High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: utah

First stop Buckley, next stop New York City

May, 4, 2012
Marcus Dickson White River WashingtonAdam LeahyMarcus Dickson of White River (Wash.) leaves the competition behind during an 800 meters race on March 30.
There are just three stop lights in Buckley, Wash., the small town located in the foothills halfway between the city of Seattle and the summit of Mt. Rainier. There’s just one restaurant, Wally’s, a drive-in that’s popular with the high school kids.

It’s the kind of place where the high school’s sports are a big deal.

Last week, word spread like wildfire that Marcus Dickson was going after the White River High School record in the 1,600 meters in a dual meet against Sumner, right there in Buckley.

Dickson encouraged the buzz in town and then put on a show for the people who came to watch him run in his final home meet. He ran a US#1 4:05.83, helped by a teammate willing to run the first 800 in 2:02 and coaches positioned strategically around the track to keep him up to date on his split times.

“It was my last meet ever in a small town where people always ask me how I’m doing,” Dickson said. “A lot of people came out. We’d spread the word, ‘Come watch the mile.’ A lot of classmates and community members showed up. I knew it was going to be hard to run 4:05 in a league meet, but I also knew I had it in me.”

The school record was not soft. Andy Maris ran 4:06.61 in 1989. Dickson could see the name and time on a wall at the school every day and had long ago decided he wanted to take it down.

He got into position to do it with an ambitious 50-mile per week training regimen logged during a very wet Northwest winter and early spring. Dickson was the last athlete invited to join the field for the mile at the Brooks PR Invitational on Feb. 26 and then he ran 4:07.18 for the win in his only indoor meet.

“That broke me out of my shell a little bit,” Dickson said. “I had never run in a major race before. I’d read about those guys and found out when I met them that they were all regular kids like me. It told me I can run with anyone right now.”

In mid-March, when a late winter blast of snow and ice made the track at White River unusable, Dickson drove to nearby schools at lower elevations to scout for a track that was clear. He found one at Auburn-Riverside, waited until the school’s track teams were done using it, and then completed his workout under the cloak of darkness.

When the weather is at its worst – and the rain is colder at Buckley’s 700 feet – Dickson turns it to his advantage.

“No one else is running right now, so let’s run,” he said.

Dickson escaped the drizzle to run at the Arcadia Invitational on April 7 in California, finishing second in the mile to Brad Nye (Kaysville, Utah) in 4:09.41.

“Brad’s an amazing runner and it’s hard to beat him,” Dickson said of his future BYU teammate. “I was happy with what I did, it was an outdoor PR at the time, but I hate losing. I think (Arcadia) was a turning point for me. After Brooks I felt invincible. At Arcadia, I was expecting to win that race. It was a little wake-up.”

Motivation comes easy to Dickson, the youngest of five kids. He grew up wanting to surpass the achievements of his two older brothers, who both ran at Auburn High, one of the big Class 4A schools downhill from Buckley. Even within Washington, Dickson didn't gain widespread recognition until this year because of the exploits of runners like Andrew Gardner, Nathan Weitz and Anthony Armstrong.

"Those guys are the real deal, in track and cross," Dickson said. "They always beat me in cross country. I was hoping for a big year in track but wasn’t always sure because they always beat me. They motivated me to work harder. I thought of each one of those guys and wanted to be with them in track."

On April 26, at Buckley, there was a burst of hail at the track 20 minutes before the 1,600. But the people who came to watch had just enough time to close their umbrellas and find a good place to stand or sit. The sun came out. And Dickson got ready to run.

“He had a plan,” White River coach Jerry Scheidt said. “He wanted to break that record. He’s been chasing that thing for four years.”

Teammate Kody Gould, a 4:16 1,600-meter runner, helped him get to 2:02 for two laps.

By the end, Dickson was lapping runners, which caused a brief mix-up for the timing system. But the hand times all confirmed that it was under 4:06 and the automatic timing verified it. The townspeople cheered. Classmates greeted him with hugs.

With the months of May and June still to go, Dickson has a lot to look forward to on the track. He’d like to help White River win the Class 2A championship, running as many races as he needs to make that happen.

He certainly feels like he’s got a shot at the state record in the 800 (1:49.41 by John Cote of Lindbergh in 1997), mostly likely when he runs at the Oregon-Washington BorderDuel in Portland on June 2 against Nick Boersma (1:51.78) and Izaic Yorks (1:51.75). Two days after the 4:05, at the Shoreline Invitational, he just missed that 800 mark, running US#2 1:49.45.

And he’ll get another shot at Nye and the rest of the nation’s top milers when he makes his first trip to New York City for the June 9 Jim Ryun Dream Mile.

“I’m excited,” Dickson said. “There’s a lot left to do.”
Tim McLooneSubmitted by Suzanne Gottuso/ESPNHSRumson-Fair Haven NJ coach Tim McLoone consulting with two of his athletes.
What do coaches Rob Hipwood of Los Alamos High in New Mexico, Corbin Talley of Davis High in Utah and David Christian of Broughton High in North Carolina have in common?

In addition to producing state championship teams that have also made their marks nationally, the three coaches were all Foot Locker cross country finalists in their high school days, as well as outstanding college runners. While it is
logical that top runners would fill the nation’s coaching ranks, it’s also the case that many of today’s leading high school coaches did not come from much of a running background. In fact, some never ran a step in their lives.

