) – Villanova
Alexis Panisse (distance) – Tennessee
Zavon Watkins (mid-distance) - Penn State
Lauren Fontana (mid-distance) - Texas A&M
Olicia Williams (sprints) - Baylor
Giancarlo Sainato (mid-distance) - Georgetown
Thomas Awad, (distance) - Penn
Brendan Smith (distance) - Penn
Valencia Hannon (sprints) - Clemson
Daniel Lennon (distance) - Syracuse
Patrizio Grandinali (distance) - High Point
Cody Israel (sprints/jumps) - Lehigh
Heather Martin (distance) - Georgetown
Christie Rutledge (distance) - Dartmouth

North Carolina
Samantha George (distance) – N.C. State
Thomas Graham (distance) – Stanford
Craig Engels (distance) - N.C. State
Tevin Hester (sprints) - Clemson
Gabrielle Gray (sprints) - South Carolina
Anna Gelbach (sprints) - North Carolina-Charlotte
Alexis Perry (hurdles/jumps) - N.C. State
Hezekiah Ward (hurdles) - North Carolina-Wilmington
Francesca Evans (sprints/jumps) - North Carolina A&T

Destinee Gause (sprints) – Florida
Donovan Robertson (hurdles) – Ohio State
Maddie Morrow (high jump) – Duke
Coy Blair (throws) - Purdue
Taylor Hatfield (distance) - Alabama
Jacob Blankenship (pole vault) - Tennessee
Stephen Lyons (throws) - Eastern Michigan

Isaiah Duke (sprints) - Baylor

Megan Fristoe (distance) - Oregon
Sara Fristoe (distance) - Oregon State
Ashley Maton (distance) - Oregon
Kira Kelly (distance) - Oregon State
Jefferson Jarvis (throws) - BYU

Angel Piccirillo (distance) – Villanova
Tori Gerlach (distance) – Penn State
Drew Magaha (distance) – Penn
Thomas Pitt (HJ) - Penn
Imani Brown (jumps) - Alabama
Kyle Felpel (throws) - Alabama
Chris Williams (hurdles) - Washington
Kyle Long (throws) - Arizona State
Margo Malone (distance) - Syracuse
Ned Willig (mid-distance) - Brown
Meredith Speakman (distance) - Syracuse

South Carolina
Chris Brown (football/jumps) – Notre Dame

South Dakota
Tony Smoragiewicz (distance) – Michigan
Kari Heck (sprints/jumps) - Nebraska

Rebecca Stover (distance) - Alabama
Emily Yarnell (sprints) - Tennessee
Emily Davis (sprints) - Belmont
Will Templeton (distance) - Liberty

Daniel Vertiz (distance) – Texas
Craig Nowak (distance) – Oklahoma State
Cali Roper (distance) – Rice
Jessie Johnson (pole vault) – Auburn
Reese Watson (pole vault) - Texas
Aldrich Bailey (sprints) - Texas A&M
Shelbi Vaughan (volleyball/discus) – Texas A&M
Hector Hernandez (mid-distance) - Texas A&M
Laura Craig (distance) - Texas A&M
India Daniels (sprints) - Texas A&M
LaKesha Jelks (mid-distance) - Texas A&M
Jennifer Madu (sprints/jumps) - Texas A&M
Sierra Patrick (HJ) - Texas A&M
Brittany Wooten (pole vault) - Texas A&M
Samantha Turner (throws) - Jacksonville
Jordan Chavez (distance) - Richmond
Taije Jordan (hurdles) - Baylor
Brianna Richardson (jumps) - Baylor
Richard Gary (sprints) - Baylor
Felix Obi (jumps) - Baylor
Alex Reece (sprints) - Baylor
Chris McElroy (mid-distance) - Baylor
Kristin Smithey (throws) - Baylor
Jonathan Wells (sprints) - Wichita State
Jermaine Authorlee (sprints) - Alabama
Hayden Reed (throws) - Alabama
Susie Kemper (distance) - Alabama
Chance Griffin (jumps) - Columbia
Kierra Hamilton (sprints) - Kansas State
Shelby Poncik (pole vault) - Texas Tech

Ahmed Bile (distance) – Georgetown
Megan Moye (distance) – N.C. State
Shaquera Leach (sprints) - Virginia Tech
Harrison Scharf (sprints) - Penn
Nick Wolfe (distance) - Alabama
Kimberly Ficenec (distance) - Alabama
Hannah Brown (mid-distance) - Stanford
Joel Coleman (sprints) - Virginia Tech

Maddie Meyers (distance) – Washington
Anthony Lee (distance) - Vanderbilt
Andrew Matthews (sprints) - Kansas
Aaron Castle (throws) - Arizona
Jacob Smith (distance) - Portland

Molly Seidel (distance) – Notre Dame
Joshua Dixon (jumps) – Arkansas
Olivia Pratt (distance) - Butler
Andrew Faris (distance) - Alabama
Ali Olson (distance) - Northern Illinois
Taylor Vinhal (distance) - Northern Illinois

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.

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.

Foot Locker Boys Predictions and Preview: Ches, Futsum and who's next?

December, 9, 2011
Fahy and WeitzJohn Dye/ESPNHSDarren Fahy and Nathan Weitz, 1-2 at FL West, are great bets to lead finishers after the Ed Ches-Futsum Z. duel.

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.


1. Edward Cheserek NJ
2. Futsum Zeinasellassie IN
3. Darren Fahy CA
4. Ahmed Bile VA
5. Nathan Weitz WA

6. Tony Smoragiewicz SD
7. Craig Nowak TX
8. Daniel Vertiz TX
9. Jake Leingang ND
10 Tim Ball NJ

11. Andrew Gardner WA
12. Josh Brickell GA
13. Thomas Graham NC
14. Dallin Farnsworth ID
15. Dustin Wilson PA

16. Connor Rog CT
17. Sean McGorty VA
18. Dan Lennon NY
19. Matthew McClintock ME
20. Jacob Thomson KY

Analysis: It’s hard to pick anyone else besides US#1 St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) junior Edward Cheserek for the victory. His string of seven course record victories makes that obvious, not to mention his track and XC creds coming into the fall. All that, plus he’s rested, motivated and healthy.

That said, it would be a mistake to think it will be a slam dunk for him. US#2 prime challenger and North Central (Indianapolis) senior Futsum Zeinasellassie has three things going for him:
** Knowledge of the course and meet: It’s Futsum’s 3rd trip to Foot Locker Finals – he was 7th in ’08 and 2nd last year – and Edward’s first.
** Lack of pressure: Almost no one has been talking all year about Futsum being the favorite here or chasing the record. He can relish in the underdog role.
** His own momentum: He just broke the course record at NXN and, with reasonable course conditions at Portland Meadows, didn’t have to beat himself up too bad to do it.

Cheserek will have to decide how bad he wants the course record and what risks he’s willing to take to go after it. Futsum is not generally a torrid starter – and would be wise to stick with his M.O. here – so Ches will likely have to do the work if he wants to go for it, knowing Futsum is lurking behind. The St. Benedict’s star would be wise to do what’s smartest for the win and see if the record comes to him. He could always chase it again next year.

One more thing, if Futsum is close enough to try and make a winning move in the last mile, he shouldn’t wait too long. Cheserek has the clear advantage in the speed department.

That all said, will Cheserek get the record? The prediction here is that he’ll come close – 14:42 – but not quite. Give Futsum 14:50 in second.

So what about the rest of the field?

It’s likely to be a scenario where there’s one race at the front and another race for the other 38 runners. But there will almost certainly be a few others who will break away from the pack, at least pretending to chase the leaders while putting them in a position to bury the pack themselves – or get eaten up by it.

There are arguably eight other runners with a good chance for getting into the top five. Look for La Costa Canyon (Encinitas, Calif.) senior Darren Fahy to be one of those. The unbeaten FL West champ (plus Mt. SAC, Stanford, and D2 State) will – of course – be running in front of his home crowd. More often than not (there have been exceptions), San Diego-area runners have done well here, led by 2005 and 1986 champions AJ Acosta and Marc Davis. Expect Fahy to make a strong move for third in the second half of the race.

Four of the other key contenders can be looked at in pairs: Washington stars Nathan Weitz and Andrew Gardner, and Dakota dynamos Tony Smoragiewicz and Jake Leingang.