This seeming contradiction leads to the question of whether good coaching is based primarily on running knowledge and instincts, or whether a coach’s personality and ability to relate to the student-athletes can carry the day even if he or she lacks certain expertise at the outset.

Paul Limmer, the former Mepham High coach from Long Island who nurtured all-time greats like Mark Belger, Christine Curtin and top teams for 30 years, performed his own athletics on a baseball diamond. He knew next to nothing about running when he started coaching track and cross country in the 1969-70 season. He said, “I had to pick up bits and pieces from books, other coaches, trial and error, ‘ruining’ a lot of kids till I could develop a system that worked.”

It’s hard to imagine any coach, especially a dynamic force like Limmer “ruining” a youngster. Kids have a way of surviving even dumb workouts. But Limmer’s point is well-taken, and it underlies what a caring coach can do when he figures things out.

Coaching Neophyte Finds Potential Runners

Initially, Limmer — a long-time executive with the National Scholastic Sports Foundation that puts on events like this month’s New Balance Indoor Nationals — went with his strength, which is to say, his personality.

“I was an excellent recruiter,” he said. “I could recruit kids out of my class, in the cafeteria. I could make the sport sound very attractive to them.”

Limmer was the type of person that few people, young or old, can ever say no to. He could identify students who might thrive on hard work and the camaraderie of cross country.

“You pick those kids out sitting by themselves who could use a team to feel part of something,” Limmer said. “Very often those were the kids who grew to love running and become the backbone of my program.”

It was not long before Limmer’s program was humming. He developed the middle-distance star Belger, a 1:50 half-miler who led the nation in 1974, and after girls track was soon to be officially established via Title IX, Limmer had Curtin, the 1982 Foot Locker national champion.

New coaches without the confidence to rely on their own ideas tend to pick up on the latest trends. That’s what Limmer did when he started, citing the “mileage craze” of that early 70s period when 100-mile-a-week LSD seemed like the be-all and end-all.

March Peak Performance Submitted by Paul LimmerPaul Limmer (right) used the strength of his personality to build winning teams in at Mepham on Long Island, New York.

“We did it like everyone else,” he said, referring to his boys’ team. “But you had to have a lot of kids because you’d lose up to 40 percent to injury. Those standing at the end of 10 100-mile weeks were really good.”

When Tim McLoone started coaching at Rumson Fair Haven in New Jersey (along with a partner, Henry Mercer) seven years ago, he brought the same high-wired personality and entrepreneurial spirit as Limmer to give the program a lift.

Last fall, all the years of nurturing and attention to detail resulted in a crowning moment: the school’s first girls’ Meet of Champions cross-country title for what was aptly described as a Cinderella team.

McLoone, who had quite a reputation as a restauranteur, musician and humanitarian — his Holiday Express Christmas concerts are known to draw the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen — brought his Limmer-style salesmanship to the RFH program but also something Limmer did not have at the outset: a substantial running background. McLoone ran for Harvard. He raced against that Yale guy, Frank Shorter, in Ivy League competition.

College Mistakes Provide HS Lessons

Oddly enough, instead of some sweeping motivational concepts picked up from his prestigious running background, McLoone said that the most important thing he learned at Harvard that he could apply to his high school athletes was a college deficiency: poor tapering.

“Our coach,” said McLoone, “was big on training but not big on pre-meet psych-ups.”

McLoone said that an experience during the 1968 cross-country season has stayed with him. The NCAA meet was making its first appearance at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. It poured so “hellaciously,” according to McLoone, that the site was not usable and the meet was postponed a week. McLoone’s Harvard team had already tapered for an entire week, and now they tapered for a second week.

“We felt out of it,” he said. Harvard placed ninth with only one runner in the top 50. After that, McLoone always felt, “if you over-taper, you are really rolling the dice.”

At RFH, said McLoone, the girls worked just as hard the week of the state meet as they had the entire season. He said the key to the team’s preparation was a Wednesday session of repeat 400 “dropdowns” on 60 seconds rest. They started at 90 seconds and worked down below 80. It was, in effect, the anti-taper.

During the workout, McLoone got a good indication about Saturday when girls standing next to him after their eighth repeat were fresh enough to hold a conversation. They would win the Meet of Champs by 16 points over two-time defender Hillsborough.

Elite Runners Pass on Proven Methods

Hipwood, Talley and Christian have brought considerable range and know-how to their programs, and each emphasized the role their own coaches played in providing a launching pad.

Hipwood probably had the best teacher of all, the master: Joe Vigil. After making the 1981 Foot Locker finals, placing 26th, Hipwood went on to run for Vigil at Adams State in Alamosa, Colorado. While winning the 1985 NAIA cross country title, and earning six All-American citations, he absorbed Vigil’s “amazing ability to connect with people.”

At Adams, Hipwood would meet his future wife, also an all-American, and together Rob and Kathy Hipwood have propelled Los Alamos to New Mexico state champion or contender year after year while also excelling at Nike Cross Nationals (NXN). The Hilltoppers’ boys were second (by two points) at NXN in 2007; the girls took sixth in 2004.

Hardly a day goes by when the Hipwoods don’t use an idea he picked up from Vigil, such as how to maintain a patient approach to excellence, especially for athletes hoping to run in college; and ways to inspire confidence in youngsters ready to move to a higher level.

Christian, 31, ran for another coaching legend, Tony Rowe, at Daviess County High in Kentucky. He was a two-time Foot Locker finalist, in 1996 and ’98, and went on to achieve ACC track and cross-country honors at North Carolina State under coach Rollie Geiger.

In his eighth year coaching boys at Broughton (and 3rd year with the girls), Christian relies on a particular approach to the state cross-country meet that was a hallmark of Rowe’s program. At Daviess, they called it “The Raging Red Line.”

At Broughton, Christian calls it, “Rowe Miles.”

On a Monday three weeks before state, the Broughton varsity does a hard two-mile followed by a hard mile; two weeks before, it’s 2 x 1 mile; and the week before it’s one mile all-out, a time trial in pursuit of PRs. The workouts are on grass or track. Since the athletes are in cross-country shape, not mile shape, Broughton’s boys pack looks for low-4:30s times while the girls aim for sub-5:30.

Talley and Nye
John Dye/ESPNHSDavis UT coach Corbin Talley (left) and his star miler Brad Nye celebrate Nye's victory at NBN Indoors.
Christian said the three-week preparation is excellent for state, offering the athletes tangible evidence of their readiness. “They can say, ‘I PR'd in the mile, I must be really fit.’” he said.

“Super-Intensity” Produces National Stars

That same mindset of going hard — “pushing past pain” — is what Talley brought to Davis from his high school experience at Bingham High in Utah under coach Jeff Arbogast, a much sought-after clinician whose 1999 girls team was ranked No. 1 in the Harrier Super-25.

“When we went hard, we were super-intense,” said Talley, 34, in his ninth year at Davis.

That intensity enabled Talley to place 12th in the 1994 Foot Locker nationals.

In college, at Weber State, he competed in the NCAA championships as a steeplechaser. Currently, Talley’s Davis athletes are national headliners. The boys’ cross-country team made the 2011 NXN podium with a third-place finish, and just last Sunday, the Darts’ star, Brad Nye, won a sensational indoor nationals mile in New York over Edward Cheserek.

One of Arbogast’s staple workouts, repeat 800s, has become a Davis staple.

“The last one or two intervals,” said Talley, referring to intensity, “everyone’s going for it.”

But not all high school running successes can be traced to a trickle-down effect from illustrious coaches. Many good ideas are picked up from the youngsters themselves.

“I think the best way to learn is to be around kids,” Talley said. "I'm learning from my athletes all the time.”
Malone NyeJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSBen Malone and Brad Nye announced their arrival as national middle-distance greats at NBNI Sunday.

NBNI Index

NEW YORK -- Now everyone else in the country knows what the East Coast already knew: New Jersey yet again appears to be harboring America's next great mid-distance phenom.

Now everyone else outside the Rocky Mountain Region might finally believe what the locals already knew: Utah's greatest distance runner truly is among the premier distance runners in America -- and now the only prep this year to pin a defeat on the once-invincible Edward Cheserek.

And now Cheserek knows what the rest of the nation is quickly learning: In this current wave of unrivaled, improving and far-reaching national distance excellence, no one stays on top by reputation alone.

By the end of the New Balance Nationals Indoor weekend, Cheserek went from being the nation's unbeatable aerobic freak to one who'd tasted rare defeat at the hands of a newfound rival in one distance event, and was somewhat overshadowed by another rival's performance across a second distance challenge.

New Jersey's Ben Malone and Utah's Brad Nye each came off the pace to close with a flourish in their respective races, highlighting a pair of personal breakthroughs worthy of national titles and stamping each as newfound all-time greats in the distance wars.

Malone's final-lap slingshot in the 800-meter challenge carried him to a junior class national record and the second-fastest time in U.S. prep indoor history. The triumph capped a memorable winter season which saw the Pascack Valley star go from among the nation's top dozen metric half mile talents for the upcoming outdoor campaign to the one now squarely at the top of the list.

Despite not beating Cheserek head-on (whose only 800-meter foray of the weekend came Saturday via a 1:51.2 split in anchoring his team's winning sprint medley relay), Malone became the indoor king of that event with a blistering 1:49.91 performance that left him trailing only in-state 800 legend Robby Andrews (1:49.21 in 2009) in all-time U.S. prep annals.

Then it was Nye's turn during a David-vs.-Goliath showdown (despite being the underdog, Nye's 6-foot, 4-inch frame classified him as the Goliath against the 5-foot-6, 127-pound Cheserek), which saw the Davis (Kaysville, Utah) senior gallop home in a wholly impressive 4:08.67 clocking to seal his first U.S. title and startle the soft-spoken Cheserek in the process.

"I still can't believe it," Nye quipped minutes after turning the national prep distance scene upside down with the boys’ upset of the meet headliner. "The race played out perfectly and when the chance to win was there, I took it."

The same could be said for Malone, who'd already been this winter's national leader across 1000 meters and ranked as a talent across 600 meters as well. But this was only Malone's second undertaking of the season across 800, his previous outing being a get-out-the-kinks 1:55 cruiser several weeks before. He had, however, run a 1:51 split in an early-season relay.

Flashing fresh legs and a newfound confidence in his range, Malone reeled in early leader Ned Willig of Great Valley (Malvern, Pa.) down the stretch and kept hard-charging Liverpool (Liverpool, N.Y.) senior Zavon Watkins at bay to wrap up the title.

"I'm in shock (at the winning time)," said Malone after the awards presentation. "It's an incredible close to the season. It all came together perfectly for me."

That would be an understatement, especially after owning an outdoor best of 1:52.17 from sophomore year. Malone credited an overhaul of his racing and training schedule as keying his breakthroughs of 2012.