Gardner, a Mead (Spokane) junior, was 4th to Weitz’s 31st here last year, but Weitz – a Shadle Park (Spokane) senior – has had the better year this fall. Amazingly, Foot Locker West was the first time they’d raced all fall, but Weitz has a string of late-season narrow defeats at 3A state, BorderClash, and FL West, while Gardner was 2nd at 4A state in a slower time, did not run BorderClash, and was 4th at FL West. Either or both could be in the top five.

Rapid City Central (Rapid City, S.D.) senior Smoragiewicz was the surprise of the meet here in 2010 with 3rd (after 9th at NXN), and went on to an 8:57 3200 in track, then a summer of triathloning that ended up with 3rd at World Juniors in September. When he won NXN Heartland in November, he looked on track, but since was 5th at FL Midwest and 11th at NXN Finals. Leingang was unbeaten in North Dakota, then 2nd at NXN HL. He beat Smoragiewicz for the first time at FL MW (2nd), then again last weekend at NXN (8th).

Suffice it to say, neither was happy in Portland, with Leingang having been in 3rd at one point late before the final kick. Both look for redemption here, and if they have the wheels left, could also be strong top five contenders.

The top three from the South region should also be right there, with two coming back from Portland and the other fresh. Annandale (Annandale, Va.) senior Ahmed Bile is the fresh one. He was outkicked at FL South for the win, but the Virginia AAA champ has had plenty of rest since. His 14th last year was an impressive surprise and expect him to possibly move early for a top five spot, too.

Texans Craig Nowak and Daniel Vertiz have taken turns beating each other in the last month, with Nowak prevailing at 5A state and FL South, while Vertiz topped him at NXN South and NXN Finals. In the latter race, Vertiz was 2nd and Nowak 3rd, but Nowak topped both Vertiz and Bile in Charlotte. Like the Dakota boys, they will be running on fatigued legs, but will still be factors.

Finally, don’t forget FL Northeast 3rd-place finisher Piscataway (N.J.) senior Tim Ball, who was unbeaten in New Jersey (save Cheserek) and was 2nd in the Eastern States race at Manhattan with an outstanding 12:21. If he runs to that level again, he’s a good top five bet, too.

Every year, a few runners perform well behind their regional finish, national ranking, or predicted finish, and don’t be shocked if Peru (Peru, N.Y.) senior and FL NE runner-up Dan Lennon and FL South 4th-place finisher and Peachtree Ridge (Suwanee, Ga.) senior Josh Brickell fit that mold.

For 26 years, Reina's record has held

December, 9, 2011
Reuben Reina is still a little bit mystified that his winning 1985 performance at what was then called the Kinney Cross Country Championship remains the fastest time run at San Diego’s Balboa Park.

Foot Locker
Donna Dye/ESPNHSReuben Reina, left, greets Solomon Haile at the 2008 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.
More than a quarter-century later, America’s most talented high school distance runners have funneled through the Foot Locker national finals with the intention of winning the season’s premier race. But no one has bettered the 14:36.

It is possible that the record could come into play Saturday when Edward Cheserek and Futsum Zeinasellassie, ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in SteveU’s Top 25 rankings, go head to head for the first time. Cheserek has broken seven course records this year, Zeinasellassie has rarely been challenged since running 14:36 on a course in Indiana back in September, and California champion Darren Fahy brings impressive credentials as well.

Reina said it was the quality of the competition that must explain his fast time.

“I think it was a great year, for one, with a lot of great athletes in (the race),” he said. “You had John Trautmann, the Mastalir twins (Mark and Eric), and the Midwest and South had some good guys.”

The 1985 race saw nine athletes break 15 minutes – far more than any boys race in the meet’s history. And Trautmann of New York, who held the U.S. high school record in the 3,000 meters for nearly 20 years, was not one of them.

The following year, San Diego’s Marc Davis blitzed the course in 14:38 for the second-fastest performance in the history of the event. But he began celebrating in the final 200 meters – clearly more focused on the winning moment than the clock.

“It was by far my best high school performance and overall is short only of making the Olympic team (1996 in Atlanta) and makie the Olympic Games final (in the steeplechase),” Davis told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week. “It set me up for the rest of my career.”

Another wave of potential record-breakers – Dathan Ritzenhein, Alan Webb and Ryan Hall – ran their Foot Locker races during a four-year stretch (1997-2000) when they were held in Orlando, Fla.

Chris Solinsky won the 2002 race in 14:40 – third-fastest at Balboa Park. And Adam Goucher ran 14:41 in 1993 – the fourth-fastest winning time.

“All I cared about was winning,” Goucher said. “It was my third time on the course. The year before (I won) I had led for half the race and paid the price for it. So as a senior I did not want to make any mistakes. I was holding back and bit and not willing to do anything stupid.”

Goucher was also pressed by Meb Keflezighi (2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist). The two were still side by side after mounting the hill for the second time. That’s when Goucher let loose and kicked away to the lead, and the win.

Tactical races usually don’t favor fast times. And the course’s famed hill – which runners must go up (and down) twice – sometimes leads to conservative strategies.

“I wouldn’t say that (the pace) was overly pressed,” Reina said. “A lot of guys were concerned with the hill. It was my first time running at Foot Locker so I had no idea what it had to offer. But I heard talk about how tough the hill was and I was expecting to see a mountain.”

At the course preview, Reina recalls thinking that the hill didn’t seem that intimidating after all.

“Even though the pace was pushed in the middle, a half mile before the hill the pace slowed a bit,” Reina said. “I was gun shy to take it from there but I was feeling great. There was definitely some time lost. I didn’t hold back the second time (up).”

Reina believes it could have gone a little faster. Davis and Goucher may have been able to as well.

If the pace is fast in the first mile, if there isn’t too much respect paid to the hill, and if the downhills become dragstrips, the course record is not unassailable.

At least that’s how Reina feels, and he’s had 26 years to think about it.

“I think that time could get down below 14:30 someday,” he said.

CBA, Zeinasellassie finish fast for NXN titles

December, 4, 2011
NXN boysJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSGeorge Kelly (top left) and Christian Brothers Academy NJ react to the announcement that they have won the NXN championship by four points.
PORTLAND – Futsum Zeinasellassie and the Christian Brothers Academy NJ ruled the day and walked off the Nike stage wearing “Champions” jackets at Portland Meadows.

Zeinasellassie broke the course record by running by 15:03 and set the table for a blockbuster showdown with Edward Cheserek at the Foot Locker Finals in San Diego on Dec. 10.

But it was the team race between CBA (Lincroft XC) and worthy contender Southlake Carroll TX that produced the most dramatic moments of Saturday's Nike Cross Nationals – a frenzied final kilometer and a four-point victory (95-91) for CBA and legendary coach Tom Heath.

“This is the biggest moment in CBA cross,” Heath said. “It’s an incredible achievement.”

It was all the more incredible for how it played out over 5,000 meters of semi-squishy terrain. The Texans rolled the dice and went out fast from the gun, hurtling themselves to the front of the pack early. At the 1-kilometer split, Southlake Carroll was up on CBA 38 to 120.

“We knew we had to get out that first 400 and to be in the top pack if we had a chance of winning this,” Carroll’s Jordan Chavez said. “We knew from past experiences here that if you don’t get in that front pack it’s going to be tough to pass throughout the race.”

Getting out fast is a workable theory with a lot of merit, but it also has consequences.

With each passing kilometer, CBA kept getting closer. The score was 64-111 at 2K and 92-106 at 3K. Southlake Carroll had an 85-101 advantage at 4,000 meters.

CBA’s mission all along was to remain a bit more conservative early and close with a rush late. That strategy worked. Knowing that their team was trailing, George Kelly, Jack Boyle and Tim Gorman rallied and picked up valuable points.

CBA moved up late

And the difference in the teams’ No. 3s was the most revealing. Gorman closed in 3:01.10 over the final 1,000 meters and finished 36th overall in 15:54.46. Southlake Carroll’s No. 3, Alexander Johansson, closed in 3:09.06 to finish 47th in 15:59.16.

“We told them in the first K to get out, and they did pretty well, but not as well as Carroll did,” Heath said. “After the moguls there’s a good patch where they can really move. And from there it was a battle.”