But the spry teenager wasn't busy loading up on races and tougher workouts to fuel his progress -- he was peeling those items off the schedule instead.

"Just less racing and less hard-speed workouts," he explained. "The 800 is a pretty tough event as it is… it takes a lot out of you. Once I started doing a little less of all the hard stuff, my legs felt great on race day. That's been the biggest difference."

For Nye, another year of strength, another season of experience, and even more opportunity to race has helped the likable giant to further spread his wings in evolving as a mega-talent.

Despite posting the nation-leading time at 1600 meters early this season, then ripping an impressive mile win at the Simplot Games in mid-February, the rest of the nation refused to take notice of Nye's performances, largely because the national leader lists only rank the raw performance times, not taking into account performances occurring at altitude.

With oxygen-depleted air at higher elevations -- as commonly found in Utah and the adjoining Rocky Mountain states -- aerobic-based events such as the distances are at a distinct disadvantage. Over the years, a myriad of altitude-conversion tables have been devised, with some of the more recent ones seemingly missing the mark on the time adjustments as compared to those compiled by earlier research. In any case, Nye's 4:12.39 performance at Simplot was worth something in the vicinity of 4:08-low at sea level elevations coming in.

So while Nye's 4:08.67 winning time caught most off guard in being nearly a five-second lifetime improvement from his personal best, the conversion tables certainly foretold it.

The only questions remaining were how the BYU-signed talent would handle facing the "big" names on a national stage and if his imposing frame would find enough liberal space with which to operate on the Armory's 200-meter oval.

But once the early pace went out conservative -- with the leaders coming across at 2:06-low through the half mile -- the patient and obviously poised Nye was licking his chops despite stalking all others from the very back of the pack.

With two laps to go, the Davis star began making passes, ultimately slotting into a top-four position as the last lap took flight. Soon, Nye's strength became the difference, powering into an aggressive rhythm as he began quickly shearing away the deficit.

According to a member of the ESPNHS staff, Davis coach Corbin Talley watched from the backstretch railing and blurted out, "My guy's going to win!" as the gathered pro-Cheserek crowd nearby looked at him in amused disbelief.

But seconds later, Nye indeed powered off the final curve to swallow up a withering Cheserek -- who was wrapping up his fourth event in 43 hours and his second (including the two-mile) within a 75-minute span.

"I knew about Jacob (Burcham of West Virginia)," said Cheserek, who then conceded, "I did not know anything about the big guy. He surprised me."

Although "The Big Guy" shared a sense of partial surprise with the final outcome, it paled in comparison to the shock such notions of an upset would have raised earlier in his career. Nye had faced Cheserek only once before, and that was in cross-country at the Nike Cross Nationals championship in 2010.

"We were in the same race, but I never really even saw him back then," Nye admitted. "He was that far ahead of me."

Since then -- thanks to plenty of exciting action in recent hours -- Nye and Malone are no longer trailers on the national scene. They are the new leaders.

Are we ready for outdoors, everyone?
Dior HallJohn Dye/ESPNHSDior Hall crosses the line seemingly calm and composed after her stunning upset of Trinity Wilson in the 60H.

NBNI Index

NEW YORK – Dior Hall had run a slew of fast times and even won some big races. But during Sunday’s finals in the 60-meter hurdles, the sophomore from Denver, Colo. took it to the next level.

Hall blitzed U.S. Junior and World Youth champ Trinity Wilson and the rest of the New Balance Nationals Indoor field, running 8.19 seconds for No. 2 all-time and another new sophomore class record. It was arguably the most impressive performance of the final session of the three-day affair at The Armory.

Three weekends earlier, in Pocatello, Idaho, Dior ran 8.30 in the prelims of the Simplot Games and then hit the last hurdle the next day as Wilson sped off with the victory and a then-US#1 8.23. Then, on Feb. 26 in Seattle, Wash., Hall lowered her time to 8.28 and bettered Wilson’s class record and won the race. But Wilson was elsewhere.

It all came together in New York. First she ran 8.25, fastest overall in the semifinal round. In the final, Hall got a huge advantage on Wilson at the start and the Californian – who last lost to a prep in 2010 – could never catch up. After the championship race, Hall found her mom – Yolanda Johnson, a former all-time hurdling great – and shared an emotional moment with her.

“I was excited,” Hall said. “I was crying with my mom. I feel like I’m on the right track and (now) it’s on to the outdoor season.”

Before the curtain closed on the indoor season, many of the country’s top athletes took a final stab at leaving their mark on it before moving on to outdoors.

In the boys 400, the highly anticipated showdown with trio Aldrich Bailey (Texas), Najee Glass (N.J.) and Arman Hall (Fla.) lost some of its sizzle when Hall didn’t run fast enough in the prelims to make the fastest section of the finals. So the big show turned into a rematch of the Brooks PR meet – with a nearly identical result.

Bailey got into the lead by the end of the stagger, but Glass was right behind him. Bailey left a seam open on the inside and Glass pressed through it to take the lead. Bailey went wide on the final straightaway to try and win – and was a little short. It was Glass clocking 46.57 and Bailey right there in 46.59.

“I forced myself in,” Glass said. “It was not a big gap. I had to be aggressive.”

Bailey certainly wasn’t expecting the pass on the inside and wasn’t even sure it was legal. “When Najee passed on the inside, I was like ‘What’s going on?’” he said. “I lost my form when he did that.”

Bailey recovered in time to win the 200 meters in a meet record 21.07 seconds, but it didn’t quite make up for the second straight loss to Glass (the difference in Seattle was .01 seconds).