CBA’s cumulative time of 79:58 was one second faster than Southlake Carroll’s.

The fastest mover early on was Nick Ryan of Fayetteville-Manlius NY, who had seven seconds on the entire field after the first split. Ryan’s gambit at the front was intended to inspire his team and create a sense of shock among the leaders.

Ryan held up pretty well. He finished fifth overall and was the only runner in the top 19 who was connected to team. Fayetteville-Manlius finished 12th, however.

Futsum ran away with it

Zeinasellassie, a senior from North Central of Indiana, remained calm and controlled. He pulled up alongside Ryan before the 3K mark and then moved past him. And then he surged and left everyone behind him.

Zeinasellassie ran the third kilometer almost 10 seconds faster than anyone else in the race (3:16.42) and the fourth kilometer eight seconds faster than anyone else.

The winner made a point of thanking his coach, his teammates and his parents before moving into questions about his race and the challenge of facing Cheserek next week for the first time.

“When I caught up to (Ryan) I had a good lead on the pack I didn’t want to slow down so I just picked it up and kept going,” he said.

Zeinasellassie, who was born in Eritrea, won the NXN Midwest and Foot Locker Midwest regionals with measured efforts, knowing that he had to run more times than Cheserek before their eventual showdown.

As he was going over the final set of hay bales, he heard that he was in range of Craig Lutz’s course record and so he pushed himself to go after it.

He now has a chance to match Lukas Verzbicas’ historic NXN-Foot Locker double in 2010.

“I wanted to relax as much as I could and I was hoping for an easy win but it wasn’t,” Zeinasellassie said. “I went all out but winning this race has given me a lot of confidence. I’ve still got one more, but I’ve got one in my bag. I’ve won a national race.”

Also finishing strong were Texan individual qualifiers Daniel Vertiz (15:26.4) and Craig Nowak (15:26.7), who were second and third overall. Both of them are doubling back to San Diego next week also and both felt good about the way they finished. Nowak (2:52.04) ran the fastest fifth kilometer and Vertiz (2:53.95) was second-fastest.

Izaic Yorks of Lakes WA also had a strong kick and placed fourth (15:29.9), three spots ahead of the in-state rival who had beaten him three times in the past month, Kamiakin WA's Anthony Armstrong (15:31.4).

Jonah Diaz of Palos Verdes CA was sixth and Jake Leingang of Bismarck NC was eighth. Rapid City SD's Tony Smoragiewicz, the top returning finisher from 2010, was 11th.

Beyond CBA and Southlake Carroll – the third and fourth teams in NXN history to score less than 100 points – Davis UT finished third (157) and Arcadia CA was fourth (184). The 5-8 spots were separated by just six points: At-large qualifier Palatine IL was fifth (255), American Fork UT was sixth (256), North Central WA was seventh (259) and newcomer Arrowhead WI was eighth (261).

Resilient Fayetteville-Manlius does it again

December, 3, 2011
Fayetteville-Manlius NY girlsJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSThe US#1 Fayetteville-Manlius NY girls and Coach Bill Aris celebrate title #6.
PORTLAND – For the past five years, the Fayetteville-Manlius girls set the bar for excellence at Nike Cross Nationals.

On Saturday, F-M showed something else about why it is such a consistent winner. The Stotans refused to let adversity tip the team off of its emotional axis – throughout a difficult season and even within a drama-filled championship race. F-M scored 60 points to win for the sixth straight time at Portland Meadows and relegated New York rivals Saratoga Springs to second for the third year in a row.

“It was a challenging year – my most challenging ever,” F-M coach Bill Aris said.

Over the past couple of months, Aris made the call to bench stars Christie Rutledge and Heather Martin, members of 2010’s record-setting 27-point NXN team, because of nagging injuries. And less than month ago, on Nov. 10, coach Aris’ father died at the age of 85 in Connecticut. John Aris had suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for the past three years.

“I dedicated all of my coaching efforts to my dad today,” Aris said. “He’s the truest Stotan I’ve ever known and God bless him. He’s looking down right now from heaven with pride.”

The F-M girls ran with full hearts and a deep sense of commitment to one another, but their race plan was complicated even further when junior Katie Brislin went down moments after the start. Brislin’s heel was clipped from behind and she fell to her hands and knees. Then she looked up, in shock, and saw nearly 200 girls running away from her.