For Edward Cheserek, the final day of NBNI provided an opportunity to pursue individual titles after anchoring two relays wins for St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.).

It started with the two-mile, but Cheserek ran even splits on the way to 8:50.53 – a great time by anyone else’s standards, but seven seconds slower than he’d already run in this winter.

It was about 75 minutes that Cheserek took to the track again for the mile, but the race did not turn into the four-event coronation that he may have imagined. At the front, Jacob Burcham (Ona, W.V.) went after Cheserek, trying to surge his way to the lead. Each time, Cheserek responded and rebuffed him.

Laying in the weeds, right behind them, Brad Nye of Kaysville, Utah was watching and waiting. “With 400 to go, I was still in the race,” he said. “I said ‘I’m right here. This is perfect.’”

Nye moved off the final curve, ran past Burcham and Cheserek and took it through the tape in 4:08.67. The Foot Locker champ and 5,000-meter U.S. record-holder was next in 4:09.07 and Burcham was third in 4:10.82. Nye also had a performance at Simplot that set the stage for nationals, except in his case it was a 1,600 victory so dominant – an easy-looking 4:12.39 at high altitude – that many believed he could improve significantly.

Nye was almost stunned by his achievement and quick to be humble. He had watched each of Cheserek’s previous three races and noticed that he was being pushed – or pushing himself – in all of them.

“Wow, he is such a stud,” Nye said. “His whole attitude, his ability, I have nothing but respect for the guy. It was a great opportunity to run with him.”

Two of the other big matchups came in the 800-meter races.

Ben Malone of Pascack Valley, N.J. kicked late and ran a junior class national record and No. 2 all-time 1:49.94 to beat a field that included Zavon Watkins (N.Y.) and Ned Willig (Pa.), who were second and third, respectively. It concluded an amazing undercover campaign for Malone, who is also US#1 at 1,000 meters and has shown great range from 600 to cross-country.

Ajee Wilson and Mary Cain had a rare chance to go head-to-head, and get to know one another. The senior from Neptune, N.J. and the sophomore from Bronxville, N.Y. don’t live far apart, but they really didn’t know each other. Cain approached Wilson in the bathroom and asked if she’d like to warm-up together.

“She’s run 2:02 (for 800), so I just wanted to go out and do my best,” Cain said. “I tried to go after her that last 150. Why not? But that last 100 it was hard to find that other gear.”

Wilson had her eye on Cain all along and was wary of getting into a kicking contest with her. “I wasn’t asleep on (Cain),” she said. “I knew I needed to save something for the last 150.”

Leading off the field events, it was hard to top Avana Story of Woodward Academy (Georgia), already the national leader in the girls weight throw. She hit a two-foot personal best 63-1.5 to move to No. 2 all-time behind her former Throw1Deep Club teammate Shelby Ashe.

“After my third throw of 60 (feet), it was time to go all-out,” Story said. “I’ve been waiting for that 19 meters to come up all season.”

Ashe, who took the year off from entering college in order to train for the Olympics, continues to work out with Story and her teammates. “She’s like my big sister,” Story said of Ashe. “She told me I could do it.”

In the boys weight throw, Rudy Winkler of Averill Park, N.Y. had the four longest throws of the competition – all of them over 24 meters (78-8) – and hit the first 80-foot throw of the year for the winner, 80-11.75 (#8 all-time).

Carla Forbes of Newtonville, Mass. won a horizontal jump title for the third year in a row. The junior won the triple in 2010 and the long jump last year. On Saturday, she was fifth in the long jump with a respectable 19-7.

In the triple jump, Forbes improved to 42-5.25 for a 19-inch season’s best. It was good for No. 10 all-time. “I was kind of angry,” she said of her morning after the long jump. “I said ‘You know what, I’m going to win something this weekend.’ I had to focus on a new day.”

Ariah Graham of Wakefield, N.C. went 3-for-3 in her events. She anchored Wakefield (N.C.) to victories in the 4x200 and 4x400, and also won the individual title in the 400 with 53.95, fourth-fastest in the nation this season.

Wakefield’s 4x200 relay turned in a meet record 1:36.35, also #2 all-time. The 4x400 ran a US#1 3:43.01, good for #8 all-time.

Robert Rhodes anchored the boys of Boys and Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.) to a relay win for the second straight day. After an emotionally draining 4x800 win on Saturday, Rhodes recovered in time to help his team take the 4x400 decisively, in 3:16.78.

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).
The Christian Brothers Academy boys cross country program is already in the history books. Earlier this fall, CBA and legendary coach Tom Heath extended their dual meet supremacy to an astonishing 38 consecutive years and 315 victories in a row.

But no single day in all of that time compares to Saturday’s opportunity to join the list of NXN national champions.

The New Jersey crew came out of the summer as the preseason No. 1 and did everything right along the way. They won the Manhattan Invitational. They won the New Jersey Meet of Champions at Holmdel, breaking the all-time state record five-man average of 16:04.

And last week CBA hung 38 points on the Northeast Regional, with No. 1 man George Kelly and No. 5 Will Bragg separated by 22 seconds.

CBA isn’t the only team that climbed to No. 1 this season.

Southlake Carroll TX, which returned all seven from last year’s NXN 17th place team, has matured into a strong national contender. Carroll put 22 on the board to win the Chile Pepper Festival in Arkansas, busted The Woodlands’ championship streak at the Texas state meet with 20 points.

And the Texans also scored 26 to win NXN South – with a 30-second margin separating No. 1 and No. 5.

After holding the No. 1 spot for much of 2010 only to stumble to eighth at NXN last year, American Fork High School in Utah was expected to be down a bit due to the graduation of key top-five runners. But impressive early season results, such as the Aug. 28 Grass Relays, catapulted the Cavemen back up the rankings.

At the Utah state meet, the first one held in the Lower 48, American Fork and Davis waged the fiercest team championship battle of any state – winning 25 to 33. That result cemented both schools in the top five nationally for the remainder of the season.

And Shaker of New York, highly regarded when the season started, briefly fell off the radar with some injury problems before putting it all back together again. Shaker scored 78 points at the New York regional on the same course and same day that CBA won the Northeast. (Shaker was faster at No. 1, CBA was faster at 2-5).

Arcadia, the reigning champion, isn’t going to give up the title without a fight, either. Even without star Ammar Moussa, the team won at Woodbridge and at the Bob Firman Invitational in Boise, Idaho.

Arcadia finished behind Trabuco Hills at the California state meet, but could put it all back together in Portland.

So will it be as close as 2007 when Neuqua Valley IL edged Los Alamos NM by two points, 125 to 127?

Or can one team rise to the occasion the way Arcadia did last year, with the widest margin of victory (43) in NXN history?

One benchmark that teams will be shooting for is 100 points. Only two schools have ever broken 100 – York IL in 2004 and Arcadia in 2010 (both scored 92).

Individually, NXN features Indiana standout Futsum Zeinasellassie, who has been a dominant figure in the Midwest – winning NXN Midwest and Foot Locker Midwest handily.

Zeinasellassie, Texan Craig Nowak, South Dakota’s Tony Smoragiewicz and North Dakota’s Jake Leingang are all highly ranked – and all doubling back to Foot Locker next week.

A pair of Washingtonians, Anthony Armstrong and Izaic Yorks, have run consistently fast times over the past month and will conclude their seasons at NXN.

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.

Latest FAB50 rankings explained

November, 23, 2011
The FAB50 cross country team rankings involve some numbers crunching but they are not an exact science.

So how is it that Southlake Carroll TX can run so well at NXN South and drop from No. 1 to No. 4?And how did Christian Brothers NJ, the preseason No. 1, get the top spot back?

Rob Monroe ranks the teams for Dyestat and offered this explanation for this week's rankings. The BOYS and GIRLS rankings endured some subtle and not-so-subtle shifts since last week.

Here is what he has to say:

Starting in the preseason, it looked like three seemingly interchangeable teams would battle for the 2011 NXN championship: Christian Brothers NJ, Southlake Carroll TX and Shaker NY. American Fork UT quickly moved into the mix with very impressive wins at the Grass Relays and Pre-Region IV races in August, and have continued to shine ever since with times comparable to their epic squad from 2010.

Meanwhile, Shaker’s squad was derailed by injuries and hasn't looked as good as anticipated, although it has started to get back on track over the last few weeks. At the Utah state meet, Davis showed that they should not be overlooked either, running the third best team time in meet history.

Christian Brothers, Southlake Carroll and the two Utah teams all seem capable of finishing on the podium at NXN, with the only clear order to date being American Fork ahead of Davis, as they are 3-0 head-to-head. Other teams in the South, Southwest and New Jersey can attest to these teams' strength. Southlake Carroll has put up low scores at the Texas 5A State Championships and
NXN South, while Christian Brothers and the two Utah teams have done similarly well against even stiffer competition.

It is also worth paying attention to how strong these teams have performed against the backdrop of history. CBA broke its own course record at Holmdel Park last weekend when they won the New Jersey Meet of Champions, running a blistering 16:04.40 average on a challenging 5k course to edge back into the No. 1 spot. American Fork also broke their own course record from last year at NXN Southwest, with Davis running the No. 3 mark on the course with a combined total just 32 seconds behind American
Fork's mark last year. Southlake Carroll's times have also been quite good, but not record-breaking. The state meet and NXN regional performances have been slower than several winners in the past, albeit in different conditions.

All four teams have good arguments to be ranked in various orders, with the only clear point being American Fork ahead of Davis. Christian Brothers gets the nod this week. It should also be noted that any of those four teams might yet be challenged. Arcadia won the Bob Firman Invite over Davis. And while Davis has improved it now appears that Arcadia is running better as well, winning the
CIF Southern Section Finals at historic Mt. SAC over Rancho Cucamonga (who beat Arcadia at the Mt. SAC Invite and was third at Bob Firman) very convincingly.

Arcadia’s team time Saturday was No. 2 all-time on the layout, behind only last year’s NXN Champion squad. Golden Valley also ran the No. 4 all-time mark on the course in winning the Division 2 race. Arcadia may have only moved up one spot to US#5, but the performance is better than that alone would indicate: Arcadia has significantly narrowed the gap on the top four. Golden Valley’s victory moved them up four places to US#8.

Beyond the battle at the top, there was other significant movement this week:

Led by Darren Fahy, La Costa Canyon CA shot up the rankings from 35 to 14 behind a strong performance at the CIF-San Diego Section Finals: LCC averaged 16:11 at Balboa, with Fahy clocking in at 15:23 and teammates Eric Causey (15:47) and Steven Fahy (16:06) showing just how formidable their front trio is. Ramona also ran well at the meet, finishing only nine points behind and
moving up from the Fab-50 bubble to US#28.