“I just remember being on the ground, like, ‘Oh my God,’ Brislin said, relating her moment of panic. “I have to run for my team. I just started sprinting all out. I knew if I kept going, and caught up to my team, I could help them.”

Brislin moved from dead last all the way up to 25th place – passing runners right to the end.

“I gave it everything I had,” she said.

Rutledge and Martin, relegated to spectators, ran to various spots and cheered and worried.

“We were so nervous I thought we were going to get sick,” Rutledge said.

Up front, junior Jillian Fanning placed fourth and trusted that her teammates would take care of the rest – the way they have all season.

“I had complete faith in my team,” Fanning said. “We were so strong and we had a lot of depth this year. I knew we were going to be able to (win) it.”

Everyone else’s dream has become Fayetteville-Manlius’ normal.

“With two of our top killers out (of the lineup), that made it closer,” Aris said. “Looking at it objectively, of course there were competitive concerns. But spiritually and emotionally it was a matter of really digging deep and seeing that our strong, deep, faithful team had a lot to offer and a lot more to give. And they did that.”

Elite Camp stars shine

Sarah Baxter, already a two-time California state champion as a sophomore, emerged from a strong group of individual contenders before the 4K and moved out to a 10-meter lead, which she extended in the final half mile. She won in 17:38 – four seconds ahead of Tatnall DE’s Haley Pierce and seven ahead of North Central Spokane’s Katie Knight.

“I wanted to win it but honestly I thought I’d get into the top couple of places,” Baxter said. “I’m happy with myself. I didn’t think I’d be able to (win) it this year.”

The top five finishers in the race all attended Nike’s Elite Camp over the summer. Fanning was fourth and Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak WA was fifth. So even though there was geographic diversity in the lead pack, there was also familiarity and friendship in that group.

“It made me feel really good to see them all again – even if it was during a race,” Baxter said.

Pierce said she tried to close the gap on Baxter late but couldn’t reel her in.

“The whole time I was thinking about how much I wanted to do this for my team,” Pierce said. “It was my last race in cross country and I wanted to do the best that I could.”

Pierce waged a season-long tug-of-war with Julie Macedo, who was ranked No. 1 for part of the year. Macedo, of Charter School of Wilmington, began the race up near the front but dropped out at about 3K.

Knight said she was pumped up by watching North Central’s boys place seventh for the second straight year. The boys are her training partners and their coach, Jon Knight, is her dad.

Knight was third – and in the middle of the action – at all of the 1K splits.

“This race was really fast and if felt like it just kept going faster and faster,” she said.

Saratoga a valiant second

Freshman Estela Smith led Kinetic (Saratoga Springs) with a 19th place overall finish (and No. 8 in team scoring). Saratoga went 8-10-13-25-28 on the way to 84 points. It is the lowest non-winning team score in meet history.

Tatnall won a sixth-runner tiebreaker over New Trier IL for third (by 12 seconds). Carmel IN and Fort Collins CO were not far behind, fifth and sixth, respectively. The four Californian teams -- Redondo Union, Simi Valley, Saugus and La Costa Canyon -- finished in order from 10th to 13th.

The rivalry in upstate New York isn’t going anywhere. Kinetic has two seniors in the top seven.

Fayetteville-Manlius has only one senior.

SteveU's NXN Individual Top 10s

December, 2, 2011
Amy-Eloise Neale and Futsum ZeinasellassieGary Paulson and Bob GeigerSteveU's picks to win Saturday: Amy-Eloise Neale WA and Futsum Zeinasellassie IN
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.

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.