Belen Jesuit showed once again that it is Florida’s best, winning the state meet with 26 points and averaging 15:40.6 over the 5k course, a performance strong enough to move them up 20 spots to US#18.

Fort Collins CO ran its best race of the 2010 season at NXN when it finished fourth and was hoping to make a return trip again this year with six of seven coming back. However, when the Colorado champs got to the Southwest regional they came up short, running a minute slower than last year and finishing significantly back of the two Utah teams. Fort Collins dropped 22 spots to US#29 and Mountain Vista CO also dropped back from US#16 to the Fab50 bubble list.

On the girls side of things, Simi Valley edged Saugus 60-66 in California in a preview of what’s to come at the California state meet this weekend. The closest the two teams got to facing each other came last month at the Mt. SAC Invitational, where Saugus rolled to victory in the Individual Sweepstakes only 25 minutes before Simi Valley looked even better as they dismantled an incredible field in the Team Sweepstakes. Racing head-to-head, it is clear both of these teams have what it takes to win the California state title and earn a spot on the podium in Portland if they qualify. Simi Valley’s ran a team time almost identical to the NXN runner-up Saugus teams in 2007 and 2008.

NXN Southwest was the first out-of-state meet for the Colorado powers all season. Fort Collins, second at Colorado state, came up big to win NXN Southwest for the fifth year in a row, a feat only matched by the Fayetteville-Manlius NY girls and North Central WA boys. The victory propelled Fort Collins up eight spots to US#17. Xavier Prep, the Arizona state champion, dropped nine spots to US#18 as it finished second, even though it was missing its second best runner from state.

Monarch, the Colorado 5A champion, finished third and dropped 10 spots to US#23, while Colorado 3A champion The Classical Academy dropped 11 spots to US#25 for finishing fourth.

Saratoga rebounded from an off race in muddy conditions at New York's public state championships to win the Federations meet with the fifth best all-time performance at Bowdoin Park, behind only the national champions from 2004 (Saratoga) and 2007-2010 (Fayetteville-Manlius). Such a performance moved Saratoga up 12 places to US#3, the spot they held before the state meet. Mary Cain’s all-time No. 3 performance at Bowdoin helped Bronxville moved up to US#33.

NXN South yielded little movement as Southlake Carroll and Kingwood TX ran as expected, though the order beyond the two teams was a change from previous races and will be reflected in the final regional rankings. Southlake Carroll, the 5A and NXN South champions, moved up five spots to US#14 while Kingwood, the 5A and regional runner-up squad, moved up two spots to US#24.
Earlier this week, the USTFCCCA (that's the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association) recognized the NCAA Division I all-region teams, revealing cream of the college crop for 2011. It also offered a chance to examine where those athletes went to high school -- and which states are contributing the most Division I talent.

Making the all-region is a byproduct of placing in the top 25 in one of the nine regional meets across the country last Saturday.

That means 450 athletes make the all-region teams, a list that skims the cream off the top of Division I cross country. And while it may not be exactly the 450 best ( because not all of the regions are equal), there is information here that may be eye-opening for high school athletes and coaches thinking about the next level.

The West Regional produced the fastest winning times, the fastest 20th place finishes and fastest 50th place finishes. That could be an indication that it was held on the easiest course, but it also indicates the level of talent in the West. Six women's teams from the West are ranked in the Top 30 nationally as well as four men's teams.

The deepest region for women may be the Great Lakes, where the top 50 finished within 81 seconds. The region with the fewest spaces up front for the men was the Mid-Atlantic Region, where the first and 50th finisher were separated by 84 seconds.

So where do the 450 all-region runners come from? Where is the fertile recruiting ground?

It may not come as a surprise that there are more Kenyans on the list (35) than there are Texans (30) or Californians (27). Additionally, 40 of the runners (or close to one-tenth) come from European countries. And 25 more come from Australia, New Zealand or Canada.

Would you believe that Pennsylvania produced more men on the list (12) than New York (8) or Illinois (8)? It's true. The Keystone state trails only California (15) and Texas (15). Also, 10 come from Indiana and nine hail from Georgia.

The women's list doesn't follow the same pattern. Texas (15) produces the most, which may seem odd because the state only runs 3,200-meter races for high school girls. Twelve of the 15 go to universities within Texas.

Ohio, the source of three of the men on the list, produces the same number of women (12) as California.

After Ohio and California, New York (11) and Michigan (11) are next, followed by New Jersey (10).

Pennsylvania, represented by 12 men, has just five women on the list. Iowa has six women, no men.

Here is a combined (men and women) breakdown by state or country where the athlete went to high school. Five states that did not make this list are Hawaii, Vermont, Delaware, Arkansas and Montana.

Kenya 35, Texas 30, California 27, New York 19, Michigan 17, Pennsylvania 17, Indiana 16, Ohio 15, New Jersey 15, Illinois 15, England 13, Georgia 11, Colorado 10, Utah 10, Virginia 10, Canada 10, Arizona 9, Connecticut 9, Australia 8, Minnesota 8, New Zealand 8, Missouri 7, Massachusetts 7, Florida 7, Tennessee 6, North Carolina 6, Washington 6, Iowa 6, Wisconsin 5, Ireland 5, Maryland 5, New Mexico 4, New Hampshire 4, Alabama 4, Germany 3, Uganda 3, West Virginia 3, Nevada 3, Norway 3, Kansas 3, South Carolina 3, Oregon 3, Wyoming 3, Nebraska 3, Kentucky 3, France 2, Belgium 2, Sweden 2, Idaho 2, Oklahoma 2, South Dakota 2, Mississippi 2, The Netherlands 2, Scotland 1, Maine 1, Czech Rep. 1, Rhode Island 1, Ethiopia 1, Venezuela 1, Zambia 1, Alaska 1, North Dakota 1, Portugal 1, Louisiana 1, South Africa 1, Estonia 1, Serbia 1 , Switzerland 1.
The latest FAB50 team rankings produced a big change at the top of the boys rankings. On the heels of their competition at the Utah state meet, American Fork and Davis rose in this week's rankings. American Fork moved all the way to the top, unseating Christian Brothers Academy NJ as the new No. 1.

The Mt. SAC Invitational caused the most disruption on the girls side of the rankings. Simi Valley CA moved up from 10th to fourth with a huge victory at Walnut, Calif.
Utah holds its state championship meet on a Wednesday, and is the second state after Alaska on the calendar. Not sure why that is, but it does sort of stick out and maybe that's the point. The event at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City had our attention.

In the 5A boys meet, FAB50 top-10 teams American Fork and Davis went head to head. It was hard to pick a winner, sort of like deciding between Zion and Bryce for best canyon. As it turned out, American Fork defended its title with 25 points and Davis had to settle for second with 33.

On the girls side of things, Box Elder's Kelsey Braithwaite broke the state meet record. And top Utah teams Ogden (3A) and Skyline (4A) were upset.

Upcoming state meets (on Saturday) include Montana, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The results of last weekend's Bob Firman Invitational outside Boise, Idaho are reflected in this week's boys Powerade Fab50 rankings. Arcadia's boys didn't move up after the win. They're still No. 5. But second-place Davis UT and third-place Rancho Cucamonga CA settled into the 6-7 spots right behind Arcadia. North Central WA, which didn't have a great day, also bumped up a spot to 10. And The Woodlands TX slipped as a result of its performance, from 10th to 24th. American Fork UT (not at Bob Firman) moved up four spots to No. 2.

On the girls side, there was a minor reordering at 4-5-6 (Tatnall-Saratoga-North Shore). But the big mover in the girls Fab50 was Glacier Peak WA, which climbed from 17 to 11. Salt Lake City's Skyline High, which won the Bob Firman team title, jumped from 44 to 28.

New FAB 50 rankings are in

September, 15, 2011
Rob Monroe has re-ordered the top high school teams in the U.S. and his new list reveals some teams with better-than-expected starts to the 2011 cross country season.

American Fork UT, a fixture in the top-two last year, has re-joined the top 10 in the boys rankings.

Meanwhile, the La Costa Canyon CA girls' success at the Bronco Roundup did not go unnoticed. The Mavericks zoomed clear to No. 2 in the girls rankings.
The cross country season continued to pick up steam over the weekend from coast to coast, with some of the nation's top teams and individuals getting their first taste of the competitive season.

Here is a recap, with links to specific meet pages with additional highlights and results:

Dyestat Cal editor Rich Gonzalez filed a thorough report on the Seaside Invitational, detailing the performances of several of the Golden State's top teams -- Palos Verdes and Trabuco Hills on the boys side, and the perennially strong Saugus girls. Jonah Diaz was impressive in victory.

Also on the west coast, North Central's boys from Spokane and the Bozeman (MT) girls made splashy debuts at the Tracy Walters Invitational in Spokane. (For those of you who don't know, Tracy Walters was Gerry Lindgren's coach at Rogers High back in the 1960s and a legend in his own right). Anthony Armstrong and Katie Knight got impressive individual wins.

Pat Cooper/no_sourceFreshman Allie Ostrander leads the pack at a recent meet in Alaska.

Way up to the north, Kenai Central's fab frosh Allie Ostrander won meets on back-to-back days. She won a 3,000-meter race on Friday and then went sub-18 for her third straight win at 3 miles or 5K, this time at Alaska's Palmer Invitational.

In Utah, the Davis boys rolled to a big victory at the BYU Autumn Classic in Provo.

In Missouri, Rockhurst's Zach Herriott flipped the script on Rock Bridge's Caleb Wilfong at the Forest Park Festival. A year ago, it was Wilfong first, Herriott second. There was also a sparkling debut from freshman Hannah Long of Eureka in the girls race.

In Alabama, Carmen Carlos and Griffin Lee picked up individual honors, at the Mobile Challenge of Champions. Plus, Arthur Mack provides details of the team titles won by McGill-Toolen's girls (AL) and Brother Martin's boys (LA).

In Illinois, the New Trier girls rolled and the Niles North boys got a big lift from their No. 5 at the Peoria Woodruff Invitational. Amanda Fox dipped under 17 minutes for 3 miles and Garrett Sweatt got a big win on the boys side.

In Indiana, the Columbus North boys went 1-5-7-12-15 to win the 17-team Brown County Eagle Classic.

At the Mason Invitational in Ohio, the girls from Carmel IN made themselves at home, going 1-3-5-6-7 to make a strong statement. Meanwhile, at the always huge Tiffin Cross Country Carnival in Ohio, Tsehaye Hiluf (15:19.58) and Jacquelyn Crow (18:23.14) put up impressive early season times.

In New York, Lizzie Predmore demonstrated her might with a 61-second win on the tough Guilderland course.

And in New Jersey, Bronxville's Mary Cain's star continued to rise with a big PR at the Randolph Invitational, where she won by a whopping 82 seconds.