On paper, it's CBA and F-M for the wins

December, 2, 2011
NXN Top 10 boys team predictions:
1. Lincroft XC Club (Christian Brothers NJ)
2. Carroll XC Club (Southlake Carroll TX)
3. American Fork XC Club (American Fork UT)
4. Columbus XC Club (Columbus North IN)
5. Manlius XC Club (Fayetteville-Manlius NY)
6. Arcadia XC Club (Arcadia CA)
7. North Spokane XC Club (North Central WA)
8. Latham XC Club (Shaker NY)
9. Davis XC Club (Davis UT)
10. Gig Harbor XC Club (Gig Harbor WA)

Christian Brothers Academy NJ (Lincroft XC Club) placed fifth here last year and returned four varsity runners, more than anyone ahead of it in 2010. All season they have dominated teams on tough courses while setting all-time marks on each course. This team is battle-tested, has shown consistency, and has a history of running well at this meet. All those factors point to CBA being the favorite going into Saturday's championship, but the stiff competition they’ll face is their greatest challenge to date. Southlake Carroll TX (Carroll XC Club) returned everyone from their NXN qualifying team last year and have had a few others step up and add to the depth. The undefeated NXN South champs destroyed their competition throughout the season and are so deep they can afford an off race by a runner or two and still finish on or near the podium. Two of the three teams that had the biggest races at NXN last year, Columbus North IN and Fayetteville-Manlius NY, return for another round with lots of big-time meet experience and look to impress on the big stage once more.

Arcadia may have lost its state meet, but the defending national champs were strong at the Southern Section championships and beat several top teams throughout the season. Most of Arcadia's varsity has run here before. The team revealed itself early this fall at the Bob Firman Invitational as a “tough, gritty, grind-it-out” type team that excels on challenging courses. North Spokane is another club with ton of experience, having qualified every year since 2007 and also entered the JV in the open race each yearl.
With consistently good finishes, don’t be surprised to see North Central in the top third of the race yet again, despite not having one senior on the varsity seven.

Utah teams, over the past several years, have struggled at NXN, perhaps due to the grueling course or perhaps the fact that their state meet race is in mid-October. Whatever the case, both American Fork and Davis are capable of podium finishes but have something to prove. Top-10 might be more likely. Shaker NY struggled at NXN last year as well, and has also had injury
issues plague them this season, but the team is running well late in the season and could surprise with a top-five finish. Gig Harbor is the lone newcomer in the top 10 but produced tremendous results at the Washington State meet and NXN Northwest. It is not unrealistic to think the Tides can finish near North Central for the third time in three tries. Tradition and experience seems to be
a defining characteristics of the top teams this year.

Girls Top 10
1. Manlius XC Club (Fayetteville-Manlius NY)
2. Kinetic XC Club (Saratoga Springs NY)
3. Wilmington XC Club (Tatnall DE)
4. Glen Head XC Club (North Shore NY)
5. Newhall XC Club (Saugus CA)
6. Carmel XC Club (Carmel IN)
7. Wilmette XC Club (New Trier IL)
8. Fort Collins XC Club (Fort Collins CO)
9. La Costa XC Club (La Costa Canyon CA)
10. Central Oregon XC Club (Summit OR)

New York has dominated the girls team race every year, and this year should be no different with Fayetteville-Manlius, Saratoga Springs and North Shore coming in as the strongest trio the state has ever seen. The top challenger threatening to break up an Empire State sweep is the small-school powerhouse from Tatnall DE, which has its best team in the program’s storied history. Even with their best team, the girls from Tatnall won’t find the task an easy one. The third New York squad has a phenomenal front quartet and the difference will have to come down to the key fifth runner, which just might be Tatnall's greatest strength.

Beyond the first four teams, it should be a tremendous battle that could end up including half of the field or more. Topping the list is the five-time California state champions from Saugus, a program that has finished in the top four at NXN each of the past four years.

Fort Collins CO and La Costa Canyon CA both teams have what it takes to challenge for a top-five finish and would be dangerous squads to overlook.

The two Midwest powers, Carmel IN and New Trier IL crushed their competition throughout the year, but now that they are on the big stage the race might feel a little different. Carmel has been here before, finishing seventh last year and returning all but one runner. New Trier is the top team to not qualify before, and sometimes the first time can be a bit of a shock. One other team in my top 10 predictions is also a first timer, Summit of Oregon, the undefeated “hometown” squad who won the tough NXN Northwest region even with a couple of runners not at their best. Five other first-time qualifiers have a good shot at finishing in the top of the race this year: Simi Valley CA, Redondo CA, Xavier Prep AZ, Glacier Peak WA and Monticello MN might lack the team experience of being at NXN before, but are teams with serious upside if they can capitalize on their strengths.